The psychology of October: Cubs plan to keep it simple

The psychology of October: Cubs plan to keep it simple

The day before Game 1 of the NLDS, a reporter asked Anthony Rizzo if he was annoyed by all the media attention and pressure heaped on the Cubs.

The face of the franchise just shrugged his shoulders and said it comes with the territory and reminded reporters the Cubs have been dealing with lofty expectations and crazy media attention since February, so this isn't much different.

As the 2016 Cubs officially begin their bid at ending a 108-year championship drought Friday night at Wrigley Field, the weight of a long-suffering fanbase will be on their shoulders.

Every team enters postseason play feeling the pressure, but the Cubs are tabbed as the clear favorites for the World Series and have created an environment where anything short of a championship will be seen as a massive disappointment.

So how can players block out all the noise and keep the moment from getting too big?

"I don't know that you do," veteran catcher David Ross said. "Everybody's different. It'd be hard to say for each individual guy. For me personally, it's about just having your at-bat. 

"We've been talking about it all year: pitch-to-pitch, trying to work your at-bat, game-calling. You're trying to pay attention to the things you've watched all year: Make sure you know the scouting report and you've got the information and then it's about going out there and doing it.

"There's no secret formula."

Rizzo got his first taste of October baseball last year when an upstart Cubs team knocked out the Pittsburgh Pirates in the winner-take-all wild-card game and then bumped the St. Louis Cardinals from the NLDS before running into Daniel Murphy and the New York Mets.

Rizzo believes that experience will help the Cubs' young players slow the game down.

After all, that's what each player is trying to do during the postseason - keep things from speeding up on them.

"Slowing it down is just about simplifying it, really," said Ben Zobrist, who anchored the World Series-winning Royals lineup last fall. "If you start thinking about everything that's going to happen around the game, then that's when it speeds up - when you have multiple thoughts in your head and you're thinking about too much.

"That's when it's gonna speed up. I think when you simplify, you think about the one thing you need to think about at that moment and you stay in the present. That's when things slow down."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Since the Cubs reported to Mesa, Ariz., in mid-February for spring training, Joe Maddon has implored his team to embrace the pressure and expectations.

He also had a message for the players during one of his rare team meetings Tuesday afternoon.

"The one thing I really wanted to get across, you have to understand this - something's gonna go bad," Maddon said. "Something's gonna go wrong. And it happens to everybody. It's how you react to that moment that sets you apart."

When Theo Epstein met with the media Tuesday afternoon a couple hours after Maddon's session, a reporter asked the Cubs president if he thought fans were thinking positively about the team's chances of winning it all.

"Check back if the other team scores the first run or gets the first baserunner," he deadpanned. "Look, I think there's a real connection between the fans and this particular team and there's a lot of trust.

"Therefore, a lot of excitement, but no matter what happens, there's gonna be some rough moments, no matter how successful the postseason. So we just gotta keep this place nice and loud.

"If we do get behind in a game, we know the support will still be there, but we just have to make sure that it comes out, that it's audible and loud and our players can hear it. I know our fans will come through for that."

Cubs players can relate to those fans anxious to get it going. 

Both Ross and Kris Bryant spoke Thursday afternoon about how they're chomping at the bit after four days off.

Veteran catcher Miguel Montero is about to take part in his fourth postseason and he's had no trouble embracing the expectations.

"I don't believe in the pressure," Montero said. "You actually live for these type of moments. As a player growing up, you want to be in this situation. I always said, like, 'I want to be up in the ninth inning with the winning run on third and I want to be up hitting because I live for that.'

"I think that's what we're living for right now - this time of year. We've prepared ourselves to be where we're at right now and go farther."

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Reds pitcher Amir Garrett apparently held a grudge against Javy Baez for a year

Baseball players don't forget grudges. Javy Baez and Reds pitcher Amir Garrett gave an example of that on Saturday.

Garrett struck out Baez in the seventh inning of the first game of the Cubs-Reds doubleheader. Garrett showed some excitement with the strikeout and then said something to Baez. They both started jawing at each other and suddenly the benches cleared.

At first glance, it looked like Garrett was a bit too excited to get a strikeout with no one on base. Turns out Baez had his own bit of swag for Garrett last year (Friday was the one-year anniversary) in the form of a grand slam at Wrigley Field.

This time Garrett got Baez and wanted to even things up a bit.

Things didn't get too feisty despite the benches clearing, but Anthony Rizzo did rush to Baez's side at some speed. This could be a matchup to keep an eye out for in the future.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark


Cubs Talk Podcast: The greatest Cubs moments at Great American Ballpark

Siera Santos, Kelly Crull, and David DeJesus go into the audio archives to break down the biggest games for the Cubs in Cincinnati.

David DeJesus gives us his top 3 ballgames with such gems as The Schwarber Game, The Kris Bryant Game, Starlin Castro’s debut, and Jake Arrieta’s second no hitter.

Listen to the full Cubs Talk Podcast right here: