As Joe Maddon celebrates his 62nd birthday and prepares for the start of his second Spring Training with the Cubs, expectations around his team have reached, and quite possibly surpassed, all-time high levels. Maddon wants his players to focus on the day, not the season as a whole, and have fun playing the game of baseball.
Joe Maddon will address his team prior to the first full-squad workout in Mesa in a couple of weeks.
Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks recently talked about the Cubs, the experience the players received last year and the expectations for the upcoming season during interviews on MLB Network Radio.
Jason Hammel acknowledged there were internal expectations before last season even though the Cubs were believed to be a year away from contending in the division.
“Without expectations how do you know you’re going to do anything? Expectations are another way of setting goals and we all set our personal goals and we set team goals, too,” Hammel said to Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on Power Alley. “Without those I really don’t see a reason to show up. There’s really no reason to go to work. I feel like every day you have a purpose and you go there with the background of hard work that you put in and setting the expectation of doing something well that day hoping to make a mark.”
“Honestly it’s experience. A lot of people say that too much. But with such a young team who has never done that and all of the sudden in their very first year, full year in the big leagues, they’re in the spotlight on primetime TV playing these big games with the crazed backing of the Chicago Cubs fans.”
“That’s a different type of pressure, a different type of atmosphere that they’ve ever been used to,” Hammel said. “To be able to put themselves in that situation and then have success, now they know kind of what to expect and can build off of that.”
“As for the veteran guys, we do our job to kind of lead them the right way and leave some things for them to pick up and see if they take it and run with it. It’s a really, really positive thing for them to obviously taste the success last year that we had, but then it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth the way we went out, so it leaves you wanting more.”
Kyle Hendricks almost echoed Hammel’s comments about the momentum that was created last season and the expectations for this year.
“We have our sights set for this year. There is nothing that can really replace experience. We hear it all the time but just having that experience of playing in the playoffs.” Hendricks said to Jim Bowden and Jim Memolo on MLB Network Radio. “It was just a different atmosphere. Different games really.”
“To go through that and experience that, now we have our sights set on going all the way.”
“Even with the expectations it’s still just going out there and taking care of business,” Hendricks said. “That starts with day-to-day stuff, getting your work done when you get to the field early or whatever it is on that given day. And that’s all we are going to focus on really.”
The Cubs played with confidence and seemingly immune to the pressure and expectations last year, especially over the last two months of the regular season. Even when the team was down 0-3 in the NLCS, the Cubs appeared to be a rather loose team and it didn’t seem like anything really affected them.
Hammel explained the Cubs just take things day-by-day and pitch-by-pitch.
“We just try and go day-by-day, game-by-game, pitch-by-pitch. It’s not something we’re going to try to overload our process of doing things.”
“Every day is part of a routine and if you stick with that no matter what as long as you trust all of the work and you trust the guys that are going into battle with you, those types of things really shouldn’t be tough for you to handle or really be phased by it,” Hammel said.
“I think there’s a lot of good things about having these young guys with the experience and going further. We are very excited to see what we can add on to this year.”