CLEVELAND -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is always looking to unify his team and provide some camaraderie. One place he’s found it is in technology.
When Maddon was a player, he learned if he was playing that day by looking at the lineup posted in the clubhouse. Now? Maddon and first-base coach Brandon Hyde send a mass text to their players so they know ahead of time. It’s good for business and it’s fun for the players.
“Guys are programmed for it,” Hyde said Thursday. “If I’m late with it, I’ll get a sarcastic response from various guys. ‘How can I prepare if I don’t know if I’m playing?’ Stuff like that. Then someone else will bust that guy. And they go back and forth a little.”
Maddon believes strongly in letting regulars know the night before if they won’t be playing. He doesn't want them to be surprised, and it also allows for a mental break.
“If you don’t tell a player the day before he has the day off, then he doesn’t have a day off,” Maddon explained. “He’ll get up and go through this whole routine and get ready and then find out he’s not in the lineup. He actually might be mad. I think it’s great we do it this way.”
And the jokes that come with it are just as important, in Maddon’s estimation. Think of a group of friends sending mass texts to each other. It’s the same when the Cubs do it.
“[Anthony] Rizzo and [Dexter] Fowler are the main responders,” Hyde said. “And a sneaky one, you would never guess, is Addison Russell. He might send a little jab toward the older guys, and I love it. They love it, too. You don’t expect it because he’s so quiet.”
Fowler wouldn’t admit to anything except that it’s nice to know if he’s playing the night before. It hasn't always been like that.
“I’ve been on teams where the lineup is never the same, so I have to come in and look at the board,” Fowler said. “Guys like to get mentally prepared. Yeah, it’s fun. People might respond, ‘Why am I batting seventh?' or something. Just having fun.”
Hyde said some of the best responses are when a veteran gets a day off. There are always questions as to why he can’t hit the opposing pitcher or if he’s “tired.”
“Guys love it,” Hyde said, laughing. “I always tell them, 'Don’t shoot the messenger.' I tell them Joe’s office is the first to the right if you have a problem.”
Maddon usually has a morning coffee with his iPad in front of him as he goes over reports before making out the lineup and texts it to Hyde. Hyde then sends it out to the team. Some days -- like Thursday, with Miguel Montero’s stiff back -- Hyde has to wait until there is an injury decision with the training staff. That’s when he starts hearing it from the players.
“It’s another way for us all to pull together,” he said. “You want them to feel good, be happy and enjoy what they’re doing. If it helps a little bit to prepare and provides some fun, all the better.”