Ep. 134 - Joe Maddon

Update: 2017-03-30


Joe Maddon, manager of the World Series Champion Chicago Cubs, joins David before Opening Day to talk about his working class upbringing in Pennsylvania, his path towards an unconventional leadership style, the Cubs' prospects for a repeat, and more.

Following script is auto-generated by Speech to Text Technology:

and the the the and now from the University of Chicago Institute of Politics and CNN The X Files with your host David Axelrod the The savvy baseball lifer a New Age philosopher and motivator every politician an executive should study I sat down with Joe Madden the manager of the World Champion Chicago Cubs the other day at their spring training home in Mesa Arizona what he's thinking as the cups repair for another campaign one other thing instead of our usual Monday show will have a special episode of The X Files come your way this week and we're bringing the podcast to TV with an episode airing Saturday night on CNN with Senator John McCain will release the full conversation as a podcast for you that evening I hope you'll tune in Saturday and will be back to our regular podcast schedule later next week Joe Madden great to be with you down here in sunny Mesa as you try and start climbing that hill again absolutely everybody thinks of us are this new age guy data and all of that and we'll get into that but I'll ask you about that kept that you carry around with you that all the angels kept that you carry around with using that right now yeah tell me about that that's my that's kept my dad was a plumber and my dad always wear a hat and so as with the angels of course it all the different angel cups during my time there but this one in particular he had worn right up to the point we passed the way Sony did I when I was back home of course and this was done in the shop the shop would be a plumbing shop he had this little cube or up above the damage to my mom still lives up there above the shop so this hat was in the corner in that little corner of thirty point like it's dirty the shop it's it's funny it's the others bins full of of fittings copper fittings and machines that cut pipe et-cetera and you have to sweep it up as often as you possibly can there's a two car garage right that we played basketball with my dad to Michael's got back from work so my hats his hats in that corner grab one at that hat so it's been it's been to two World Series now three actually but to as winners in two thousand and two it was in the dugout when the Angels won World Series of Pop that underneath my books in the corner and then in this last year twenty sixteen when things were kind of tough I went upstairs during that rain delay prop that in the back of my pants underneath the belt and underneath my hoody tapping that thing the whole time staying let's go buddy let's go and then eventually put it into the game so that is that goes with me everywhere a backpack kind of a guy so it makes it very easy to bring it around in that it's not just to have to go through but your dad goes with most my debts not my hat and had it is my dad my dad was it was always there for us the most simple man and real patient and talented I mean he he could have done anything was a plumber but he could have an electrician a Carpenter a auto mechanic you don't have to pay for anything I mean my dad was able to fix anything back in the day he was I guess is the first kid on his luck with a handy Andy Toole said that's been told even have a glove Vega said Haney who sticks a neighbor's stuff done on P Street Hazleton back in the day just to be was and so yeah he's he's with me constantly tell me about Hazleton Pennsylvania and growing up there what kind of town is Hazel down the road from Scranton right that looks Paris a coal mining town answer cycles as opposed to the tomb is in its northeastern Pennsylvania will grown up there in that time was it was a prolific it was Cole was at its height that point and everybody was employed I think thirty five to forty thousand folks in the city at that time really prosperous and fun I mean everybody everybody was involved the you are I want to procure school stop by the nuns had a really large family I made at twelve brothers and sisters my mom ten or eleven acre member but this large immediate family large even larger extended family and then really influenced by nuns teachers mentors like to be a handful for the nine was well I was and I was like I was a kid that I try to cooperate and I would clean the blackboard to know one of those kids that passed the chocolate milk at ten o'clock good at the put it in little bins and pass it out so I was actually with the nuns but it was a great place to grow up my point was to be like you talk about accountability I mean not just to your family and their aunts and uncles but gosh you walk in on a street or doing anything wrong somebody new you pop and you get trouble for that so you raised by everybody I've often said it was the best place in world or of ethnic town youth I was Italian a new mom was pulling thread is pulled right BB still around me some eighty four b nice full but a polish my doubtful that a tie in and about my mom lives on the same block that she grew up in her house where she grew up with all my grandparents and her sisters and brothers is a block from where she lives in our apartment right now she is on the Polish border Saint Stanislaus Church is right up to St my dad was Our Lady of Grace so everything was sectioned off like this in the whole city was ethnically section for purposes of language and business et-cetera So oh yeah my mom was on the on the line between Paula can untie him and him at third base luncheon at which she still she was she retired last year but the base was a half a block from her house and a half block from my house was like to write in between so beanie pretty much his live in this block for eighty four years so Chicago most of them pretty familiar you came to pass what I said I mean it's a you go to Chicago and it is it's a larger version of Hazleton I felt very comfortable being there quickly just by the people that I met the conversations that I had was it was really familiar the food just everything about it was very very even the tradition of the Cubs the religious nature of sports you know the conversations that are had all the stuff was really familiar to me so I was comfortable U of U sports just came naturally to you when you're a kid did I was actually pretty good at all scorers as a kid my best sport was football the question of my dad were still alive the Goddess of the Cubs winning the World Series are not like this track a good first day about me not play football anywhere Lafayette calls it the person would come out of his mouth or you know it's interesting to me you played what you would call the two kind of lay leadership positions you are catcher in baseball you're a quarterback in the paw why'd you gravitate to those spots to do was do you like playing that kind organizational role good arm good arm and so as in football they want me to be a quarterback started out the first two games as a halfback for the state trooper Eagles quarterback had a tough game Sosa nose at quarterback by Game three of my ten year old season quarterback ever from that moment on I was actually shortstop and pitcher in in high school and Little League kind of stuff and went to college I was pitching were playing in Florida actually Tampa and actually like half a mile from where I live right now sick really crazy and family in Tampa and sigh vulture to catch because are catching wasn't good say play the Kansas City Royals baseball can Academy in Sarasota a professional team and not cut since I was twelve and Little E I fall to the next then catching against the Royals Academy in Sarasota that Suh became a catcher and you tell that story about why you chose baseball over football because you went to college you mention a football scholarship you were the first one to go to CA yes among my group was in my immediate family my dad none of his brothers and sisters my mom sister did and man Ted had gone to she was a nurse but yeah that would happen was a little update on the football deal actually chosen a skull use of financial need financially had to be met so I got like a left at that time of sixteen thousand bucks for four years was four thousand annually to go there to play football and a football field Metzger field which is outside the town which is right next to the baseball field some out there doing fall football and hear crack crack crack in September guys are playing baseball like two fields over and really like that's all I can hear you play baseball in September and October here that's really excited me so I played my freshman year Lafayette we did really well I did well enough to be the starter on varsity the next year my sophomore year and i went dead I went back there for fall practice in August said Run like ten forties and a six minute mile coast throw up sick after that the network tough we're all summer and then the next day first day one out with my mobile pack when the coach Sarah said I don't want to play football anymore and had to go see Coach Neil Putnam which is really difficult would you like nineteen or twenty years of age say I'm retiring and has attended could use the word quit and so I did ice and retiring because I want to play baseball and really the lore is honestly the crack of the bat in September I mean if I'd gone to different college to play football and baseball field wasn't right there in the fall I'm on to play football for three or four years and obviously you did well at baseball in college you are good but not quite good enough yeah I mean I I never drafted a sign of Boulder Colorado in nineteen seventy five a part of the political leaders won a national championship game over I get signed by the California Angels I go to camp actually has couple really good years in the minor leagues but I was not consider that guy and after three years the release me of course you always think that you're better than you actually are but also this is no lie the second play of my twenty two Christopher great scout boy comes up to me when then Vice A A and ask you when you stop playing start coaching twenty two twenty three that blew me up really upset with Lloyd great scout and but even he recognized that in me when I was twenty three years of age and then I'm out by the time of twenty five twenty six managing rookie ball by the time of twenty seven I'm a scout so apparently was not good enough but somebody recognize other qualities in me yeah and you spent thirty years Angels organization what you you told me once that you may all your mistakes along the way which prepares you for this Yeah what what what did you learn and I'm used to like every job there was to do that but others what not to do a great example is managed in Midland Texas eighty six eighty seven something like that eighty five eighty six one of those two years and I was upset with my team I thought I just just we weren't playing well I got angry as opposed to really recognize in the situation in trying to fix it I got angry went out to local news Dan and I bought a bunch of newspapers from different parts of the country to cut the classified ads of each paper likes Antonio Texas maybe Washington D C Maybe saddle and I put the classified ads all over the clubhouse and even in the back of the bathroom stalls and I told the guys above the urinals listen check out these classified as because you don't start playing like he should or can these are your options I thought it was motivation is like probably the worst thing anybody's ever done in her life I got angry I got a which you should never do when things are going right it's not about getting angry how we fix this and so I messed up badly there and the bench house quickly did you realize I'm probably a year or so after that because right after that I became a roving instructor was in charge of the minor league system on the field coordinator and throwing to each city and I was the hitting coach and coordinator and catching coordinator and watching different guys operate for managers coaches et-cetera talking to players players from different levels like a ball the way through AAA even the big leagues I got to go to big league side I learned that was an inappropriate way to deal with young men and use another instance in which you find you so you find some of it and that can sit well with them either with that same two years in Dillon Texas the weather play in Arkansas Little Rock I didn't like or effort so I called to leave AC after the game and I said I want to find everybody day's pay because it did not show up tonight including that group that was the need to get the game so like other starting pitchers bullpen guys guys on the bench also got find a day's pay and Billy was okay Billy did it for me or with four for us wives girlfriends at that time everybody absolutely hated me because a day's pay is pretty large to Double A baseball player again something I would never do again I have not find anybody in years except maybe a bottle of wine with a double race just when you get points across their guises making mistakes we would go with a bottle of wine but not actually taking anybody's money as a manager since that point was really bad they play better after you die of course not it makes it there's nothing there's no real positive reinforcement to be gained from that I'd much prefer conversation now putting somebody out of a game of done that I think that's much more pert and Bob to my mentor use to argue with me take their money don't take them out of the game because they can lose a game but I don't know I think I think some long haul by taking away from them what they want to do meaning you can play units it today I think that's more impactful the unclear than trying to grab like fifty bucks hundred bucks of the pocket so eventually the thing I learned was like if the guys really not putting the effort that I thought was approaching you gotta be careful with that that's another story completely that when you start Chelle challenging somebody suffer but anyway I got away from that more conversational and then if you really don't want to do this lets it out for you you you were with the angels and are August five different managers or something like that quite quite a few did you see did you learn from their mistakes as well absolutely you do and we often talk about and you've been in the same business or those similar situations obviously learn from the goal is obviously do but I think I've learned more from the bat once things I would never want to do and that really was very impactful to me what with the Cubs would I do with the Rays and the weather it's themed road trips or the fact that there's a real lack of rules within our club house because I believe in individual freedoms and then going to get greater respect and discipline in return that's all the residue of me watching micro managers operate and the reaction by the players even when your Rover and you're behind the scenes you everybody really confide in you a lot conversational and that's what I'm therefore to be to listen and see her things and they fear a good listener you're going to learn what really turns a player off what can motivate a player so all the stuff I was I think I am a good listener and I think at that time listening to players and coaches and other people that really did not like the leader at that time I learned I learned alot from those moments so I think I was very grateful that it was not a manager anywhere that I did this other stuff before I became a manager again and saw so many different methods that I think now I'm able to incorporate the best of all those guys you you had a stint or two as interim manager with the Angels but you you passed over you you you interviewed with a number of yes Theo interviewed you in Boston did you just did you have faith that someday this thing was going to happen for you totally believe that never NEVER did not believe that it would happen just a matter the right time you know what happened with the Angels originally Marcel left I was interviewed by Billy Bass when TC Terry Collins got the job Terry had had experience in a big lead said not to lean over like such good friends was stuffy the right thing to do to not hire me and then in two thousand so shh interviews for The Angel job and Bill Stone is the GM and study again was looking for more experience now so should not mention the big leagues or even kosher meat I don't think that played there and I guess I still think he made the right decisions don't eat it with social over me and I could keep going on in on I mean I thought the O to the right thing with the dough over me and I withdrew from the Diamondback position I interviewed for the Diamondbacks to get a shot there but his family situations going on that day that I felt better with withdrawing from and then Seattle again was built above a C again and then he hired Hargrove a lot of that was the ownership money somebody with more experience and so I've been okay but I think that the overarching philosophy from the ownership group that the one I would have been upset about had not got was was the Devil Rays because that was perfect I thought I've always wanted to be a part of a new franchise why do you know obviously they were pretty bad when you took oh absolutely and that was perfect because then I thought to have a better opportunity to incorporate or bring all the things that learned to like the clean slate Yankees have had a tradition the Red Sox had a tradition all the seams had came in with tradition and an established method of doing things the double race and none of that so I felt pretty good about my methods the things that I've been taught as an angel and so I thought to get a expansion kind of even though they weren't literally expansion at the moment they were the double rates were and I thought that clean slate kept wide open for me because a lot of things I like to do that I was taught well and walked in and the place and with the notes with Stu and Andrew and Andrew Friedman edge of women a mess over there was a kid oriented yet very very aligned with them in regards to data but then they did dig my old school old world styles of teaching the game also was pretty good marriage I want to ask you about about data you when you are traveling leagues you carry a computer around with you pretty unusual at the time what why did you do that well I just first of all I did it from an organizational perspective avid note taker keeper so anytime I worked with David Axelrod I would write exact who spoke about on the date were it was meant to be careful but ye say exactly this is on my iPad but I would write down everything I talk to you about because I would see a maybe for a month or two then I would recapture my notes before we would work on hitting again so I would be right on top because I always thought language is really important in other words another words I wanted to say to you exactly what it said the last time I thought it worked I did not want to come back you for getting what it said before so I want the computer to become an avid note keeper I didn't really understand the concept of data and the person see at that point I did a very rudimentary to take statutes are just like they are today and I look at them in right away as hitting coach I go to your walks two strikeouts you're on base percentage and never looked at batting average back and even then and I would talk to my guys about the walks versus their strike us having the strike zone organize on base percentage and that would mean to tell me that you did have two strikes on organize it was good number so that so I began with data and then I got into early nineties into the big leagues and it became a sticker sheet of stats and from that I started to generate more stuff on my own so the computer was primarily note taking then it became a way to chart the fence which to me Bobby can up worked in unison getting that done and then eventually became information numerically that we could that I could post and give to the manager the semantics to take me before every series three game series of clicks we starts on Monday I get into that building at noon by five o'clock maybe get everything done the present to the players before they came represented everything happens at the Just when you are the And yet this is like middle like ninety five ninety six I organize the day I did all the work for the day spring training and every day during the season regarding the layout and then the first game of each series I did all including like scanning document scanning stuff popping popping them into one page and then trying to condense information to distribute it for the players that's what that's for my chops to take a short break we'll be right back with Joe Madden when you've got to Tampa Andrew Friedman like Theo Epstein who runs the Cubs was a young guy who is deeply into data how did you guys meld on that and how how much deeper did you go with with data there much we mesh really well with all of that because I was thirsty for it because I'd already had my like this at all the stuff I had been doing I gave it to them this is what I like this was like during the course of the game a lot of the stuff they built their were off the thoughts that I had plus the thoughts that they had obviously the beauty of that of the data was at that time if you had a thought presented to the data guys and they come back and they put a piece of paper for you that would be pertinent and eight cents and was the guy five million idea about the show we shake it off the top had the thought would be for example just like when a pitcher struggling hitters struggling the picture of strutting as an example would his first pitch strikes like a fish efficient that what you do on one count show me a fastball usage over change it uses what is he doing show me hitting from hitting perspective expanding the strike so what counts what kind of pitch where the expanding strike zone and all this information could really be a wonderful teaching tool more than just physical mechanics and when he came to the game we did was we we incorporated into one number all kinds of information into one number like the batting average being efficient regarding this crime EU as a hitter but you're on base percentage velocity ball off the bat your sense of sensitivity to velocity how good of a breaking ball hitter are you to expand expand expand and expand away purses that picture all the stuff can be baked in one number so these are the kind of been the kind of things we started talking about so that when I get that card you see my back pocket a lot of the stuff that I just talked about is reduced in one number that is pertinent verses that picture that day or hitter versus that picture that day so all the other folks that the old school folks that man away from that right down the ships ships really really frowned upon back then also that's one great live moving players around exactly that's why defensively that's why the Rays were so good then is because we're ahead of the curve with a lot of the stuff everybody was like poo poo in it and kind of making fun of us we had our shortstop on the other side of second base thinking mind our motto is the catch line drives to go on and on about it I had my card for me specifically give you all the stuff but all of this Intel was in the back pocket so the morphing of all of these numbers into old school methods I thought was this cool what's happening now I feel so close and it talked about that back in the day so if you could really mean the group to group that frowns upon the stuff that they don't understand and mock what they don't understand you're really missing out so but also believe you don't want to become an extremist in either situation because that could also injure you whether you're just old school they just all about data and you talk about politics in the same well there's no doubt we'd sung example of that actually in the last elections as an over reliance on data and not enough reliance on or just old school getting a sense of where people were and how they were thinking and to these can take the take the Cubs after the lead one away the rain came down the boys got together in a in a room in Game seven of the world is in the World Series our guys got together came out entirely different looks on their faces and we go out when the game and there's no data for that no masters no math involved that's all about the heartbeat heartbeat and that's the point where we continue to move forward in the sense that we are all about numbers but please don't ever forget about the heartbeat it's about human beings about characters but make it about the ability to stay in the present tense and think right now so don't be confused well this I mean numbers are great and numbers extracted in a very calm moment room becoming a background music going whatever it might be but all was said to go up there to tenth inning and you know things are flying all over the place and that he had a plan going on the plan got blown up and all this so you could talk about generals and and people and in the Army or Navy whatever military and when you got this wonderful plan going on all this in his poem it's it's gone so you have to make adjustments on the fly and that's work please don't forget the heartbeat UN in Tampa with Fiona asked Theo why did you pick Francona mover Madden he said I love Joe but I had a bunch of veterans I don't know how they would take to his style of managing when you enter a temple yet a bunch of young guys how important was that because you ended up taking a team that sucked and we go into the playoffs four times you went to the World Series could you have done that with a veteran team I think I do believe I could have because I mean I was aware that good software to say would have been where when to maybe spring something out there or not um but like I said before I mean having an expansion group like this clean slate with no preconceived notions not this provincial town and in all the sportswriters in the can emulate with but see the wine rack in his office and all the crap outta been varied although maybe one rack in the office and boss would have no direction I mean all this really be ragged maybe think some kind of cement and you know that all this I'm grateful that I got the chance to do like I said if I did not get the job in Tampa Bay yeah that in the first time I've been absolutely disappointed they did not get a job that didn't before but you can stay what you took advantage of an out in your contract and you took the job in Chicago what about Chicago attracted you um well you know dealing Jed the city so it's a market where twenty fourteen from the race played the Cubs in Chicago I'd never been really ever idle even though you use in baseball Ellie rode my bicycle around the streets it was there with the Angels once early two thousand I took my bike and went north on Lakeshore than ended up where Three Angels went to play the White Sox right place so you are not really it's not really so very graciously myself better i go use later so well known about this I go up there and I do a circle around the ballpark his place pretty cool and then twenty fourteen the Rays go there to play the Cubs in late season ice so we get their first live was always enamored by the fact that a small portion the neighborhood so you get them the bus is weaving its way in there and I don't even get there but so cool buses driving through like normal streets very narrow navigating an office of the ballpark as Wrigley and then the bus bus parks and walking that long aisle there the whole way that would ever to get to the clubhouse died in the club us for my bag down went down to one of the sin that the gutsy the IV first thing I did not disappoint in and actually it's another one of those surrealistic moments where it was it was the same but different and it really made a strong impression on me the first moment I kept up is this the best seasons the greater some top people this during the course of that series I did make a pitching change
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Ep. 134 - Joe Maddon

The Axe Files with David Axelrod