Thursday, February 16, 2017

Chicago Cubs Ready to Repeat

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon has his slogans ready for 2017. Get the T-shirts ready.

After guiding the club to its first World Series championship since 1908, Maddon arrived in camp this spring with a three-pronged approach to the new season, plus a throwback to one that started before he showed up.

The Cubs' themes for 2017? Be uncomfortable, authenticity, and don't forget the heartbeat.

"It's really important to become uncomfortable," Maddon said "If you become comfortable, that subtracts growth from the equation. I think if you remain uncomfortable, you continue to grow, you don't become stagnant or complacent. On every level, I want us to be uncomfortable, and I think that's a really positive word."

That's a message Maddon will deliver prior to the team's first official workout for pitchers and catchers. The full squad will hear it on Sunday.

Part two is authenticity.

"It's not to remind them that they're authentic, but the pertinent part is that if you are in fact an authentic person, you can repeat what you've done in the past naturally," Maddon said. "I really want us to understand the authentic part of who we are and for that to sustain what we've done in the past just by being us. Don't try to do anything different."

Which means Maddon and his creative coaching staff have ideas on how to keep Spring Training interesting, and it will begin on Sunday prior to the first full squad practice. After live bear cubs and mimes last year, it could be anything.

The heartbeat theme became obvious in Game 7 of the World Series, Maddon said.

"Things went badly for a bit," he said of a 5-1 blown lead against the Indians, who tied it with three runs in the eighth inning. "We came back and regrouped because our guys got together in a room, void of any kind of statistical, video, or analytical information. They went in there as human beings and came out unified. You do that, and it's kind of antithetical to what's going on right now. I don't want us to forget the heartbeat ever."

That moment came prior to the 10th inning when Jason Heyward called the Cubs players together in the weight room during a rain delay.

Maddon's messages in the past have included "Do Simple Better," "The Process is Fearless," and "Try Not to Suck." But there's also a theme that started in the Cubs' Minor Leagues before Maddon arrived that he'll emphasize as well, which is "That's Cub." President of baseball operations Theo Epstein explained it.

"When a player in a Minor League game or instructional league or on a back field in Spring Training would make a great play or back up a base or do something positive for a teammate, just organically, the other players started to say, 'That's Cub right there,'" Epstein said. "It really stood out. For a century, 'That's Cub' had a different connotation."
It's not a boast, Epstein said.

"It's a two-word celebration of what they've created," he said. "It means something to be a Cub now, and we shouldn't back away from that and we should be proud of that."

Catcher David Ross also delivered a message immediately after the team won the World Series, which was "Turn the Page."

"Obviously, we'll ride the energy of last year -- we just won the world championship -- but it is a new year," Kyle Schwarber said. "We've got to take that energy that we had last year into this year."
So, expect new T-shirts.

"Yeah -- 'Turn the Page,' with David's face on the back," Schwarber said.

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