MESA, Ariz. – Joe Maddon’s feelings about kids running around the clubhouse can be summed up with two words: Don’t. Care.
While the White Sox go viral with the Adam LaRoche retirement story, exposing issues about the organization’s power structure and clubhouse dynamic, the Cubs keep rolling along at Camp Maddon, where zoo animals, DJs and magicians are always welcome.
“It’s not up to me – it’s up to them,” Maddon said, wearing a green “TRY NOT TO SUCK” T-shirt for St. Patrick’s Day at Sloan Park. “I have my own office. I’m considering getting a bird in my office. I’m worried about my bird.
“I (need) a bird that can handle not being attended to. I’m looking into the cockatoo right now, some parrots. I’ve always loved birds.
“So if, in fact, I actually go through with that, I’m going to have to pay more attention to the bird on a daily basis than what’s happening in the clubhouse.”
The White Sox vs. LaRoche will be the backdrop on Friday when the Cubs visit Camelback Ranch in Glendale, where executive vice president Kenny Williams asked a respected veteran player to “dial back” from “100 percent” the amount of time his 14-year-old son spends in the clubhouse.
As intriguing as this White Sox team should be with elite talents like Chris Sale, Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier, it will be impossible to miss the perception gap between these two franchises.
“We’re all for kids on the infield,” Maddon said. “They do have their own lockers. We get them whatever toys they would like, put their names on their toys. It’s something we kind of advocate. Regarding actual children…”
The Cubs manager plans to hold his “Lead Bull Meeting” with a group of veteran players on Sunday, discussing everything from dress codes to travel issues to who belongs in the clubhouse.
“My concept is once we leave that room, we’re all on the same page when it comes to policy,” Maddon said. “You know I don’t like the word ‘rules.’ I like to create policy and how we’re going to conduct ourselves, how we’re going to act.
“And then I believe it’s among the more experienced guys on your team to make sure that it’s adhered to. It’s not about me to do that. It’s not about the coaching staff to do that. It’s among the players.
“That’s a part of our overarching philosophy here, to treat you like a man, give you all the freedoms that you need. And in return, I believe we get greater respect and discipline.”
Maddon views himself as an old-school guy who embraces new ideas, someone open to sabermetrics and social media and very comfortable with delegating responsibilities.
“The dictatorial component of this game, I think, is slowly fading,” Maddon said. “It was more prominent in football, maybe still is. We play 162 games, therein lies the difference with what we do here in our sport. We don’t play once a week.
“We play every day, where we’re in each other’s face every day. You can go out and practice three times a week and play three times a week and there’s a lot of time to massage whatever might be wrong. This game counts tonight, so you got to make sure that everybody’s heads are on right. That’s why I think it’s even more critical to include Major League Baseball players as a part of the policymaking.”
So Maddon will point his Lead Bulls in the right direction and get out of the way.
“I shouldn’t hear a lot of stuff,” Maddon said, “because it should be taken care of before it ever got back to me. And if it gets back to me, that means somebody’s telling me stuff that they shouldn’t be telling me.
“That’s the way any good organization should run. Whoever is absolutely managing it should be the last guy to hear about some stuff. It only should get to me if it absolutely gets to that point where it absolutely needs my attention.
“Otherwise, coaches (and) our players should handle that stuff. And that’s how you get a really good clubhouse.”