The Chicago Cubs are one of baseball’s most storied and oldest active sports franchises, having been established in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings. From the 1876 through the 1908 season, the Cubs had won eight championships and was clearly baseball’s first true dynasty. Times have changed however, and the team, famously, hasn’t won a championship since that 1908 season. Dubbed the “lovable losers” the once proud franchise has been sentenced to what seems like an eternity without a World Series title.
Enter the 2015 season. With high expectations being set by the media (The Sporting News predicting a Cubs World Series) as well as the unexpected expectation set by a late 1980’s classic film (Back to the Future II), there has been an extra swirl in the air around the Cubs this offseason. That swirl has uncovered a ton of very interesting storylines, and these are the top 4 reasons to watch the Cubs in 2015.
What’s Joe Maddon’s effect on a ballclub?
Joe Maddon has certainly come to the Chicago Cubs with a ton of expectation, and why wouldn’t he? Over the past seven seasons in Tampa he has averaged 89 wins a season, and has lead the Rays to a 754-705 record (.517 winning percentage). During that time Joe has led the Rays to two first place finishes in the highly contested American League East, a trip to the World Series, as well as four separate playoff appearances.
What is most impressive is Joe has achieved this success with an average payroll of $53 million over his time in Tampa Bay. No other team or manager in baseball has been able to do as much with as little during his time as a major league manager, and the expectations should be high with the Chicago Cubs 2015 payroll expected to be about double Tampa’s average over Joe’s tenure (estimated $115 million). But, is the Cubs youth too much for Joe Maddon to overcome?
Not necessarily so. Maddon, while working in Tampa was surrounded by youth, Ben Zorbist, Chris Archer, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly, Evan Longoria, David Price, among others. He was able to get the most out of these kinds of players, and lead them to 90+ win seasons, playoffs, and even a World Series appearance. What makes him so successful with young players? Well the Sun Times David Just asked Maddon just how he’d manage Cubs youngster Javier Baez last season while he was still with the Rays, his method speaks volumes.
“I wouldn’t tell him anything,” Maddon said in August. “You can only make them think, which is the worst thing you can possibly do today. If he can turn his mind off and just go play, that’d be the best thing.
“I’d just tell him to go up there and be himself and play to his strengths. Don’t worry about all the data, video and that kind of stuff. It’s not gonna help him.”
This approach helps eliminate the pressure to perform on a young player, allowing them to go out there without fear of having a bad game. With multi-million dollar contracts at stake with every swing of the bat, telling a player to turn his head off can go a long way in his success. If he can get the younger kids to perform without thinking about the pressures of being a major-leaguer, while getting the typical production of of the team’s veterans, this could be an exciting year within the friendly confines.