MESA, Ariz. — The world champion Chicago Cubs aren’t planning to mess too much with success this year.
But with Joe Maddon at the helm as manager, you can expect a new wrinkle here or a new slogan or two there.
Maddon met the media Tuesday along with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, and discussed his motivational messages.
“We’re working on several, including ‘That’s Cub,'” Maddon said of his slogans. “That’s coming directly from Wrigley, I believe. I kind of dig ‘That’s Cub.’
“Beyond that, I want to focus on the word ‘uncomfortable.’ I want to focus on the word ‘authenticity.’ And ‘don’t forget the heartbeat.’ ”
It might be difficult for players, fans and the media to keep track of all that, but no doubt Maddon will keep the T-shirt companies busy with all of those sayings.
As with most things Maddon, there’s a method to the madness.
Start with “uncomfortable.” Who wants to be uncomfortable?
Let Joe explain.
“It’s really important to be uncomfortable,” he began. “If you become a comfortable person, I think that subtracts growth from the equation. I think if you remain somewhat uncomfortable, you’ll continue to grow. You don’t become stagnant. You don’t become complacent, set in your ways. On every level, I want us to be uncomfortable. I think that’s a really positive word. That’s one of the messages I want to get out there quickly with our boys.
“ ’Authenticity’, not to remind them that they’re authentic. For me, the pertinent part about the authentic component is the fact that if you are in fact an authentic person, you’re able to repeat what you’ve done in the past naturally. It’s just who you are. There’s nothing contrived about somebody that’s authentic.
“I really want us to understand the authentic part of who we are. From that to be able to sustain what we’ve done in the past just by being us. Don’t try to be anything different. There’s a part of the sameness that I would like to see is the authentic part of our guys.”
Maddon went all humanist in us when he talked about the “heartbeat.”
“Don’t forget the heartbeat,” he said. “Why? Last year, Game 7, Cleveland. Things went badly for a bit. We came back and regrouped because our guys got together in a room, void of any kind of statistical, video, analytical kind of information. They went in there as human beings and came out unified. And that’s Cub. Everybody just wants to talk about this other stuff, and everybody’s forgetting the heartbeat. So I don’t want us to forget the heartbeat — ever.”
All of this talk is geared toward the Cubs putting themselves in position to repeat as world champions. The talent is good enough to reach the postseason, where anything can happen.
For now, the goal seems to be staying hungry.
“After a World Series, you do kind of either get complacent or get even hungrier, because now that you’ve tasted it, there’s no real in-between,” said Epstein, who won two World Series titles with Boston before coming to the Cubs. “I never doubted it for a second that with our group of guys they’ll be extremely hungry. Just taking a quick look at their physical condition and how early they’ve shown up to camp really indicates how hungry they are.”
When Epstein and Hoyer came to Chicago in the fall of 2011, they talked of developing a “Cubs way” of doing things, starting in the minor leagues. That seems to have evolved into “that’s Cub.”
“The players in the minor leagues started to realize how good they were, and they were surrounded by great instructors who were passionate about teaching the game and getting them better,” Epstein said. “This great morale started to take hold in the minor-league system. And when a player in a minor-league game or in instructional league or on one of the back fields in spring training would make a great play or back up a base or do something really positive for a teammate, just organically the other players started to say, ‘Nice play. That’s Cub. That’s Cub right there.’ It stood out because, for a century, ‘That’s Cub’ had a different connotation.
“A lot of those same players are up here in the big leagues. We’re not trying to say we’re better than anyone else. We’re not. But hopefully we’re just ourselves and authentic.”
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