It’s a little more than a week since the St. Louis Cardinals swept the Chicago Cubs on the road. How did Maddon win six of the last seven games?
Between offense productivity and bullpen woes last week, Maddon told the media that it’s time for Cubs players to step up and if they can’t step up and play at a high level, then they are most likely headed for a stretch on the bench or with Triple-A Iowa. Maddon called this stepping up to be the professional that they are paid to be, ‘big-boy time’ as he told ESPN’s Jesse Rogers recently:
"“I can’t be as aware, in a sense, as I was last year, in giving guys plate appearances and at-bats, developmentally speaking. We have two months to put our best foot forward. I will move guys in and out, but I don’t feel as compelled to do it as I felt last year. “It’s big boy time.”"
The time for second chances is over for Cubs players. Maddon is executing ‘big-boy time,’ and that means training or ‘development’ time is over. Players have been coached and coddled; now it’s time for them to execute like professionals.
One thing ‘big-boy time’ means to players is more playing time. Players who are hitting the ball consistently will get more playing time and more chances at-bat. It’s just the opposite with those who are struggling; chances are they may not start the game or end up with diminished playing time.
Take, for instance, outfielder Ian Happ; Maddon started him out slow, but Happ is seeing more playing time because he is rocking the bat. His grand-slam on Wednesday proved Maddon is on the right track but still keeping his options open:
"“Guys that don’t start can still conclude games defensively,” Maddon said."
A few of the Cubs that have been struggling to include infielder David Bote and outfielders Albert Almora Jr., and Kyle Schwarber were looking at a bus trip to Iowa but have since embraced Maddon’s strategy and picked up their game since last week’s debacle with the St. Louis Cardinals.
All three have been hitting home runs, doubles and singles like, well… it is big-boy time.