We already know that Joe Maddon has pretty much cemented himself as one of the greatest Cubs managers of all-time, but I think we often overlook why.
While he’s a perfectly fine strategist, forward thinker, lineup creator, and even bullpen manager (most of the time), his constant awareness of the big picture is what sets him apart from everybody else.
And while his yearly themes and slogans are but a small part of that, they do a good job of underscoring his entire philosophy:
- Do Simple Better
- Try Not to Suck
- Embrace the Target
- Remember the Heartbeat
- Don’t Let the Pressure Exceed the Pleasure
So what message does the Cubs big-picture manager have in store for the team in 2018? Put the art back into the game.
"Put the art back into the game."
*SPOILER ALERT*: Joe Maddon shared with us his theme for the upcoming #Cubs season.
— NBC Sports Chicago (@NBCSChicago) February 14, 2018
Joe Maddon is telling his players to put the art back into the game, and remember the human element of the sport.
“I think we’re going way too far, we’re losing humanity in a sense,” Maddon said via Patrick Mooney at The Athletic. “I’m all about data, I’m all about numbers and information. But let’s not forget the human being, let’s not forget the heartbeat. So how do you balance data versus art? Art to me equals the human experience, the human being.”
And Maddon is putting his money where his mouth is, commissioning six different works of art depicting famous people, artists, and works with a bit of a baseball (and his own personal) twist on them:
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) February 15, 2018
Maddon’s messages: pic.twitter.com/SvF95lwGQC
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 14, 2018
So far, two of the six works have been released, including Salvador Dali in a catcher’s mask, and the statue of David on the pitcher’s mound at Wrigley Field. Each image comes with a series of related messages, which will, together, remind Maddon’s players that they are artists, as well as athletes.
According to Patrick Mooney, the remaining works will feature a version of the Mona Lisa, something involving Albert Einstein, and art inspired by Andy Warhol and Banksy.
Here he is talking about it a bit more:
And if it all strikes as you as a little silly, weird, or off-beat … good.
I’m guessing that’s *precisely* what Maddon is going for. And if you don’t get it (I mean, heck, I only half-get it myself), don’t worry … that’s also sort of the point. Maddon wants his players to be loose, have fun, and remember that this game, for all its bells and whistles and tradition and history, is still just a game – what better way to do that than to put the Mona Lisa in the dugout … um, right?