Cubs manager Joe Maddon customarily gives his team three speeches each season. One at the start of spring training, one at the All Star break, and one when the postseason begins.
In his fourth year with the Cubs, he will have given that playoff speech each season, but this year he's doing it a little differently.
"I’m going to do my postseason meeting today because it is for me actually the beginning of the postseason," Maddon said before Thursday's game. "I’m not going to wait a couple days to say something I could say today."
Maddon said that a part of what his postseason speech to the team will entail is not worrying about the negative components of an individual game or moment, and instead to anticipate the positive. The Cubs 7-6 extra-innings win Wednesday was the kind that tends to elicit some of the negative analysis of the minutiae, but he said that he planned to talk to his team about resisting too much emphasis on those things.
Going in to the last of four against the Pirates, the Cubs are a half game ahead of Milwaukee, and they have officially clinched at least a wild card spot as of Wednesday night, thanks to a Cardinals loss. But with four games remaining in the regular season schedule, the Cubs are not looking to just be content with the one-game playoff. So that means treating the next four like the postseason has already begun.
"I’m just choosing to do it a little bit in advance because it really is kind of like a postseason starting today," Maddon said. "And I want our guys to understand that and feel that and know that because our objective is not just to qualify, our objective is to qualify and have a couple days off."
The way the division and the National League in general are shaping up, there's a real chance of a game 163 being necessary on Monday, October 1, so the need for a postseason mentality Thursday and through the weekend is real.
"I want to just talk with the boys, really, just I’ve been thinking about it since last night," Maddon said. "It’s not going to be a speech, it’s not going to be rousing, I just want to go over the things that have been happening right now and see if we could adjust our method of thinking and just go out there and play this game with the verve and joy that we always do."