For Cubs manager Joe Maddon, baseball’s offseason has gone on long enough.
Spring training opens in less than a month, and as far as Maddon is concerned, bring it on.
“First of all, the extra month is so unexpected,” Maddon said of the offseason during his “Thanksmas” dinner Thursday evening at St. Leonard’s Ministries on the near West Side of Chicago. “We’re not used to this. We don’t want to get used to this. I think from top to bottom, everybody’s had enough of the offseason. We’re eager to get back to spring training, and we will soon.
“It can’t be an oil painting every year, but we’ve got to get back deeper into the season this season.”
Maddon touched on a few hot-button topics Thursday. One was that the Cubs won 95 games during the regular season before getting bounced out of the playoffs by the Colorado Rockies in the wild-card game. That had fans and media calling for changes and big-time, big-ticket player additions during the long, cold winter.
So far that hasn’t happened, but it doesn’t seem to faze Maddon.
Other teams in the National League Central beefed up. The Cubs have passed – so far anyway – on prime free agents such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, opting instead to pick up the option on pitcher Cole Hamels and to sign utility player Daniel Descalso.
“Every team seems to be doing a lot of good work this year, including ourselves,” Maddon said. “Everybody is bemoaning the fact that we have not gone out there and signed anybody, but I like our names. That’s a big part of why we’re going through the offseason in this manner. We’ve just got to extrapolate more out of the boys that are there, which we shall.
“I like our group. We just had some really good meetings over at Wrigley (Field), going over each guy individually, trying to figure out the best way to get all of that out of them. So I’m kind of excited.”
The big elephant in the room is Maddon’s own contract status. He is entering the fifth and final season of his five-year contract, making him essentially a lame-duck manager.
“We’re all lame duck, aren’t we?” he asked. “I’ve been on one-year contracts for many years, but actually, I’m on the last year of a five-year contract, so I’m pretty fortunate. I don’t worry about it. I don’t even think about it unless you ask me about it. As you know, I’m pretty self-confident, and I feel good about what we’ve done and where we’re going in the future.”
The Cubs’ annual fan convention begins Friday, and Maddon will face the fans Saturday during a session with his coaching staff.
He knows the questions from fans may be barbed, but he pointed to the Cubs making the postseason the past four seasons and still having a relatively young team.
“I really don’t understand why anybody would be jaded about this group,” he said. “If you’re a Cub fan having gone through what you’ve gone through for so many years, I think you’d kind of like this group right now. I’m talking from ownership right down to the players. It’s a well-run organization, a lot of good young players, a lot of good people and a very successful group on the field.
“I can’t imagine what else you could possibly want. We want the championship as much as anybody else does, but you’ve got to be somewhat pleased with what’s happened over the last four years, I would think.”