Does Joe Maddon’s enthusiasm have any limits?

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I like Joe Maddon. A lot. He’s perfectly suited for an exciting, excited Cubs team that refuses to act its age.

But will the manager’s ever-positive approach fly in this city if any of his teams start underachieving in a big way? I can’t recall hearing a discouraging word from him about anything or anybody this season.

You’d think basic human nature would win out after Dan Haren has given up another home run, but no. Nothing but happy thoughts from Maddon in his postgame news conferences. The Cubs are on pace for 90-plus victories, so there has been very little opportunity for public criticism. It would take a buzz-killing Bill Belichick to find a thorn in this rosebush.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s say the Cubs struggle terribly next season in the face of serious World Series hype. How will Maddon’s motivational tools go over with veterans and fans? The magician brought in to entertain the players in the clubhouse? The pajama party for a flight home to Chicago? The constant public affirmation about a slumping player who gets paid lots of money?

I believe the public reaction would be something like: That’s great, Joe, but what are you going to do about your crime of a bullpen?

I’d like to think that Maddon has more than one pitch and that if the Cubs weren’t playing well, he’d say so. It would be in his best interest. Chicago has never been big on coaches and managers who sugarcoat things. Hello, Lovie.

It will be interesting to see how Maddon evolves during his time here. He’ll never be a raging Cub, nor should he. He’s cerebral, innovative and thoughtful. But what happens when times get tough? To which strutting Cubs fans respond: “Tough times ahead? Like that’s going to happen!”

Never mind.


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