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December 9, 2019

Joe Maddon

San Diego, California

Q. Joe, what do you think about the new -- what do you think about the new rule with the relief pitchers having to throw three hitters?
JOE MADDON: Has that been passed?

Q. I believe it, yes.
JOE MADDON: It has been passed?

Q. Yeah.
JOE MADDON: I don't like it. I haven't liked it from the beginning. I don't quite get it. My take on the whole thing is to -- I'm all for messing with the pace of the game. I think that's important. Having not been in the playoffs and you get to watch a playoff game, which I hate to do but I did, you notice the pace of the game, absolutely. I think the pace of the game can be messed with, I'm good. Length of the game has nothing to do with baseball or why it's interesting or not, so I wouldn't worry about that.

The thing I would never interfere with is strategy, and to me that interferes with strategy, and that's the part I don't like. Pace and length of the game, I think, are interconnected, but strategy is sacred, I think.

You can talk about the intentional walk, just doing that right now. I didn't like that at first, I still don't, but that's okay. Fake throw to first base, I still think that should be part of what we do because that can discourage running from first base. Anything that deals with strategy, I'm not into it. Anything that deals with pace, I'm into it.

Q. When you hear, Joe, that guys you just managed the last five years who aren't even in their prime like Bryant and Contreras, might be on the trade market, is that surprising? Is there something contrary about 26-, 27-year-olds being traded from a championship-caliber team?
JOE MADDON: I don't know. It's just probably the landscape of the game today. There was a time when it was pretty important for players to begin and end with organizations. Whether it was the Cubs, I mean, when it was Santo or Ernie or Billy or the whole group. It's just the way the landscape rolls these days.

It's just a part of the structure, how it's built from the top down. It's part of front offices, and it definitely has something to do with math and how these things are exchanged, how the players are dealt back and forth and these windows of opportunity that, compared to in the past, you never thought about this opportunity, this window of winning, and now it's really a consideration.

You're talking about, my gosh, from the Cubs, those guys are really good baseball players, and it's kind of strange to hear they would consider being dealt at such an early point in their development because they're not done developing as Major League players either, those guys you're talking about are going to keep getting better.

So, again, my job is to take the players and make them better on the field and win games, and that's how I've always approached it. I've talked about that's my minor league training coming into play because, when you're a minor league manager, you never have a say so in who you have. A little bit in that meeting, you might get one guy, but you take what you get and try to make them into something special.

These guys that Bruce is talking about are really good baseball players, so it's kind of weird to see that that's so easily comes and goes anymore.

Q. Joe, just a quick follow-up to that, even in today's landscape with multiple years still out on contract for these guys, two and three respective on these guys, does that make it even more surprising, even in today's landscape, to think they could be on the block?
JOE MADDON: I've really never delved into why the GMs or the presidents in today's game really consider that so important to move people around. I mean that. Just like the answer I just gave, my job is to make sure the fundamentals are right, the lineups are good, we execute the game properly.

I don't quite understand -- I understand the economic -- I do understand that part where, when it gets down to the very end, you want to get somebody before he just signs and goes. Why can't you just sign him too? I understand that. Derek Jeter stuck around a long time, a lot of those Yankees did, and they were all pretty good.

That's not a question for me. When you talk about Contreras or KB or the boys I've had in the past, they're really good players. They're still going to get better. That's what makes it more difficult.

Q. Do you want either one of those guys?
JOE MADDON: No comment. I love both of those guys.

Q. Joe, you talked about upgrading the pitching when you were hired. How confident do you feel at this point?
JOE MADDON: There's names you've been following. There's guys who have been falling on the wayside. I'm with Billy a lot. I've been with Billy a lot this off-season. My frequent flier miles are up. I've been from Pennsylvania and Florida to Orange County and back. We've talked often. He's got a great strategy. He knows exactly what he wants to do, but then again, as I've said in the past, it takes two to dance, to tango. Or in the free agent market, you're up against different -- you could even be up against geography sometimes. You just don't know how this is all going to play out.

So we have a plan. He's working the plan right now. Yes, we do need more pitching. There's no question. He'll be the first one to tell you that. For us to compete on the level that we want to this year, we have to get more innings out of our starting rotation, and you definitely have to augment the bullpen a bit, although there's some really good arms out there.

I'm a big believer in the pitching and defense side of this game. So that's -- we have a nice group of players, there's no doubt, and there are some really nice pitchers, but we need more. We just need more of them. Houston is pretty good. Texas is going to keep getting better. Big fan of Oakland for many years, and Seattle is going to rebound. So up and down this coast here, it's going to be very difficult. If we don't pitch, we can't win. You can't win with any consistency. It's just that simple.

Q. How involved have you been in some of these meetings, some of the recruiting process, and especially how does that compare to when you first got to Chicago?
JOE MADDON: I've been heavily involved. It's been kind of fun. Like I said, Billy and Arte and John, they've included me in everything from the very first moment. A lot of phone calls, some conference calls and plane rides, some recruiting trips. You walk in with a pint of ice cream and hopefully that's going to turn the tables, but it hasn't to this point.

I like it a lot. I know you understand. I started here. I often say I went to Hazleton High School, went to Lafayette College, and then I went to the California Angels, and now I'm back. It's really a privilege to be in this -- to have this opportunity right now under these circumstances and where it's happening.

I cannot be more excited. My wife is from Fullerton. Jay's from Fullerton. She has family out there. I still have family out there from the time before when I began there in 1994, and I really have a strong appreciation for Arte. Arte and I, when I was still there before I left, he really took care of me well.

So there's a lot going on there, and winning the World Series in 2002 -- I don't know if you saw the press conference, the alumni that came out, my God, I was like -- I was a little bit buckled by that whole thing. That was not expected. And a big part of like the Spring Training, I want to get all these guys out there and involved. I want them to feel part of it. Like I said, half kiddingly but not, there is war in the alumni. I want the boys out there interacting with the players of today, and I don't think that that is utilized often enough. It was with the Cubs. The Cubs, we did a nice job of bringing the past players out and getting them involved, and I want to be able to do the same thing with this group.

There's so many layers to winning. There's so many layers. It's not as obvious as it seems sometimes. There's layers, and one of the layers is getting a more active alumni with this.

Q. Joe, how much of Jo Adell have you gotten to see, whether at Premier 12 and his performance there or anything like that?
JOE MADDON: I have not. I've seen a couple of videos. I have not spoken to him yet. I've heard many wonderful things. I'm really eager to work with the fellow. I really am. And there's others. I love the group I was just with, with the Cubs, a lot of those young players that made their mark, it's really fun to work with the young, really talented fellow like that and then incorporate that with some really nice veteran players that we already have. It's a nice mix.

So I'm looking forward to it. I'll see him. I'll talk to him. I'll watch him. I'll try not to be too smart in the beginning and just let him do his thing and observe, and that's what I'm looking forward to. But I've heard nothing -- not only as a player, but as a person, he's outstanding.

Q. Billy at the beginning of this process was not focused on adding a catcher. Things have changed during the last week or so. Were you part of that conversation to focus on that?
JOE MADDON: Yes. Like I said, I've appreciated how he's included me in all of the conversations, Billy has. The catching part, again, it's a tough position to nail down. There's so many different theorys in today's evaluation of a catcher with the analytical component and the framing component and the value that is attached to that these days, there's so many different ways to look the a catcher right now.

So, yes, we are, and hopefully that's going to come to fruition. It definitely makes a huge difference. You don't really have good pitching staffs without good catchers. It's almost incongruent. So we're looking at that right now, and hopefully we can get that nailed down too.

Q. How do you view the catcher as a manager?
JOE MADDON: The catcher, I was one. I don't know if the catcher is the quarterback or the middle linebacker. I'm not sure. What is he? Because he's playing defense, right?

Q. But calling the shots.
JOE MADDON: Yeah, he's calling plays. The catcher to me has to be totally involved, and really the best catchers are the ones that can go 0 for 4 and catch a shutout and are absolutely thrilled. They're more concerned about their guy than they are about their hitting and stuff. So it starts with that. The pitchers know that. Pitchers know that.

There is conviction with a pitch. There is conviction with a pitch based on how you feel throwing to that guy, the number he puts it down, how strongly he puts it down, and how you feel before you throw that ball. That matters. That absolutely matters. I'll argue that with anybody.

So I view the catcher in this way. I think he's the middle linebacker. He's the play caller. He's got to have a great mind. He's got to have great recall. He's got to be open minded. He has to have creativity. He's got to know when to go off script. There's times to go off script and times to stay with it. There's a lot of feel involved. It's a great bedside-mannered position that it's a pretty -- there's a lot going on.

Q. Joe, you've known Arte for a really long time, obviously, and you talk about getting more pitching. Obviously, a lot of that hinges on him, the lengths he's willing to go to. What do you feel kind of about his mindset right now as far as the commitment to getting that pitching?
JOE MADDON: It's been awesome. From the time I flew out there the first time, he made it really obvious to me, and then I was out there two or three other times, and like I said, every time he's committed. There's no question he's committed, but you've got to get everybody on the same page to do it.

Right now it seems like the dominoes are falling more quickly than they have in the past. I don't know if that's a surprise or not, but we somehow have to grab some of these dominoes right now and figure it out. But he's definitely -- he's not just saying that. He's definitely all in.

Q. Joe, from that standpoint, last time the Winter Meetings were here, you're a new manager?
JOE MADDON: Right in that lobby, yeah.

Q. You're a new manager. Go out to dinner, come back about 10:00 one night, pretty much bring Jon Lester with you --
JOE MADDON: Several glasses of good red wine later also with Ruben Amaro and David Holland, yeah.

Q. What are the odds you go out to dinner at Winter Meetings and bring home Gerrit Cole?
JOE MADDON: I remember that because I came in and I hear about it. First of all, you've had a couple glasses of wine. So I was concerned about myself a little bit. I wasn't anticipating all of that. So you get back in and you get the great news, and I knew Jon from a distance. I didn't really know Jon. That was like really good. It was quite an evening. That's what he need, though. We need something like that. I anticipate something like that. That was a pretty interesting evening.

I know the team, the players are looking forward to that. I know the fan base is looking forward to all that also. You have to create this believability that you can't -- you just can't talk like you want to do something. You've got to actually take action and do different things. You need the right ingredients to make all this happen, there's no doubt. So that's something we're working on right now. I know Billy's talked to you about it.

Listen, man, this guy, he's got a great mind. He's a very fast thinker, and he's got a lot of great ideas. We have ownership that's definitely backing up what we want to do. We've just got to find a dance partner.

Q. When you get involved in recruiting a guy like Gerrit Cole, are you like Coach K? What's your sales pitch?
JOE MADDON: I don't know if I was like Coach K -- yeah, first of all, when you get involved with a guy like him, he's very bright.

Q. Very.
JOE MADDON: He's very bright, and so is Strasburg. I really enjoyed that too. And I enjoyed Zack Wheeler also. He's very bright. He's very bright, and he's not afraid to ask you a question. I think 29- and 30-year-olds today are different than 29- and 30-year-olds of 30 years ago. There's an openness, and the questions are very frank, and they're good. I was very good with all that.

And he has definite ideas on what it takes to be successful, and it's really apparent in his game also. This guy really knows what he wants to do and how he wants to do it, and what you see in the World Series was no joke and was not an accident. He was prepared to do that. So I really enjoyed the conversation. I really enjoyed his intellect. Hopefully, I'll get to enjoy it more consistently every fourth or fifth day.

But he's a different cat in a lot of good ways.

He's a great athlete. Listen, when he was with the Pirates, I saw him a lot. This guy can swing the bat. He can field his position too. There's a lot going on there. He's a different animal. He's got a very durable body and arm. He has not been really hurt. So he's a different animal.

Q. Joe, what's your feeling about Ohtani hitting and pitching?
JOE MADDON: Love it. Love it. Do it in the national league all the time. That's the thing you have to overcome. Just because it doesn't happen all the time, it doesn't mean it can't happen. Don't treat your guys like china dolls. They're not. He's gone through some tough moments. He's gone through his rehab, and now it's time to be a baseball player.

I really -- sometimes we do go overboard. I think with the protection of athletes and players and pitchers. This guy is special. I was involved with the recruiting process with the Cubs when we lost to the Angels at that time, sat across from him, and now I've gone to talk to him a little bit out in Anaheim. Of course he needs to hit. He's that good.

I think we need to figure out how as often as you can to get him to hit while you're not interfering with his arm recovery time. That's the key to figure out is the way I see it. This was something I wanted to do in the Minor Leagues years ago. I think it should be done in the Minor Leagues more often, where you get a young armed good pitcher. You don't know if he's going to make the Major Leagues or not, but if the guy can really run or he shows some kind of aptitude with the bat, why not let him DH a couple of days when he's not pitching? Why not? Because if he washes out as a pitcher, you might have a position player on your hands based on speed or a prodigious bat.

These are the kind of things that need to be explored more often. The kid Lorenzen with the Reds, outstanding. Great idea with him. He's a Fullerton guy too. There's more of that out there. If organizations would permit it -- I think winter ball should create a comeback. If you want to see a better game, a more complete game, let the guys go play winter ball. I would love to see each organization get five or six guys they like and send them to the Dominican or reinvent the league in Puerto Rico or Mexico. I know Venezuela is tough right now, but if you want to see an uptick, have guys play baseball and compete working out in a gym in front of a camera all the time is not necessarily going to teach you how to compete.

Q. Joe, speaking about Ohtani, in Japan, a lot of the times, the Fighters would drop the DH when he was pitching. Those were the games, his ERA when he was batting in the DH league --
JOE MADDON: Tell me something good.

Q. -- was about a half a run lower?
JOE MADDON: We're on the same page, brother.

Q. Is that something you would consider?
JOE MADDON: Why wouldn't you?

Q. Exactly.
JOE MADDON: Why wouldn't you? That's another 50 at-bats a year that you're going to get out of the guy that you wouldn't get otherwise.

Q. He ate that up.
JOE MADDON: Wouldn't the fans dig on that? The fans would dig on that too.

Q. As a player and manager, what do you know now about the job that you wish you knew when you got your first Big League full-time manager gig last decade?
JOE MADDON: Billy Bavasi and I had this at a low line. Thank God we didn't know then what we know now because you'd be paralyzed. You wouldn't do anything. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. I spent a lot of time getting there. I didn't just get there.

So when I got to the Rays in 2006, I'd been interim manager for almost 80 games or 70-some games, that's significant. But I managed six years in the Minor Leagues, and I roved for a whole bunch of those. By the time I got a chance to do this, it wasn't like I had no idea what I wanted to do. It wasn't so -- I don't want to say fresh. It just wasn't so new that I had no concept of my methods. I had a method.

So, no, honestly, I'm not trying to be pretentious in any way, when I walked into the dugout in 2006, it was just -- it was tough. With the Devil Rays at that time, that wasn't easy. We didn't have a bullpen. So that's something that -- the big thing there, you have to fight through, when you lose 100 games, is your self-confidence. That's what you have to keep intact, and if you don't have like a good base, 100 losses can really beat you up pretty badly. And the next year was pretty close to 100 losses.

So more than anything, I'm just -- I guess what I'm trying to say is your Minor League training is what really carries you through those moments. So when I began and how I began, I don't think I run a game much differently than I did then. There's different information available now. There's stuff that I used to try to do on my own that now is being generated via a group of guys in a room next to the dugout or upstairs, and that's helpful, but for the most part, I think I run the same methodology as I did back then.

Q. Joe, have you already seen Ohtani on the mound?
JOE MADDON: I've just seen him on TV. No, I think I saw him in a Spring Training game once on the mound.

Q. But how about now after the rehab?
JOE MADDON: No, I haven't seen it yet. I have not seen it. I've just heard, but I have not seen it. I'll get to see him often and plenty. I don't get like overtly eager. As long as he's healthy, that's all you need to know. If he's healthy and feel good. We'll get to see him pitch in Spring Training on a regular basis and get to watch him compete, and that will suffice. I'm good with that.

I don't get over eager in these situations. Let him get well. Let him feel good, and then go pitch, and I'll see him plenty of times getting into the regular season, and I'll know what I think at that time.

Q. Joe, you mentioned Wheeler, Strasburg, and Cole. Can you tell us any other pitchers that you've visited with in the last --
JOE MADDON: No. Those are the guys I visited with. Well, I kind of visited with. One was via telephone. That's not breaking news, is it? Didn't everybody kind of do that?

Q. There was a little of that.

Q. We were trying to get you to break some more news.
JOE MADDON: Oh, I got it. (Laughter).

Honestly, no, that's it. If I can't tell you something, I'll say I can't tell you, but honestly I did not -- those three guys, that's it.

Q. How big of a recruiting chip is Mike Trout?
JOE MADDON: I would think large. God, we've all been fans. Listen, this is nothing new. I've watched him from a distance. I've spoken to him by batting cages. It's different. It's just different. Since I've been doing this, 1981 as a scout, you talk about bonds. You could talk about Griffey Jr. I've already mentioned Derek Jeter before in other situations. There's been some really good players, but checking all the boxes, he does. He's up there with the top.

He is the best I've seen since I've been doing this, fair enough? And there's some really good players. I want to believe he's a great recruiting chip, but I also believe winning is a great recruiting chip also or at least the threat of winning. When you have a chance to go somewhere and make a lot of money, you want to do that and be signed for several years to a place that you think you have a strong opportunity to win. That's part of the equation also. That's how the Cubs were able to sign Jon Lester a couple years ago.

So Mike is a unique baseball player, and, yes, I have to believe he's a strong recruiting chip.

Q. Have you talked much with trout this off-season?
JOE MADDON: I've been texting him. We've been trying to call and missing each other. He's been hunting in Ohio and somewhere else.

Q. Iowa, I believe. That's where he was for MVP.
JOE MADDON: So, listen, I had Davie Martinez for years as my bench coach. These guys that love to hunt, man, you cannot find them this time of year. They're hanging out in places where their cell phones don't work, and I get it, and I respect that. But he lives right down the street from me in Pennsylvania. He's in Millville. That's not far from where -- I've been in Sugarloaf, Hazleton a lot this winter. We still have been unable to hook up.

Like I said, I'm eager. I'll get that opportunity to speak with him, and we'll make sure that we make the most of it. Like I said, I have plans. I have ideas. It's all going to come together. You don't have to rush into methods. Sometimes you just, it could be a slow dance, and right now this is kind of like a slow dance moment to try to get to know one another, and we will. Really looking forward to that.

There's so much to think about with that, with him, as well as everybody else. There's some really nice players on this group. I've been in contact with Tommy less tell a lot now. Is Jesse Rogers here?

Q. He was earlier.
JOE MADDON: That's an inside joke. Tommy and I have spoken a lot, as much as anybody I've spoken with has been Tommy. Well, I will get to everybody.

Q. You said you talked with a couple of the starting pitchers. Are there any that just crossed your mind, or are there any criterias that you want from a starting pitcher?
JOE MADDON: Well, yeah.

Q. That might join your team.
JOE MADDON: You like guys that show up innings, man. If you want a good bullpen, you need to have a good starting rotation, a good starting rotation that chews up innings. Normally, you could create a good bullpen out of that. When you don't have starting pitching that chews up innings, it's difficult to have a good bullpen. It just is.

So for me, perfect world, I like five, six guys chewing up 1,000 innings. That's perfect for starters. I had that with the Rays, and that was a great group down there. With the Cubs, we did some nice work with Jake and John and Kyle and some of the other guys involved over the last couple years, Johnny Lackey. That is the bedrock of the team for me is good starting pitching. When you have that, you have a chance to be in every game. When you have that, you have a chance to sustain winning streaks, and when you have that, you have a chance to sustain morale.

Morale takes a beating when pitching fails and fails late in games. So you need all of that to build what you're looking for, to get where you want to be.

Q. Are there any potential players that might fit your perfect world?
JOE MADDON: Oh, yeah.

Q. But no comment?
JOE MADDON: No. Talk to Billy about that. There's guys -- of course there's guys out there, but this is the stuff that we talk about right now. This is the kind of discussions we have. I'm just telling you what I think is tried and true. This is what I believe. The teams that I've had that we've won normally starts with a really good starting rotation. You have to have a good back end because you can't lose games late and maintain morale. It's really difficult.

Position player-wise, you'd like to get teams that hit, but if you have good enough pitching to catch the ball, you could figure out how to score runs.

Q. Joe, what's your sense of managing in the league where there's things going on such as the Astros (indiscernible)?
JOE MADDON: We've had our concerns. Everybody's had their concerns about that. It's not like it's anything new. I want to believe that MLB will do something to eradicate that. I like a level playing field, period.

I hate to keep bringing up a pitcher, but when I went to the Rays, that was kind of at the end of the steroid era, and I like the fact there was a lot of harsh drug testing involved because, if there was and each team has an eradication of steroid use within groups, you create a level playing field where the team that plays better in baseball has a chance of winning on that specific night.

When it comes down to electronic cheating, to me, good old-fashioned sign stealing from your eyeballs, that's not cheating. It's just good baseball. When you use electronic cheating, that's not good. That's -- it's almost tantamount to steroids in regards to an imbalanced playing field. If we could level that out and eradicate that and you get guys going out there naked every night just based on their own abilities, I'll take it. I'll take us against anybody under those circumstances.

But when you have this little edge -- and it is an edge. When guys are really good at that. I mean, there were teams that were really known to do that from second base, and they would beat you up. You really did have to change signs with runners on second because their team itself had great concepts that you're able to pick things up and relay it. That is good baseball. But to do it from a centerfield camera or from banging an object in the dugout or whistles. Whistles were big too. One city was big on whistling. That's the kind of stuff I want to get rid of.

Q. When you say there were suspicions, you're not saying it's just the Astros?
JOE MADDON: There's other teams that have been.

Q. It's more prevalent?
JOE MADDON: Yeah, it's been out there for a bit, but you have to prove it. I'm not going to say something if I don't have specific -- and I didn't, I don't. But hearing this stuff now, it's not a surprise.

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