Over the weekend, ESPN ran a great piece on the Chicago Cubs‘ new manager Joe Maddon. Maddon is a simple small town, yet refined man within this complex game of baseball. He enjoys red wine, RV trips, and batting his pitchers eighth. He took the small-market Tampa Bay Rays from doormat to threat and all the way to the World Series. Now, in his first year at the helm in Chicago, he is wasting little time putting his signature on this young Cubs team. Maddon is bringing his own brand of magic to the Friendly Confines and is finding himself in the middle of a playoff chase year one.
Earlier this season, Maddon brought in a magician to the locker room to help loosen his players up and break out of a slump. It was the latest installment of the “Joe Maddon daily grind mental break skit”, and it worked. When the long season can wear on even the best of them, somehow Maddon always finds a way to push that button, and help his players take a step back to enjoy the moment. His brand of baseball is special, this Cubs’ team is buying in, and the city has bought in from day one when he promised everyone a “shot and a beer” his first day on the job. Maddon has instantly brought stability to Chicago, and his winning culture is only just now becoming established this summer.
Summers in Chicago always have a way of shining brighter when the Cubs find themselves in a playoff race. Wrigley Field is becoming electric on a nightly basis because this fan base gets what is happening between the white lines. The plan is coming together, magical moments are forming, and Chicago is better off because of it.
From day one, Maddon believed that this Cubs team would contend for the postseason. Now, as we approach the final quarter of the season, he is getting a sense that something magical is brewing. At the moment, the Cubs have 11 walk-off wins. It is the most that the team has had since 1932 when they tallied 13 of them. That is just one element that has brought this Cubs team into contention much sooner than expected.
Even though Maddon brought in the real magician earlier this season, it is Maddon who is working the magic. With his style and approach, he has taken the major-market Cubs from rebuilding to re-emerging within the National League playoff picture. If the Cubs are able to claim a playoff spot in 2015, it will be due in large part to Joe Maddon‘s simple, yet magical touch.