The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the NLCS two games to one over the Chicago Cubs.
That’s all you’ll get out of me here (not because I don’t have any more feelings than that, but rather because my cathartic rant will come in my Julio Urias post later today).
Instead, you’ll have to make due with the fact that the Cubs have an uphill battle to climb, but also have the team, the talent, and the manager to do it.
In fact, that very manager – Joe Maddon – spoke after last night’s game, hitting on a number of key topics in an intelligent, level-headed way (as he tends to). You can check out a full transcript of Maddon’s post game interview here, but I’ve collected a number of his thoughts below, alongside some of my own, for your perusal. So, you know, peruse.
- Obviously the first and biggest question on everyone’s collective mind revolves around the Cubs offense. Why are they struggling? What can be changed? What should we expect of them going forward? For those answers and more, let’s watch a portion of Maddon’s presser, before diving in to the rest ourselves:
- Okay, got it? In short, Maddon recognizes that the Cubs aren’t hitting the ball hard, but points out that there have been good at bats. The Cubs simply haven’t hit the ball hard when they have the chance. He also credits the Dodgers’ pitching staff for most of that. Obviously there are no excuses in the playoffs (good pitching will always be there, because a team can’t be there without it), but sometimes you just get outplayed. The Cubs haven’t changed anything (in terms of preparation) from what the did during their historically good 103-win season, and Maddon doesn’t expect to do that now. Having the right mental attitude is paramount, and he believes it’s their best weapon.
- In fact, Maddon believes that his team will act and react the way he does, which is why he always works hard to stay positive. They’re in a funk, everyone knows that, but they are a very good team and can break out at any minute. According to Maddon, they just need to get over that hump and the runs will come pouring in.
- Here’s another reason I love Maddon: When asked if he took any issue with the Dodgers stealing third base, up 6-0 late in the ball game, Maddon responds with, “Not at all,” citing that the object of the game for an offense is to score runs at any cost and the other side’s objective is to prevent them. That’s the right attitude.
- But as to the fact that the Dodgers were allowed to steal third … well, Maddon feels that they should have paid better attention. He doesn’t believe the team was “shellshocked,” and thinks that the fumble by Javy Baez immediately after, for one example, was just a side effect of the Dodgers’ momentum (plus a bad hop). You don’t want to see that.
- On facing Rich Hill and his “only two pitches,” Maddon wants to be sure Hill gets credit: “He does different things in regards to changing speeds. You saw the kind of like side-arm elevated fastball also that he’s trying to do. We just could not generate [any hard contact].” I can understand (and even share in) the frustration of watching your team flail at a guy throwing either a 90 MPH fastball or a 75 MPH curveball, but he was (and has been) obviously much more than that. His ability to change speeds and even his arm angle maximize the effect of those two pitches, and he’s done it all season long. He had a couple of bad outings in the NLDS, but maybe that shouldn’t have swayed our expectations so greatly.
- Not entirely unlike Brett, Maddon believes that Jake Arrieta was throwing the ball pretty well yesterday, but obviously made a couple of costly mistakes (sometimes that’s all it takes!). In the end, obviously, you can’t be thrilled with his performance (and you could certainly be worried about the future), but you can’t win if you don’t score runs, and Arrieta had nothing to do with the Cubs’ first back-to-back shutout since May 2014 (outside of himself once again taking matters into his own hands).
- Lastly, Maddon won’t draw any lines in the sand. Tonight isn’t “the moment of truth,” and it isn’t “a must-win game.” It’s just another day of baseball and a single win can change the entire narrative. Obviously, he’s hoping for a bit more offense and a bit better pitching, but this isn’t the end for the Cubs, and he won’t let them (and now us) think that way.