The Chicago Cubs (99-56) have very little to play for in their seven remaining regular season games. They’ve already clinched the division and home field advantage, so how is skipper Joe Maddon keeping the clubhouse focused?
Hint: There are no snakes involved… yet.
Maddon instituted a second spring training for the team after they clinched the division, teaching the mantra “beat up the day” to his players, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports.
“I don’t get caught up in the macro of the whole thing,” Maddon said on Sunday. “We cannot go about our business from inside in that manner. It will definitely have a bad ending if you do. That’s why I constantly preach the day.”
This means that Maddon is trying to keep his team focused on the ‘now’ rather than the 108-year championship drought. Doing so will keep the team focused on getting better every day, something that got the team to where they are currently.
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The Cubs will enter the playoffs with the best record in baseball and the best record at home. They’ve spent less than a week outside of first place in their division, and own the highest run differential in the league. Statistically, these Cubs compare to the teams in baseball’s Valhalla.
What’s left for Chicago? Staying sharp as the playoffs approach. And you can bet your mother’s house that the team will put in just enough work to do so—no more, no less.
“We’re not going to add anything,” Maddon said. “As we move forward you’re going to hear the same message in the postseason that you’ve heard during the season: It’s about today.”
There are still questions for Chicago to answer before the playoffs, namely concerning their pitching staff. As it stands today, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks will be the starters for Games 1 and 2, with Jake Arrieta taking Game 3 on extended rest. This leaves John Lackey and Jason Hammel left for Game 4. Who should get that start?
It’s nearly impossible imagining the Cubs leaving Lackey out of the rotation considering his playoff pedigree. But, Hammel has had on of his best career seasons. He’s won more decisions (15) than any other season, and will tie his career high in starts (31) in his next outing.
On the other hand, statistics are a measure of the past. Maddon wants his players focused moment-to-moment.
Being aware of problems that may come up is good, but dwelling on them removes you from reality.
“The enemy of good is great,” Maddon said. “Just be good at what we’re doing [now].”