CHICAGO — Joe Maddon showed up in a blue Chicago Cubs “We Came To Reign” sweater. On Friday, he might as well try chaps and spurs.
That’s because Maddon will probably feel like he is in the Wild West when the Cubs open their NL Division Series against the San Francisco Giants, managing against Bruce Bochy.
“He’s a cowboy,” Maddon said Thursday. “He’ll do anything. And when you manage against a cowboy, it’s always interesting.”
It sure figures to be that way with two successful managers with different approaches going at it. Maddon and Bochy tend to treat regular-season matchups as if they were playoff games. Now that they are actually meeting in the postseason?
“Oh, they’re going to have a field day,” Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan said. “They’re going to love it. They do every time.”
There’s Maddon, the laid-back professorial hipster with the white hair and horned rim glasses, who balances advanced metrics with more traditional analysis and keeps his players on their toes simply by being different and fun.
He also has a team that comes in with a major league-leading 103 wins and the hopes of its long-suffering fans that the team’s first World Series title since 1908 is on the way.
Then there’s the more old-school Bochy, who while not quite as immersed in the numbers has led the Giants to three World Series titles since 2010. And for what it’s worth, all three have come in even-numbered years.
“We look forward to managing against guys that we know do such a great job and will be so well prepared and it makes you stay on your toes and make sure that you’re ready and you’re prepared,” Bochy said. “So, especially going against such a good club and he’s got a lot of weapons over there and it’s up to me to have these guys ready and of course have my moves ready.”
The Cubs took four of seven meetings from the Giants this season. And their final five games were all decided by one run.
While the outcome of the series largely hinges on the arms of Jon Lester and Johnny Cueto and the bats of Kris Bryant and Buster Posey, the matchup between Maddon and Bochy is one to watch.
“I think the strategies and what the other guys are thinking, I just know from the years playing against the Giants and Bochy he just does a really good job of having two guys up all the time ready for that pinch-hitter, ready for the matchup,” Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo said. “And playing with Joe, he does a good job.”
The two have a strong mutual admiration that took root when they first crossed paths managing in the minors decades ago. While Maddon relies more on advanced metrics, he and Bochy are both respected by their players for their communication skills and penchant for making the right move.
Maddon, of course, is also known to have zoo animals at Wrigley Field. And onesie road trips. He showed up one day at spring training dressed in a tie-dye T-shirt and headband in a throwback 1970s van blasting Earth, Wind & Fire.
It wasn’t his last groovy thought.
“The other day I texted him. I changed my number,” Coghlan said.
“Groovy,” he said.
But to Coghlan, it’s not just that Maddon is fun and cool. He also happens to be a great coach with a knack for finding a flaw, for example, in something as simple as his footwork.
Coghlan appreciates that more than anything else, though it sure doesn’t hurt knowing the man in the dugout will usually make all the right moves during the game.
Coghlan sees a thought process in Maddon that is “different than a lot of managers I’ve played for” and doesn’t see “how anyone could be better.”
“Just to see him and how he thinks is really interesting, and I think there’s a reason why he’s had a lot of success,” he said.
The guy who will be in the other dugout has had his share of it, too.