Chicago Cubs Gradeout: Joe Maddon pushes all the right buttons for young Cubs
From the second Joe Maddon was a free agent, the Chicago Cubs made it their mission to land their guy, the one they entrusted to reverse the curse.
Maddon, the 2015 NL Manager of the Year, didn’t just predict playoffs in his first season. He went as far as to talk World Series. This was before the Cubs had Jon Lester.
Before unanimous NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant even made his much-anticipated MLB debut, Kyle Schwarber came up mashing, and of course before Jake Arrieta‘s Cy Young-potential season came into full effect.
Joe Maddon may not have known what to fully expect, but his team sure delivered in 2015.
While most teams might have some kind of drama fallout at some point throughout a season, the Cubs basically stayed loose and said all the right things. Of course Maddon, being able to gauge athletes and keep the focus on the field, is also known for his various…what is the word for it?
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From themed road trips, pajama parties, turning Wrigley Field into a makeshift-zoo and any other creative jest, Maddon isn’t reinventing the wheel on managing, but he’s tapping into the youth, and mindset of his players to get the best result.
It worked when he swapped Addison Russell and Starlin Castro at shortstop and second base. Coincidence or not, Castro began to excel at the plate, hitting .296 in August and .426 through September.
Maddon found consistency in the bullpen, where Jason Motte took over as closer for a few weeks, as well as inserting Travis Wood (3-2, 2.95 ERA, 45 games as a reliever) into the pen after struggling in his rotation stint.
It’s more than that. Sure, the Cubs did have the talent. We knew about the top prospects and the potential. Maddon not only got his rookies and young players to play big. He instilled confidence in a hungry group and brought the North Siders to within four wins of the franchise’s first World Series berth since 1945.
Remember, the Cubs won 73 games in 2014. They won even fewer the year before that and the year before that. Maddon made believers of his young Cubs, and the team as a whole made not only the city of Chicago but baseball as a whole, believers.
The Chicago Cubs 97 wins, and NLCS berth in 2015, as well as Maddon and Bryant taking home hardware, leads to bigger expectations for the Cubs in 2016.