Cubs

How 'Try not to suck' became the rallying cry for Joe Maddon and the 2016 Cubs

How 'Try not to suck' became the rallying cry for Joe Maddon and the 2016 Cubs

It's been almost five months since T-shirts became another chapter in the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry.

Korked Baseball suddenly found itself embroiled in a minor controversy as Busch Stadium ushers wouldn't let Cubs fans enter wearing the "Try not to suck" Cubs T-shirts in St. Louis because of the perception the phrase was offensive.

Joe Maddon used his platform through the Chicago media to question the decision of the Busch officials, and the Cardinals eventually relaxed and decided to allow the T-shirts into the ballpark.

And thus the "Try not to suck" campaign had found all the fuel it needed and the fire is still burning strong as the Cubs invade Busch Stadium again Monday night.

"No better publicity than being denied to wear it in a particular ballpark," Maddon said. "I thought that was great. The moment I heard about it, I said, 'Man, the sales are going to jump really good from that particular moment."

It was back in January when the slogan started to take shape as a fan asked Cubs infielder Javy Baez at Cubs Convention what advice Maddon gave when Baez made his season debut in September 2015:

"Try not to suck," was Baez's answer, prompting an uproar inside the jam-packed Sheraton Grand Chicago ballroom. 

"I remember him sitting there in that little office in the old clubhouse," Maddon said, "and he's sitting there right across the desk there and just trying to loosen him up a little bit. I knew about his past - I got to know him; I went to see him down in Puerto Rico a couple years ago - and I just wanted to try and relax him a little bit.

"That's what that's all about. We all, as professionals, one of the main things you do on a daily basis is try not to embarrass yourself. So how do you do that? By trying not to suck.

"Take it with a light heart. ... I want them to just go out there and play like they're in Little League. Like a bunch of kids having a good time. Don't worry about making mistakes."

[WATCH: How The Hazleton Way shaped Joe Maddon]

After Baez made that snapshot story public at Cubs Convention, Cubs hitting coach John Mallee and Korked Baseball co-founder Joe Ferro (who puts on hitting clinics with Mallee around the country over the winter) decided to take that catchy phrase and create a T-shirt.

Maddon and the Cubs players sported the T-shirts in spring training and the public ate it up.

The Korked guys created an entire series of "Maddonisms," including "Do simple better," "Embrace the target" and "If you look hot, wear it."

"The website officially launched on March 4 and on March 6, the entire Cubs team was wearing the 'Try not to suck' shirt," Korked co-founder Jacob Chandler said. "It just skyrocketed. We didn't expect to do half of what we've done this year. It's just blown up.

"It's raised a lot of money for [Maddon's] charity, which is really the biggest thing we're pushing for - raising money for other charities."

Check out the entire collection on KorkedBaseball.com, which helps raise money for Maddon's Respect 90 foundation.

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

A Hobbled Hero: Baez, Cubs keep finding wild ways to win

Javy Baez has only seen one pitch in the Cubs-Phillies series, but that's all he needs to make a major impact.

"El Mago" notched his first walk-off RBI since May 8, 2016 in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night, lacing the only pitch he saw from Juan Nicasio down the right-field line. Baez had missed the entire series to that point due to a heel injury he suffered Sunday in Washington D.C. and actually underwent an MRI before Tuesday's game to make sure there was no other damage.

Baez's single put the finishing touches on the Cubs' first win this season when trailing after eight innings. They now lead the majors with five walk-off victories.

After another blown lead by the bullpen (the third in the last week), the Cubs entered the bottom of the ninth down 2-1, but Kris Bryant led off with a walk and then Anthony Rizzo doubled. After a Willson Contreras flyout, Jason Heyward was intentionally walked and then Albert Almora Jr. hit a tapper in front of home plate that Bryant just barely beat out at home to tie the game.

Then came Baez, as Joe Maddon opted to go to the hobbled star in place of Daniel Descalso, who was 0-for-4 on the evening to that point.

Prior to the ninth inning, Maddon wasn't sure if Baez would even be available to pinch hit in the game, but trainer P.J. Mainville taped up Javy's foot/ankle at the start of the inning and gave the Cubs skipper the all-clear.

"Just give PJ some credit on the tape job," Maddon joked. "This is right out of the Lombardi era kind of stuff. Tape and aspirin — go ahead and play. That's what everybody's football coach said."

If Baez hadn't delivered the walk-off hit and the Cubs wound up in extra innings, Maddon said he didn't know if Baez would be able to even play the field on his injured heel and the only player left on the bench was backup catcher Victor Caratini.

"In moments like that, you can only think it so far," Maddon said. "And then at some point, you gotta throw it at the wall and see what happens."

Maddon doesn't know if Baez will be able to play Wednesday night, but plans to make two lineups and then check with the shortstop to see about his status when he arrives at the field.

Baez's Cubs teammates are no longer surprised at the ridiculous things he does or how easy he makes some very difficult tasks look. Bryant joked he was actually upset Baez didn't hit it over the fence for a walk-off grand slam.

"I don't even know what's going on with him half the time anyway," Bryant said. "It's like, 'oh, Javy's pinch-hitting. And then I was debating like, 'don't swing at the first pitch," but I was like, 'no, it's Javy.' 

"It was awesome. He just like goes up there and swings the bat. If he didn't have to run to first base, he wouldn't. It's just like, 'I'm so good, I'm just gonna get this hit and then we're gonna go home.'"

However awe-inspiring Baez's Kirk Gibson impression was, the only reason the Cubs were even in the spot to win the game at that moment was because of the hustle and aggressive baserunning from Bryant. 

His game-tying run on Almora's tapper in front of the plate was huge, but his first trip around the bases was even more impressive. 

With Bryant on second base and Rizzo on first in the first inning, both runners were off on the full-count pitch to Contreras, who hit a routine grounder to Phillies shortstop Jean Segura. As Segura made the throw to first to retire Contreras, Bryant never hesitated around third base and scored on some heads-up, aggressive baserunning that looked like a page right out of the El Mago Playbook.

Bryant said as he was running, he thought about what it's like to play the left side of the infield on such a routine play and felt like he could catch the Phillies by surprise.

"I saw [third base coach Brian Butterfield] holding me up, too, and I just kept going," Bryant said. "I almost felt like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was kind of like one of those experiences that it's hard to explain, but I just kept going."

That run was all Jose Quintana and the Cubs needed for six innings, until Carl Edwards Jr. came on in relief for the seventh. Edwards allowed a leadoff single and then a double two batters later, giving way to Brandon Kintzler with two outs.

Kintzler gave up a groundball single up the middle to Andrew McCutchen and just like that, the Cubs' thin 1-0 lead had evaporated in the blink of an eye. And with the offensive issues (they were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position before Baez's hit), that looked to be enough to send the Cubs to their second straight defeat in frustrating fashion.

But the magic of El Mago and Bryant allowed the Cubs to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and send fans home happy and with a little more belief that this just might be a special summer on Chicago's North Side.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Jake Arrieta discusses his return & Mark DeRosa talks the leadoff spot

Hear from Jake Arrieta after his first start as a visitor at Wrigley Field, including his thoughts on facing his former teammates and the standing ovation he received during his first at-bat (1:30). Then, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by MLB Network's Mark DeRosa to discuss the Cubs' leadoff spot, the team outperforming expectations so far, and much more (8:15).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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