The third session on Day Two of the 2016 Cubs Convention was also hosted by Len Kasper and featured Joe Maddon and his coaching staff.
The session started late, there was a problem with the elevators, and Joe Maddon didn’t arrive until the Cubs’ coaching staff had been introduced.
Dave Martinez, Chris Bosio, Lester Strode, Mike Borzello, John Mallee, Eric Hinske, Brandon Hyde and Gary Jones seem to be a tight-knit group that took on the personality of the team’s manager throughout last season.
Joe Maddon made a grand entrance to an overwhelming ovation from the standing room only crowd in the expanded banquet hall. And Maddon played to the crowd as only he can do. It’s truly a pleasure to listen to him talk baseball.
With Joe Maddon running late, Len Kasper started the session by asking an incumbent coach what he learned about Maddon last season. Maddon showed up at that point and the room exploded. Maddon knows how to make an entrance.
Chris Bosio said the biggest thing he learned from Maddon last year was how to make an entrance. Bosio said in all seriousness, Maddon knew what he wanted to do last spring. He had a plan. But the biggest thing that stood out for Bosio was that he managed to win every inning. Not every game, but every inning, no matter if the Cubs were on offense or defense. Using a pinch hitter or a relief pitcher or yanking one of Bosio’s starters. Bosio quickly corrected himself and said, “Our starters.” Maddon sent a message really quick to the team and the entire organization that you have to play every pitch, every out and every at bat.
Joe Maddon did a lot of unconventional things last year. Maddon said a team has to tie a game before it can win a game and manage to the situation.
Maddon said the Cubs would not have gotten to where they did last year without the “wonderful coaching staff.” Maddon pointed out when things don’t go well coaches take too much of the heat. And when things do go well, they don’t get enough credit.
The coaches get the players ready on a daily basis while Maddon does other things before the game, like talk to the media, before taking a spot behind the batting cage leaning on a fungo. Maddon doesn’t think the fans or even the media realize how important a coaching staff is to a team’s success.
Joe Maddon was asked about the impact he thought the new clubhouse would have. Maddon deferred the question to John Mallee, who Maddon said gets rather emotional about things. Maddon did not let up and explained that Friday night while the highlights from last season were being played, Mallee had a tear roll down his face when he saw the six-home run game in the playoffs.
The new clubhouse is going to be amazing, even though the coaches won’t be in there long enough to use it. Mallee spends most of his time in the video room and the batting cage. Mallee thinks it will help the players.
Mallee is apparently the first coach in everyday and last season when Maddon locked the clubhouse and gave instructions not to let anyone in until a certain time. Mallee was not allowed in either. Maddon jabbed at Mallee about needed to get to the clubhouse by 10:30am to have his coffee and watch TV. If the coaches punched a clock, Mallee would be the first one in every day. The exchange between Maddon and Mallee was great.
Maddon said there is nothing like the Cubs new clubhouse. They did a walk through Friday morning. The walls are not up and its not done, but Maddon said you could see the magnitude of the place.
The Cubs are not just about the players, Maddon explained. The Cubs are a real family-oriented group. The new family room will not be built yet. But that’s just a symbol of how the front office and ownership take care of the entire family. And all of it combined makes the Cubs a very attractive place for free agents.
A suggestion was made for what the Cubs should call the new clubhouse. Because it’s in a hole in the ground under where Yum Yum Donuts was located … “The Donut Hole”
Maddon loved the idea and said a lot of his coaches would take that too, on a morning-by-morning basis. And after a short pause, Maddon said, “Coach Hinske.” Maddon explained that Hinske was all over him the night before. Maddon pretended to listen to what Hinske was saying. Finally, Hinske admitted he was overserved Friday night.
There are so many things that are different between managing the Rays and the Cubs. The fans, the magnitude, the whole situation. It’s a unique situation according to Maddon, unlike anything else in baseball.
“Your severe interest in this team is unbelievable. Loyalty through both good and bad times,” Maddon said. “It’s unique. You don’t see that anymore. There is a definite connection to all of us. And that is the separator.”
The Cubs want Kyle Schwarber’s bat in the lineup daily. The question is, where will the Cubs play him this year and in the future? Maddon asked Schwarber’s catching coach and outfield coach to share their thoughts.
As far as Mike Borzello is concerned, Kyle Schwarber is a catcher. Borzello is not letting that go until Maddon or Theo Epstein tells him that Schwarber is no longer a catcher. Schwarber wants to catch and is capable of becoming the Cubs catcher. Borzello thinks he can do it. Schwarber’s baseball IQ is off the charts and his leadership ability going forward for Borzello is behind the plate.
Dave Martinez is the outfield coach and he wants Schwarber in the outfield. Everyone knows Schwarber can hit but what many do not know is how athletic he is. Schwarber can steal bases and wants to steal bases. Schwarber constantly asked Martinez if he could steal a bag last year. Martinez said Schwarber will do whatever they ask him to do. Schwarber wants to catch and play the outfield. So on the days he’s not catching he can shift to the outfield.
For the last three days, Martinez watched Schwarber pick Jason Heyward’s brain on how to play the outfield. Schwarber knows he has a lot of work to do. Schwarber is not only a tremendous athlete, according to Martinez, but he’s also a tremendous person.
Maddon calls Eric Hinske his daddy and Maddon wanted to hear input from Schwarber’s daddy. Hinske explained that everyone thinks he and Schwarber look alike. Hinske described Schwarber as a tireless worker that’s in the cage every day at the same time working on his swing and he spends an equal amount of time working on his defense. Schwarber will play wherever Maddon wants him to play. Hinske just wants him to hit left-handed and hit home runs.
Joe Maddon is confident Javier Baez can handle center field defensively. The Cubs will have to wait and see on the offensive side. Baez is one of the best on-field defenders Maddon has seen. He’s never in trouble. He’s always very calm. Baez has a spectacular arm and a really high baseball acumen. Maddon likes it when guys go play Winter Ball because it helps a player process the moment in advance. And that’s what Baez does.
The Cubs current talent pool is better than it was in the ’80’s when Martinez came up through the system. Martinez cannot believe how big the players have gotten and joked about needing a step stool just to talk to them. The Cubs have guys in their lineup that can hit 30-plus home runs and win Gold Gloves. The coaches are happy to be able to work with these players on a daily basis.
Dave Martinez was asked about his conflict with a certain former teammate (Ryne Sandberg) that happened before he was traded to the Expos. Martinez said the conflict was cleared up a long time ago.
The Cubs bullpen performed well last season, but didn’t receive the recognition it deserved. Maddon believes they have seven guys he’s expecting to be in the bullpen that can pitch with a lead.
“We are that good,” Maddon said. “We are that talented.”
Chris Bosio thinks the Cubs have something in baseball that no one else has. The Cubs took starters and put them in the bullpen. There are four guys that have four pitches, some guys five pitches depending on matchups. Bosio said teams see what the Cubs are doing with the versatility in the bullpen. Teams covet the guys that were in the Cubs’ pen.
For example, Trevor Cahill re-signed with the Cubs after the Pirates offered him a two-year contract to be a starter instead of pitch out of the bullpen. Cahill decided to return to the Cubs even though he knows a lot of things have to go well for him to be in the starting rotation. Cahill will be stretched out in Spring Training and be used as a starting pitcher in Cactus League games.
Chris Bosio feels a lot of teams are starting to copy what the Cubs have done, both with the pitching staff and position players. Clubs are now trying to build a versatile roster.
Games can be won or lost in the fifth or sixth inning. Maddon doesn’t see the point in waiting, especially with having pitchers that can be successful in multiple roles and different game situations.
Maddon wants his starting pitchers to go through a lineup more than two times and to complete more than six innings each time out, but at least finish six innings. The longer a starter can pitch the more it helps the bullpen stay fresh, especially late in the season. Maddon feels the Cubs’ pen is capable of having the same success as the Royals pen and could be just as good as the backend of the Yankees’ bullpen. Maddon pointed out they don’t talk about it, but the back of the Cubs pen can also shorten a game.
Maddon is not focused on a particular number when it comes to his starting pitchers. He is looking at how the pitcher is performing at that moment in the game. And he also looks at the hitters that are due up and the success they’ve had against his pitcher. It’s all about leverage moments and who is the best option to get the outs at that point in the game.
Joe Maddon manages the game. If the Cubs get to the sixth inning with a lead there is not going to be any confusion on which pitcher is going to be used in what situation. Chris Bosio said the game has changed and they all learned last year how Maddon likes to manage the game.
One of the most difficult in-game decisions Maddon made last year was pulling Jason Hammel early against the Giants. Maddon knew the importance of that series and with winning the first of the four-game series at Wrigley. Maddon thought Hammel had a great first half and was on the path to be an All-Star before he got hurt. Hammel did not have the same success in the second half after the injury.
Joe Maddon felt that series is when he needed to start managing each game like it was a playoff situation.
2016 Cubs Convention
- A Grand Opening to the 2016 Cubs Convention
- Day Two of 2016 Cubs Convention: The Ricketts Family Forum
- Day Two of 2016 Cubs Convention: Baseball Management with Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer
A recap of the Business Operations session will be posted early in the week.