Imagine the possibilities if Cubs hire Maddux

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Imagine the possibilities if Cubs hire Maddux

Mike Maddux had everyone laughing with his one-liners, and silent when he cut short questions about why he didnt interview in Boston. It sounded like hed have to think about it if he was offered the job.

But most of all, Maddux had an edge that would serve him well if he becomes the next Cubs manager. That presence seemed to keep open the long-shot possibilities that his brother Greg could join the staff and that Carlos Zambrano might be saved.

The Rangers pitching coach met with Cubs executives for roughly four hours on Tuesday night, and continued interviewing on Wednesday at Wrigley Field. They discussed what role his brother could play in the organization, though Maddux declined to elaborate, calling it a private family matter.

Theres a lot of dynamics in every decision we make, and family not only extends to my wife and my daughters, but also my brother and his family.

Maddux and Nolan Ryan pushed their pitchers in Texas, an old-school philosophy that led the Rangers to the World Series twice in the past two years. So how would you handle Zambrano?

I heard hes a big teddy bear, Maddux said, so might pick him up and just burp him.

Those 18 minutes inside the PNC Club were far more entertaining than anything Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin or Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum gave us during their media sessions.

No one knew what Theo Epstein or Jed Hoyer thought of the performance, because the Cubs executives left the room as soon as it was over, unavailable for comment. Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will interview on Friday at Wrigley Field.

Maddux almost sounded like Zambranos agent, talking up the enigmatic pitcher who could use a fresh start elsewhere. This was more of a hypothetical question hoping to get a headline. But by hiring an expert, the Cubs could reinvent their pitching staff, with or without their 91.5 million man.

I saw Carlos Zambrano from across the field seven, eight years ago, Maddux said, and he was the best thing since sliced bread. Hed beat you on the mound. Hed beat you at the plate. Hed beat you on the field.

Total package, great competitor. He was the best pitcher in the National League, and thats what I have in my mind about him. Ive seen him dominate.

In Maddux, the Cubs would be getting a strong voice to say buy or sell on any pitcher, someone who could find internal solutions and shape the vision for an entire organization.

It takes no talent to be in shape that takes desire, Maddux said. Your window of opportunity is short, man. So if youre going to be out of shape and not give yourself every opportunity to be the best that you can be, well, shame on you, because you only get one crack at it.

That message could resonate with Epstein, who recently had to answer questions about the culture of fried chicken and beer in the Red Sox clubhouse. Either way, the Cubs will have to upgrade their rotation this winter. Among the qualities Maddux would look for in a pitching coach: Somebody who could put up with my second-guessing.

Maddux prepared for the interview by getting background information from his brother, who worked as a special assistant to Jim Hendry before the general manager was fired last summer. Family considerations could prevent the future Hall of Famer from taking on a full-time role.

Family concerns also forced Maddux, 50, to withdraw from the Red Sox managerial search this week, but he would not go into details: Were not in Boston right now, so talk about Chicago.

When Maddux was done playing in 2000 after 15 seasons, his two daughters were eight and 10 years old. They all moved to Wisconsin for his six seasons as Brewers pitching coach through 2008. His older daughter moved with him for college when he took the job with the Rangers, while his wife and other daughter stayed back. They all reunited last summer in Texas.

Thats pretty special, Maddux said. There does come a time (when) you got to stop and smell the roses and it was a pretty big gut check for me this year being with my family. The situation is nice both my kids are in school down there. (So) there are a lot of tough decisions that would have to be made.

Maddux seems willing to listen. All these years, he never stopped to analyze why the Cubs have gone more than a century without a World Series title. He might have to start coming up with some theories soon.

When I was with the opposition, I did everything I could to keep the Cubs from winning, Maddux said. I despised the song Go Cubs Go after theyd kick our butts. But Ive always admired this town. Its a very, very unique setup, very historic. And whoever becomes the manager of this ballclub is in a good spot.

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

Theo Epstein tops Fortune's list of World's 50 Greatest Leaders

The Cubs keep raking in the accolades.

Theo Epstein is the latest to be honored, with Fortune naming the Cubs president of baseball operations No. 1 on the newly-released list of the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.

Epstein — the architect of the Cubs team that ended a 108-year championship drought — beat out such names as Pope Francis, John McCain, LeBron James and Joe Biden.

Fellow Chicagoan and White Sox ambassador Chance the Rapper also made the list at No. 46.

The rationale for Epstein includes:

In his book The Cubs Way, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci details the five-year rebuilding plan that led to the team’s victory. The Cubs owe their success to a concatenation of different leadership styles, from the affable patience of owner Tom Ricketts to the innovative eccentricity of manager Joe Maddon. But most important of all was the evolution of club president Theo Epstein, the wunderkind executive who realized he would need to grow as a leader in order to replicate in Chicago the success he’d had with the Boston Red Sox. In the following passages, Verducci describes how a deeper understanding of important human qualities among his players—the character, discipline, and chemistry that turn skilled athletes into leaders—­enabled Epstein to engineer one of the most remarkable turnarounds in sports.

For more on why Epstein and the Cubs topped the list, head to Fortune.com.

Epstein had a classic reaction to the honor with his official statement:

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house. That is ridiculous. The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball - a pastime involving a lot of chance. If Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

Now what? Jon Lester driven to deliver more World Series titles to Chicago

MESA, Ariz. — Now what? Ryan Dempster believes these Cubs are young enough, hungry enough and talented enough to become the first group to win back-to-back World Series since the three-peat New York Yankees built a dynasty with titles in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

But Dempster already understands the expectations at Wrigley Field this season, especially after pitching on disappointing Cubs teams that got swept out of the playoffs and working as a special assistant in Theo Epstein's front office.

"Nothing can top it," Dempster said. "You can win 162 games and sweep everybody in the playoffs and it won't be as exciting for people, other than maybe the guys playing it."

That's why Jon Lester isn't putting up the "Mission Accomplished" banner at his locker, even though the Cubs had the parade down Michigan Avenue in mind when they gave him the biggest contract in franchise history at the time. Dempster — who also earned a World Series ring with the 2013 Boston Red Sox — had given Lester a scouting report as the Cubs went all-out in their pursuit of the big-game lefty.

There are still four years left on Lester's $155 million megadeal. It has been less than five months since the Cubs finally won the World Series and unleashed an epic celebration.

"Now the hard part is you don't get complacent," Lester said Wednesday after throwing six innings against an Oakland A's minor-league squad at the Sloan Park complex. "I talk about these young guys — that's where that helps. Even though you've accomplished things personally, you still want these guys to accomplish things.

"That's where that drive still gets you. You don't want to let your teammates down. You still want to be accountable for what you do. And that means showing up and doing your work in between starts and in the offseason."

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Lester believed so much in Epstein's vision, the pipeline of talent about to burst and the lure of Chicago that he signed with a last-place team. The Cubs needed a symbol to show they were serious about winning, a clubhouse tone-setter and an anchor for their rotation.

A new comfort level in Year 2 of that contract helped explain how Lester performed as an All Star, a Cy Young Award finalist and the National League Championship Series co-MVP. But Lester wants to make sure that the Cubs don't get too comfortable — or feel like they're playing with house money.

"You enjoy that, you learn from it," Lester said. "The biggest thing is not getting complacent with yourself and with your teammates. That's what drives me, making sure I'm prepared to pitch.

"I'm called upon every five days, and I have to be there. That's where that goal of 30 starts and 200 innings comes into play. I feel like if I do that, then I've done my job, for my teammates and this organization.

"The championships and the World Series — that's stuff you can't predict. It's stuff you strive to do every single year. So that's all we're going to focus on again. Our team goal again is to win a World Series."