CHICAGO — There is a new wind blowing in Wrigleyville, as front office leadership, coaching and management style has the Chicago Cubs functioning well, says Andy Clark director of Sports Management Programs at DePaul University.
"Joe Maddon is the perfect example of the right guy, in the right place, at the right time, with the right players," said Clark. "Maddon does not follow the pack. He is comfortable in his own skin, but at the same time is a very smart baseball guy and a good manager of people."
Clark also credits Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, for bringing the Cubs to the top of the league through "analytics and old fashioned scouting to get things done."
“Theo Epstein is being talked about as a young gun, but sage beyond his years who is much more than the ‘Moneyball’ guy. He beefed up the scouting department, to move from bottom barrel to top of the league,” said Clark.
“Epstein hired the best lieutenants that he had a relationship with so they could focus on what is working not who's right. He had a long-term vision for the potential of the ballclub and did not get sidetracked,” explained Clark.
Starts from the top
Tom Ricketts, owner of the Cubs, is the combination of deep pockets, business expertise and a clear vision that pulled all this together, said Clark.
“Ricketts hires the very best people and let's them to their job, he does not micromanage — no George Steinbrenner or Jerry Jones here. Their human resources vice president was at General Electric for 15 years, their director of marketing is a Harvard MBA graduate who was in brand management with General Mills for 12 years. These are not just baseball people, every facet of their business has high-end business leaders,” Clark said.
The Maddon effect
Clark said the coaching style of Maddon allows his players to be loose and comfortable on the field. The "my way or the highway" approach to coaching is becoming less popular in professional sports, he said.
“Former Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau is having a tough time these days with that approach, but other NBA coaches like Steve Kerr and Doc Rivers have had success doing it differently. Maddon is dictating his way, but in a manner that is welcomed by his players,” said Clark.
“The Cubs leadership this season is a good example of working smarter, not necessarily harder, which is very applicable the way companies and millennials are today,” he said. “Maddon is not beating guys up for more practice, he wants them fresh and happy, which is a great strategy in the corporate world as well.”
Clark pointed out that Maddon, because of his past success in Tampa Bay, can get away with a looser style of coaching. Other coaches or new coaches would receive more backlash, he said.
“If a guy with a lesser pedigree tried the pajamas on the plane, Sunday brunch at the park and all his other stuff, he would be laughed out of town by the media, fans and players. But it works for Maddon ... and winning helps too,” Clark said.