GLENDALE, Arizona — So let me tell you how my afternoon went on Tuesday.
You’ve read (or you should, if you haven’t yet) my summary of Commissioner Rob Manfred’s news conference. That presser began at the Glendale Civic Center (which, in all honesty, isn’t near anything in the Phoenix area) at 2 p.m.
After that, MLB arranged for all the Cactus League managers and GMs to be at the Civic Center for interviews, in two groups, one at 3 p.m., the other at 4 p.m. Joe Maddon and Jed Hoyer were scheduled to be in the second group, so I used the hour and a half or so (Manfred finished shortly after 2:30) to write up the news conference.
4 p.m. came, though, and Maddon and Hoyer had not yet arrived. But there was a huge media crowd gathered around the table where Padres management was to be seated:
I’m pretty sure you know what those folks were waiting for. Also, a lot of reporters wanted to talk to Giants manager Bruce Bochy:
This scrum of reporters and photographers was surrounding Rick Hahn and Rick Renteria, the so-called “runners-up” in the Manny Machado race:
Renteria, incidentally, is looking quite suave with his new facial hair:
Incidentally, regarding “runner-up” in signing a free agent, I think it’s wise to remember this:
There’s no “we tried” in free agency. There’s no second place. You signed the player, or you didn’t. Everything else is air.— Joe Sheehan (@joe_sheehan) February 19, 2019
Anyway, around 4:15 Maddon and Hoyer arrived. I learned that it had taken them over an hour driving to Glendale from Mesa, a distance of about 23 miles. Though the Phoenix area generally doesn’t have too bad rush-hour traffic, certain areas do tend to bottle up early, and one of those areas is in and around downtown Phoenix, where these men had to pass through to get to Glendale.
I decided that quite a bit of the questions Joe gets asked are by rote: How’s the team, how’s the coaching staff, etc. So here are a few more off-the-beaten-path questions for the Cubs manager and his thoughtful responses.
On the designated hitter
Well, it would make my job a little more boring. The National League game is much more thought-provoking. If you want more offense, don’t worry about getting one more guy in the lineup, worry about teaching a different method of hitting. Everything is skewed right now toward pitching and defense, all the new technology, everything we’re doing helps pitchers get better, helps defenses get better, but does not help hitters get better.
If you’re really into our game, to take away that one spot that creates maneuvering, to me makes the game a lot less interesting.
I will buy into “pace” more than “length” of games. If it’s a good baseball game no one notices that, but they do notice when things get bogged down, there’s the difference. They’ve delineated those thoughts pretty well over the last couple of years, and last year not being in the playoffs I was able to watch, and I agree, speed this thing up a little bit. Anything that can cause the action to happen more rapidly, I’m with that, otherwise I would not do a whole lot to it. I would not — not — force the DH on the National League. Now on a “hybrid” model, where an American League team plays a National League team just have the DH regardless of venue, I could understand that. But otherwise, the game’s good the way it is.
On what he learned by reading “Managing Millennials for Dummies”
Every generation has something a little bit different about them but at the end of the day, we’re all pretty much the same. The biggest thing the book tries to impress is the technological component. They were born in a time when technology is very important to them, that attention spans and getting information out there should be more in short jabs as opposed to elongated methods. There’s sometimes an attempt to call them “lazy” and based on the guys that I know I don’t believe in that label, that these people are looking for handouts all the time. Not true. I’m sure you could go back to the baby boomers and feel the same way, or the traditionalists before them and feel the same.
I think the biggest thing I got from it was: When are you born, and when you are young what are the seminal moments? What are the things that impacted you at an early age? And for this group, technology affected them at an early age. So they like their phones, they like their devices, they like to play games on these items, get information quickly, not elongated or drawn out. Primarily, I’m working from that script right there. I’m doing my work with them now, when I have meetings I want to make them short and to the point as opposed to doing “novellas” and that’s probably my biggest takeaway from all of this.
And they do like an explanation. But here’s the thing about that. I’ve been working for a while doing this and I’ve always felt it was important to give an explanation. That part of it is not new, when it comes to communication. They work well in groups, too, and by 2025 they’ll represent 70 percent of the work force. It’s a pretty powerful group. So for those who do not like the way this group operates, understand one thing: This is the way it is. My dad didn’t like my hair, either, and there are certain things my grandpop didn’t like about my dad. It happens every generation. The generation before is always going to find some fault in the generation that follows. So understand that, make your adjustments and pay attention.
About his charitable work in his hometown in Pennsylvania
It’s going really well. The Hazleton Integration Project has won two national awards, one last spring training and last winter we won an award in Washington D.C. at an event I attended. We’re affiliated with different colleges now, Penn State University, Temple University has been part of our outreach program and the center itself is becoming a national model, people come to us for advice and ask us how to do this because of the unique methods we’ve employed. It’s about giving opportunity to people who come into our building and trying to give them what they need. We try to establish programs based on need.
Now we’re getting associated with the Hazleton Area Recreation Program. We’re trying to help the boxing program back there and development at this athletic training center. So we’re making small inroads. We had a boxing card last winter that went over really well, Larry Holmes attended. It’s a lot of cool little things that we’re doing, and a lot more people are coming on board.
The Hazleton Integration Project online (link above) will give you a full rundown of what we’re doing.
Whether you agree with Joe on the DH or not, I’m sure you’ll agree that his comments were thorough and thoughtful. Joe Maddon is one of the smartest men who’s ever managed in Major League Baseball, in my opinion, and we are lucky to have him in Chicago. He’s the best Cubs manager in at least 85 years and, of course, is the one who helped break the drought and bring a World Series championship to all of us.
The Cubs should keep him around as long as he wants to manage.