10/23/08 8:18 PM ET
Joe Maddon pregame interview
Manager talks about changing the culture to motivate players
By / MLB.com
Congratulations on winning the Sporting News American League Manager of the Year. Is that more gratifying being voted by your peers?
JOE MADDON: Always. Anytime you win an award or part of a group where you are voted in by a group of your peers, it's most rewarding, gratifying. It means the most. Not to denigrate any other situation, but I think everybody here would agree with that point.
I didn't realize, quite frankly, that it came from the managers until I had read that, also. So I'm very appreciative of that.
And furthermore, it's nice to get the award. But believe me, it doesn't happen, we all know that, the group of players that we have, the front office we have, my coaching staff, fabulous.
So for me, believe me, I really and truly appreciate the award, but I also know that it's just a part of the entire situation with the entire group.
You had talked about changing the culture, and you talked about how you have good leadership now, maybe a couple of years ago you had the opposite of that. You haven't mentioned anybody, in case you want to. What would be an example of the things that happened here that you wanted to eliminate when you got here?
JOE MADDON: Without mentioning any of the negatives names, I'll mention the positive names. First of all, for me to change the culture, again, you have to -- it goes so much further than -- well, we played a good game last night, a nice defensive game, we caught the ball and threw to the right bases primarily, and good at bats, et cetera. But it comes down, when you've been so bad for so long, that you just try to become better physically I think is absolutely insane. We needed to change the way we think, period. And for me that is the accountability. That is about trust. Nothing, nothing, no group or organization works without trust. So I thought we totally were a low trust organization. There was no accountability whatsoever. There was no consistency from what I can gather. So for me, if I wanted to create a mission statement, which I've kind of countered with a bit, it's about accountability, consistency, trust and those are the factors that permit you in a relationship, permits you to take something to turn it into something good.
I kept talking about fundamentals, which I totally believe in, you know that. You've known me for a while. I really knew that to get it to change, you had to change people and the way people thought. So that was our biggest challenge, I thought.
You just fast forward to this year, going to Spring Training, first day Percy (Percival) is walking in the clubhouse, we have new uniforms, which I really thought was important. Percy is walking into the clubhouse with a cup of coffee, and he's got a towel over his arm and he's walking in with the coaching staff like he knew everybody for the last 15 years, and he's calling everybody out on everything from the first. We have not had that. There are guys looking at like, where do you come from? We've never seen that here before. Percy started that.
Then you look at Cliff Floyd. Cliff Floyd came walking in. Didn't know Cliff, just knew of him. George Hendrick has a meeting with the outfielders, and asked me to come along. I said sure. He's sitting there and he asks Cliff to speak in an extemporaneous manner, and he did not know he was going to get called upon. He gets up and he just nails for like 10 or 15 minutes what we needed to be thinking about among our group this year.
So all of a sudden you have these two guys with great pedigrees that walk into your clubhouse and validate most everything you're attempting to do.
So it was a matter of identifying what needed to be changed, and going about attempting to change it, from our perspective, manager, coaching staff, front office, but then you need the guys within the room. I'm a big believer in letting that room function as it wants to, in a positive direction. You've got to keep grounded as you're spinning the right way. But you need the right kind of people to make it happen.
I truly try to stay out of their way as much as I possibly can. I don't want to impact the clubhouse when it's running this well. I attempted to impact it when it was running poorly, but when it's running well it's because of the people in that group and the impact they have.
And that's where we're at. It's no big secret. It's not brain surgery, brain science, rocket science. It's just about some good, old fashioned I think work ethic and values, and being cognizant of it and then getting the right people to make it turn.
You have used some extreme shifts against left-handed hitters in the postseason, and I know you did that pretty much all year. Can you talk about the pros and cons, like with Ortiz, you basically had four infielders on the right side of second base?
JOE MADDON: Right. Are you asking about Utley last night?
Yes, and in general.
JOE MADDON: Don't you wish his bunt would have gotten down in that first inning?
You're just going off information. It's based on information, all the stuff they were able to acquire during the course of the year. We're very extensive. If you look at a spreadsheet, say, a spread chart and you notice that balls are not hit in a certain area, why do you cover it? And you see ones that are inundated with red lines, why don't you cover it more? And if that's the case, why not hit it in a different manner?
So you utilize all this stuff to attempt to put your guys in the best position, to make a play based on the high percentage chance of where he's gonna hit the ball, and furthermore, make him look at it. And again, I'm serious, he put that bunt down last night, I was hoping it would stay fair.
What makes Big Game James Big Game James?
JOE MADDON: A lot of self confidence. He really reeks of self confidence. He's wonderful in that regard. I think he's consistent, fastball command and that consistency that every time he goes out there he knows pretty much where his fastball is going to be, and that's always a wonderful thought for any pitcher. And then he's got these other pitches that are very effective, both against righties and lefties. He matches up well against both sides of the plate.
It's a combination of confidence, fastball command and some great other weapons. Belive me, this guy among all the starting pitchers that I've been affiliated with on a Major League level, intensity wise, is in the top five to ten, maybe, just based on his belief in himself, and you combine it with some really good talent, particularly regarding fastball command.
When you were talking about how you changed the mindset of the team, you sounded like you could be talking about any business not just sports.
JOE MADDON: Absolutely.
Have you studied any business philosophers? And were there any players who had to sort of take a one on one and say, hey, you need to get what's happened here out of your mind?
JOE MADDON: In regard to studying, I've read a lot of different things, books, guides. The first book that made an impact on me was in the 80s. I think it was the "Seven Habits of Highly Successful People" by Stephen Covey. I read that and that really piqued my interest in regard to reading more, whether it's Napoleon Hill, whether it's Dale Carnegie, going way back. Basically if you read everybody else's stuff, they're plagiarizing him in some form.
I've read a lot of things by Wayne Dyer, which is more philosophical than just like Stephen Covey's "Blueprint for Business Success." But I try to really, even the novels that I've read, I don't care if it's something by Leon Uris or Pat Conroy, you're always looking for something within history whereas a group was changed in a positive way, and you just try to understand how it happened. And then when you get the opportunity to do it yourself, how do you influence in that direction.
So for me, believe me, I'm a much greater reader post school days. I was not that good a reader. I guess we can all say on the same thing. I started on buses in the Minor Leagues.
I draw from a lot of different experiences, I think. I talked to a lot of different people and I'm really open. If you have a good thought, I'm really open to it. I believe this, I believe the moment you think you're done growing or you look at a 25-year-old and think he has nothing to offer, that's the point that you might as well give it up.
I think remaining contemporaries is important. I could go back to my days with Jimmy Reese with the Angels. Jimmy is in his 90s, one of the knows contemporary people I've ever met, one of the most contemporary senses of humor that I've ever been around. Here's a guy in his 90s, that related to whenever he hit fungoes to Langley (Langston) or Finley in the outfield or Jimmy Abbott, this guy demonstrates to me how important it was how to remain contemporaneous in your thinking.
I know this is a bit off the beaten path, and rightfully so. You have an interesting travel wardrobe with the guys, tomorrow you like jackets and khakis?
JOE MADDON: Appropriately dressed.
What do you have planned for them and have you seen anything really bizarre this year on the road?
JOE MADDON: We start off with everybody else with your basic dress code. Everybody is concerned that you dress inappropriately you're not going to win. If dressing a certain way would guarantee a win, we'd do it all the time. But we had more of a normal dress code as we began. As the season was in process, I thought we needed to keep if lighter in regard to what we were doing. So we had the Ed Hardy road trip, where you had to wear an Ed Hardy T-shirt in some regard, jeans and a sport coat, et cetera. Then went from Ed Hardy, and then eventually went to a hat, and express yourself. I've just had an "express yourself" road trip. Guys just come out, they're neat, they're clean and they look good. Actually the clothes they're wearing cost a lot more than some of these polyester shirts and pants.
Now, this particular road trip -- I was motivated by going to Boston. I had dinner the other night by Harvard, upstairs on the square. I'm sitting in there and I wanted to watch the playoff game and they had the debate on. I thought that was kind of cool. I'm thinking the next road trip we're going khakis, with the blue blazer and "express yourself" afterwards.
Going to Philadelphia, preppy kind of a situation. I just thought I'd give the guys a taste of that.
When you started you talked about how you had a vision in your mind of how this team was going to look, when it was championship caliber. How does the reality match what you had in your head in '06? Is it the same thing you saw? What's surprised you about being in this position?
JOE MADDON: You always want to have theory and reality meet at some point, and particularly in this situation.It looks, tastes, feels, absolutely correct. We're doing it I think the right way. And what I mean by that is we built it on pitching and defense, primarily. I think offensively we're actually capable of more than what we did this year, and I think that's on the horizon. We're very athletic.
Furthermore, we have some guys coming up that fit in nicely. I think as an overall schematic, I love what we've done and how we've done it.
A lot of times I think it's misconstrued. I'm a basic fundamentalist when it comes to the game. I want to play the game like they did 50, 60, 70 years ago. I want all that kind of execution. I think we're getting to that point. Our Spring Training is chock full of fun. What we're doing now is very noncomplicated, really. I want our players to understand that if you play the game properly and you execute the game properly, then you beat the game through execution. It doesn't matter whether it's the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, you beat the game through execution, and you do that through believing, that's how you win. I think we're arriving at that point. I heard different comments among the players that indicate we're on the right track.
I'm already thinking about next Spring Training. This is just the beginning. We have our own facility, Major and Minor Leagues together next year. I can go over there and talk to the Minor Leagues whenever I want, and I can send a coach over to talk to the minors whenever we want. Everybody is together to really get this Ray way of getting things done.
Again, this is just the beginning and I'm really excited about all of that, bus I believe we're going to get better and better.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.