MESA, Ariz. – It took all of four winless games to start Lou Piniella’s first spring training as Cubs manager in 2007 for him to blow his first fuse and gather the team before the fifth game to rail against the crimes against baseball he was watching.
They proceeded to play even worse that day — but managed a one-run win that seemed to significantly brighten the manager’s mood. “A great game,” Piniella said.
Fast forward to Sunday in Mesa, where first-year manager Joe Maddon – a guy who said early in camp “I do like to win in spring training” – presided over the fifth game on the spring schedule without a first Cub win (Cubs losing 6-4 to the Texas Rangers).
As if it matters, right?
“Of course it does,” Maddon said. “You always want to win.”
But don’t look for any team meetings or fire and brimstone out of Maddon.
“Look,” he said, sounding for just a split second like Piniella, “I’m hoping and believing that there’s going to be many, many more to come.
“I don’t really Jones on something like that.”
Sunday’s game included some sloppy pitching and a truckload of strikeouts by a lineup filled almost exclusively by projected backups or minor leaguers.
But overall, Maddon likes what he’s seen from his charges.
“The energy’s been great,” he said. “Our work is exemplary. We keep doing those little things right, and all of a sudden the ball’s going to fall, the pitcher’s going to make his pitch, the defender’s going to make the play.”
The little things include the hard running (aggressive to a fault at times), impressive defensive work behind the plate by Miguel Montero, a “rocket” throw to third by right-fielder Jorge Soler for an out made possible by Kris Bryant’s “spectacular” tag – similar to another “great” tag to nab a would-be base stealer the day before, Maddon said.
“You always want to win, but I’m focused on the things that we’ve been preaching to this point,” he said. “If I just came out here and wanted to go big picture with these guys right now, and just talked about winning games only, and all I ever preached was the process, that’s incongruent. I can’t do that.”