Joe Maddon expects Cubs to police their own clubhouse


Joe Maddon expects Cubs to police their own clubhouse

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.”  

[RELATED - Joe Maddon on Chicago tobacco ban: 'I'm not into over-legislating the human race']

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.”

[SHOP: Gear up for the 2016 season, Cubs fans!]

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.” 

As Cubs continue to ride the roller coaster, they won't 'play with the scoreboard'

As Cubs continue to ride the roller coaster, they won't 'play with the scoreboard'

The Cubs woke up Friday morning riding the high of their longest winning streak in nearly four months (five games) and a season-high 11 games over .500. 

That was only good enough for a half-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the division, but the Cubs will take it considering the way things were just a week ago. 

After getting swept by Bryce Harper's Phillies on the road, the Cubs went to Pittsburgh and witnessed another late bullpen meltdown last Friday. But they haven't lost since and it's gotten to the point where Joe Maddon was asked ahead of the series with the Nationals if he feels his team is clicking in all facets of the game.

Maddon didn't answer that question directly, but it's a fair assessment of this team right now. As an added boost, Ben Zobrist should be activated off the restricted list next weekend and Willson Contreras will travel with the Cubs to New York next week and could ramp up his baseball activities there as he recovers from a Grade-2 hamstring strain. 

What a difference a week makes. 

"I can't emphasize enough — it is a 24-hour cycle," Maddon said. "It's no different than a news cycle and if you have a bad day, our game is so beautiful you can have a great day the very next night. You don't have to wait a week to play again.

"I've been involved in some really tight races in September where you're going good, good, good and all the sudden, man, you get your teeth smashed in towards the end and you can't permit that to take you out of your methods. It's great that the boys feel that way. I feel that way. 

"I still believe our best baseball's ahead of us for the rest of the season. ... With the new additions and the guys coming back, we should be capable of doing that kind of stuff."

The Cubs still have 14 games left with the Cardinals and Brewers, including a series each in St. Louis (Sept. 27-29) and Milwaukee (Sept. 5-8). 

With just over five weeks left in the season, the division race could come down to that final weekend of the year in St. Louis. That is, unless one team goes on a run and pull away with things before that point.

Either way, the Cubs are just trying to stay focused on their game while blocking out all the outside noise, which is something Javy Baez felt they didn't accomplish down the stretch last season.

"I think we're in a good spot," Baez said earlier this month. "We're actually not paying attention to other teams. It looks like they're paying attention to us. We've had ups and downs and we're just trying to get that out of the way and keep going.

"Me personally, I can't play with the scoreboard. I know where the game's at, but I can't play with numbers. I put too much pressure on myself."

Given the way last year ended and the call for more urgency this season, things certainly haven't played out in a dream scenario for the 2019 Cubs. The more time that goes by, the more 2016 looks like an outlier in terms of the way that team cruised and how pretty much everything went right.

But the rest of the division — and the entire National League — has improved while the Cubs are still searching for consistency in their own game, particularly away from Wrigley Field.

Still, there are way worse positions to be in than a half-game up in the division with five-and-a-half weeks to go.

"We all know what's at stake here," Kyle Schwarber said. "We're in a good position where we're in control of our own destiny. It doesn't really matter the home/road splits — it just comes down to playing each ballgame, one game at a time. It doesn't matter if we're at home or on the road, we got X amount of ballgames left and we can control what we do."

Tracking all the Cubs personalized Players' Weekend gear


Tracking all the Cubs personalized Players' Weekend gear

Stay plugged into this page for updates on the unique gear Cubs players will rock over MLB's third annual Players' Weekend.

The Cubs sure will stand out on the field more than usual this weekend.

Friday commences Day 1 of MLB's third annual Players' Weekend. Over the next three days, players league-wide will rock personalized gear -- bats, gloves, cleats, etc. -- that demonstrate their style, interests and more. This is in addition to the all-white uniforms that the team will wear over the weekend.

While Derek Holland's cleats themed after "The Office" may go down as the best, other Cubs players deserve recognition for their swag, too. Without further ado, let's check out what the other players will don this weekend:

Kris Bryant

Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant is using Players' Weekend to support a great cause. Bryant will sport cleats that raise awareness for Wings for Life, a spinal cord research foundation and charity that he's supported since the beginning of big league career. The cause is important to Bryant, as his close friend, Cory Hahn, was paralyzed sliding into second base as a freshman at Arizona State University in 2011.

Bryant partnered with three Chicago street artists, each of whom customized a pair of cleats and a bat. The designs tell different stories inspired by some of Bryant's childhood memories: hitting in a batting cage with his dad, playing wiffle ball in his hometown and his love of superheroes.

Fans can bid on the gear here, as it will be auctioned off at the Wings for Life Golf Classic on Sept. 23.

Anthony Rizzo

Anthony Rizzo paid homage to Chicago with his cleats and bat. The first baseman's cleats feature a shot of the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan's perspective, while his bat includes the iconic four red starts from the city's flag.

Ian Happ

Ian Happ also gave Chicago a shout-out with one pair of his cleats, while a second pair demonstrates his interest in golf. Both also include the initial's of his dad, who passed away from brain cancer in 2015.

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