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October 17, 2015

Joe Maddon

Flushing, New York - Pregame one

Q. Joe, for the guys who have not been in this position before, how do you convey to them to enjoy the moment without letting it overwhelm them?
JOE MADDON: I've been talking about it all season, actually. That was one of the first things I talked about in Spring Training because you just think about it. You've got a bunch of young guys that a regular season game can be intimidating to. So from the beginning of the year we've been trying to impress upon them to not treat any day differently, to apply the same amount of weight to every game, whether it's a Spring Training game in March or a game in the middle of the season, or hopefully a playoff game at the end of the year.

If you're out there talking to our guys yesterday, I would be disappointed to know that they're acting any differently. I saw the same group of guys, and from our perspective -- I don't know, since the post-All-Star Break we've been playing a pretty good game of baseball. I don't want us to change anything. I'd really be surprised if we did.

Preparation-wise, I like limited preparation right now, believe it or not. I want guys to go out and play baseball. If we have to maybe grab a few more nuggets on some guys who are not necessarily familiar with, but I'd much rather that we go out there and play our game as opposed to being worried about what the other team may do. I think that's a little bit overrated sometimes in our game.

Q. Are you sick, and what have you got? Is it something that's going through?
JOE MADDON: I've been sick for a long time actually (laughter). It's just a head cold. I get one every year at this time. I think I'm one of the -- I think Johnny Mallee might be a little bit, our hitting coach, and we don't even hang out together. That is the really surprising part about it.

But I have a cold, head cold. That's what I've got. I can't talk really well. The other day, that last game when we clinched at home I was talking really loud, so I think that's where I strained my voice, but otherwise I'm fine. Everyone's fine.

Q. I've asked you this before. I asked Terry, if he thought he was managing against you or the team, and he said, "Well, Joe wasn't a very good hitter, so I don't have to worry about him."
JOE MADDON: He remembers, okay? (Smiling).

Q. Did you get an advantage having been a bench coach for him and knowing his tendencies and the way he goes about things?
JOE MADDON: Sometimes I think that's overrated, most of the time or all the time. It's about the players on the field. I mean, you've got to be prepared for different things that the other side may attempt to do, but at the end of the day it's about execution.

Working as TC's bench coach, that was several years ago with a different group of players. I think a lot of it has to do with the group of players and what they're capable of doing offensively, or speed-wise, or just moving the baseball and bunting. The kind of matchups you may be willing to try in the bullpen or not, when will you pinch-hit, who will you pinch-hit for? That is going to change with the group that you're with almost on an annual basis.

The one thing I do know about Terry, like I said before, is he's really sharp. He's real sharp. He doesn't forget anything. He knows how to run a game. I stood next to him the whole time. So that hasn't changed. That's not going to change.

It really comes down to kind of that personnel package that you have at that particular moment, and then in that particular evening how they execute. So, believe me, I'm really trying to stay out of the way of our guys. Our guys are in a good place right now. If you've watched this play, you're not going to see any really big surprises over the next seven days or if it takes that long. We're going to just play the typical kind of game that we play, and I really try to emphasize that. Just go play. Don't do anything differently. If we execute better, we'll win the game.

Q. First, I'm curious what you're drinking and if it's working?
JOE MADDON: In this cup right now?

Q. Yeah.
JOE MADDON: It's not. It's just green tea, man. Just green tea, trying to get a voice back.

Q. In terms of volume, Jake is throwing innings and pitches that he's not thrown before in his career. Curious if there's anything you as a team have done to sort of counteract what he may or may not be feeling? Have you noticed anything? Maybe not throwing as much between starts or anything at all you've done to get him here healthy and strong?
JOE MADDON: Honestly, his in-between starts stuff you'd have to talk to Boz (Bosio) about that. It's pretty limited right now, but I think he could be more specific.

The thing about Jake that I take a lot of stock in is the fact if you've ever seen the guy work out, I mean, this guy really his workout regimen is different. He's as in-shape as anybody that's ever played this game. Now, of course, guys get hurt even though they're in good shape, I understand that.

The fact also that I think he's 30 years of age is different than if he was 23, 24 making this kind of a jump in number of innings pitched and number of pitches thrown. I'd probably be more concerned if he was 23 or 24, to be honest. I'm just telling you what I think right now.

The other part is if you look at his pitches per inning, they're pretty good. He's one of the lower, I think right around 15 or 15-point-something pitches per innings pitched. And that's pretty darned good. So maybe he's thrown a lot of innings, but a lot of non-stressful innings, which I do think matters. If you watch a game and a guy really has to work -- I hate when the pitcher has to work early in the inning to get his outs. That really bums me out. Normally he's not going to be pitching deep into that game.

But for the most part he hasn't really struggled to get outs early in the game, and that has led him to pitching more deep in the game, and you're seeing all these extra innings piling up. So it's a combination of this guy's really in great shape. He takes care of himself. Repeats his delivery. He's pitch efficient. Those are the kind of things that I want to believe are going to permit him to be this guy this year and in the future without any kind of negative impact.

Q. Continuing with Jake, you managed against him when he was in Baltimore. He obviously wasn't the pitcher he is now. What is the biggest change in him? And did you see back then that he had this kind of a guy in him?
JOE MADDON: Biggest, biggest difference is fastball command, period. He knows where his fastball's going. Now back then when the Orioles, great stuff. Always had great stuff. A really good hook, slider, velocity, movement, he really has always been that guy. The biggest difference now is he knows where his fastball's going. Now because he knows where his fastball is going, they have to honor the slider, cutter, and his curveball and the other pitches. If a Major League hitter doesn't have to honor the command of a pitcher's fastball, that really narrows him down.

So I think that's the biggest difference for me. I remember the big numbers, 95, 96, 97. I remember watching saying, my God, that's a great curveball. I think the cutter/slider, you have to ask him. I think that's a pitch that's become more pertinent more recently, because I saw him as a really good fastball, curveball pitcher in Baltimore and then this other thing that he threw. But more than anything, he knows where his fastball's going right now.

Q. On the Mets' pitchers, Harvey, Syndergaard, the age, those guys, the pitch-limit talk that's been there all year, does it complicate things for you when you try to manage along in games like this to know what to expect from how the other team's going to use their guys?
JOE MADDON: No, honestly, no. It's about the bullpen, how they would use their bullpen more than their starters. Like if they were going to call it a bullpen day and Syndergaard's only going to throw three innings, that might present a different attitude or thought. But if he's going to start the game, he's fully well expected to be out there five-plus, if he's able to do that. It's more about, for me, it's more about utilization of the bullpen and what they're willing to do in their bullpen as opposed to what the starter may do.

He's got young, talented guys, man. I know how good they are. We did see them earlier this season, and they're going to be good for many years to come, and I understand why they would want to protect them, too. I get all of that. But primarily for me going into a game, my biggest concern is how to work our bullpen and how they may work their bullpen. Those are my two bigger concerns. Then pinch-hitting, who you're willing to pinch-hit for, that kind of thing. When you don't play somebody often enough, you don't really get a good read or feel for that. And the fact that they're different. They're not the same team that we played earlier. They have a different kind of skill set. So that presents differently to me right now.

So all the questions I'm asking before a series like this are those kind of questions.

Q. You obviously competed against Jon Lester for a long time. What have you learned about him that you didn't know before you had him on your team?
JOE MADDON: We saw him so often. I could tell you what I did learn -- I don't think I've learned anything necessarily new or different. The way he pitches and how he pitches is very familiar to me. The thing that I've learned from the side is when you're really seeing good carry on his fastball. In other words, when a hitter thinks the ball's going to be low and it's not, that means the fastball is really alive and jumping, and when that happens, going back to the point about Arrieta, then everything plays off of that. Are you going to see the cutter become -- because the cutter plays off that same play, so if you've seen the good carry on the fastball called strike when they thought it was a ball, and this cutter, and then the utilization of the slow curveball.

That pitch is a really good pitch. He doesn't get credit enough for that pitch. Him and Rossie really work well in regards to when they utilize it.

So the thing I've learned about him in the past is when I'm seeing good low carry on his fastball called strike, he's probably going to have a good night.

Q. So Jake talked a little bit about some of the things you do to relax the team. I just wondered from an emotional side of things, how much does sending a guy out there with a 0.75 ERA since the Break do a lot of that relaxing for you? And if you noticed your guys with an extra layer of confidence?
JOE MADDON: Well, that would relax manager in a heartbeat, wouldn't it? I mean, with all of that, I, again, for those that have been with us all year, we're not doing anything differently. From the first day of the season to what we're doing right now, it's all the same. It's the stuff I believe in.

It's a difficult game to play. Baseball is a very difficult game, and good baseball players make it look relatively easy, so when it goes awry, you think there's something wrong with these people, but there's not. It's a hard game. I understand that. So I want them to know, go ahead and make as many physical mistakes as you have to. I have no problem with you making physical mistakes. My problem are with mental mistakes whereas you're not doing your homework. You're making bad decisions because you're not focused. You're worrying about something previously that just happened. That's the part of the game to me that I'm really in tune to regarding my conversations with the players is when you're making mental mistakes. That's why you lose when you make mental mistakes.

So I totally accept physical mistakes. Absolutely. It's a difficult game. The mental component, we're really big on that. I mean, Ken Ravizza is our sports psychologist, I'm a big believer in that. I know a lot of groups aren't. I've been a big proponent of that since the middle '80s, when I first met him and Doc Larish (phonetic) at Arizona State. It's a skill. It's not unlike a pitching coach or hitting coach what they do, and they're totally accepted.

So this guy that could really help you with different skills, processing a moment, why would you not want to utilize that coach? So for me that's what really separates and permits you -- I've talked about the process as fearless. If you could really stay in the moment and really process a moment, you should be able to play without fear.

Q. Does Jake's success make that easier for everyone else?
JOE MADDON: I just think, no. I just think Jake adds to it. Jake's doing his thing, and Jake pretty much demonstrates what I just talked about. And I think that our players gain a lot of confidence when he pitches. I think that's a normal part of that. But I think for the most part it's just a matter of us being ourselves, trusting ourselves, sticking to our own methods. A big part of that is don't worry about outcomes so much. If we're taking care of this other stuff, the outcome will result in our favor more often.

Q. I know you got asked about 1969 yesterday, but if I could ask you about 1984.
JOE MADDON: That was a really good year, 1969, by the way. I think it was my sophomore year in high school.

Q. I know you grew up a Cardinals fan, but for a long time Mets fans and Cubs fans, it's kind of neat how the teams rose to prominence together in the '80s after years of struggling and now together at the same time. Do you have any recollection of the '84 pennant race they had with Dwight Gooden and Ryan Sandberg?
JOE MADDON: I swear I don't. When you get to 1984, it's when you're a kid, that's when you really process or hold onto this stuff. I could tell you all about the '64 World Series with the Yankees, and I could tell you about '67 with the Red Sox, and '68 with the Tigers, but beyond that, that's when I'm actually working in professional baseball. In 1984 I managed Peoria, Illinois; I can tell you about that. But what happened in the Big Leagues that year was really a blank to me. I have no recollection. My heros weren't the 1984 players. My heros were the 1960 guys, and those are the guys that I can talk about those games and those moments pretty well.

But when you grow up a little bit, I'm still in the process, but when you get to '84 or whatever, I'm so attached to the Peoria Chiefs at that moment, what was happening in the Big Leagues was not as important to me.

Q. Can you tell us what Manny Ramirez does for you guys and what it is you feel he brings to the role?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, I got to know Manny with the Rays a couple years ago, and during that Spring Training we had a lot of conversations and a lot of conversations about hitting. We found out that we're definitely on the same page. It was really cool to watch batting practice. We'd talk about not just the physical components, I'm talking about the mental. Because he's really in tuned to the mental side of hitting, and I love that. So that was easy. So then when he came on board, Theo (Epstein) talked and said, I really like what he does with the hitters.

And beyond that, almost as a cultural coach, the fact that we have so many young Hispanic players to have Manny here to validate a lot of the stuff that we're talking about really helps, not a little, but a lot. His influence within that group has been substantial.

When I have a situation or a moment dealing with some of the younger guys there, he'll come in, we'll talk about it, and then I just turn him loose. Again, finding out they're on the same page when it comes to teaching the mental part of the game, and just sometimes the physical part with the instructional component. So he's been really important to us.

I love having him here. He's a positive, upbeat kind of a guy, and so he's been a really nice fit. I'm telling you, when it comes to Starlin, and Jorge Soler, primarily those two guys, the job he's done has been spectacular.

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