<
>

Joe Maddon Q&A: Who makes guest list at Cubs manager's ultimate dinner party?

PITTSBURGH -- Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is piloting the best team in baseball right now. The eclectic skipper took time to talk all things Cubs as well as have some fun with some other pressing questions.

Have you ever had or even been around a more dominant month than what you just experienced in April?

Joe Maddon: I think I have, but it’s been in the middle of the season. It’s very unusual to start out like that. Last time I was in a start this good I think I was in Salinas [Class A] like in 1978 or 1977; I think we had a start where we were like 45-10. A big part of the run differential right now is about our pitching. People think run differential they think the offense is just going nuts, but with a more pedestrian pitching staff you wouldn’t have that run differential.

Are you cognizant of seeing something we’ve never seen before every time Jake Arrieta takes the mound?

JM: I don’t think about it until afterwards when Peter [Chase, the Cubs' director of media relations] gives me the latest stat or milestone. That’s when it slaps me in the face, otherwise I don’t think about it. Working with Jake he’s such a normal, approachable guy you don’t think about those things. When you do watch him pitch from the side it does strike you a little bit like, "Man." A part of it is how bad the other team’s takes are, not their swings. How badly they look when they take a pitch. That’s when he’s really on.

OK, some quick dinner companion questions. Not including Sandy Koufax, since you just spent time with him in spring training, name me three other baseball people you’d like to share a meal with.

JM: I’ve thought about this. I’ll go with Bob Gibson, my favorite player. Then Branch Rickey and probably Jackie Robinson.

How about dinner with three non-baseball people?

JM: It’s hard to stick with three. I’ve always said the author Pat Conroy ["The Prince of Tides," "The Great Santini"]. I almost met him but he just passed away. He’s by far my favorite author. Going into the past I’ve always thought Mark Twain would be cool to hang out with for a little bit. Just his mind and perception of things and just his sense of humor: I would love to understand it a little bit better. Last one I’ll say Bruce Springsteen. Have to have some rock 'n' roll in there.

Taking nothing away from anyone else on your team, which player would keep your interest over a long dinner?

JM: Probably Jake Arrieta. He’s so interesting. Probably him.

You’ve always said you want your players to have a life outside of baseball. Who on your team needs to adhere to that and spend less time at the ballpark?

JM: (laughing) Hitting coach John Mallee. He comes to the ballpark way too early for me, man. He drives me nuts.

Not withstanding anything that has happened here with the Pirates, you don’t believe in pitchers retaliating or throwing at hitters on purpose. That’s kind of a new-school thought. Are there cons to it? Can you be taken advantage of?

JM: Well, just because it’s my feeling doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen on teams that I have. To me that’s more of an organic moment where your players take that into consideration. I’m not going to tell anyone to do anything, but there’s that part of the game where certain members of the team will take that into their own purview. And if I was a player I would be that player too.

Which new or even old rule in baseball do you think should be thrown out?

JM: I don’t like the stuff at second base or home plate. Neither one of them. To me that’s about teaching proper technique. On the slides and on defense.

You have a cool streak going of avoiding losing two in a row this season. Is there more going on there than just talent? Is there some mental thing happening as well?

JM: Well, I’m not sure people understand what it means to lose hard or win hard for 30 [minutes]. When you permit yourself to lose for more than 30 minutes then it can carry over to the next day. I think it’s important to understand that. I think that mindset is contributing. We’re pretty good at getting over it in 30 minutes.

Last one. Fill in the blank. I’ve always thought baseball should _______.

JM: Play all night games.