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Whittingham, Utah, Make A Return to the Holiday Bowl

KYLE WHITTINGHAM: I guess that really dates me. I played in the first four, come full circle. We’re back here. In fact, Coach (indiscernible) was our coordinator in ’81 when we came here. That was the Washington State game, beat Washington State that year.

It’s great to be back. Our players are elated to be in this game. It’s a great reward, as Coach Fitz mentioned, for a very good season. Great destination, San Diego. The timing is great for our fans. It’s just win-win all around.

I can’t say how excited we are and thrilled to be here. Got Utah alum here tonight. Thank you for coming, appreciate you. Got the Utah tie going.

Great matchup. Coach Fitz, tough sun-of-a-gun. His team emulates him: physical, hard-nosed, which we like to think of ourselves the same way. Should be a great matchup. Two tough teams going at each other.

The coaches, coaching staff, excited as well. Thanks to our new athletic director, Mark Harlan, our president Ruth Watkins. A lot of people involved in getting us here.

Like I said, we’re excited for the opportunity. Can’t wait till the 31st. We’ll be ready to go.

Q. The week that you lost your quarterback and your runningback, was that the week of the Oregon game?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Arizona State game.

Q. What was that week like, to lose those two key positions?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: We lost 80 something percent of our offense in one fell swoop with losing those two guys. Obviously a devastating blow.

But we came back, had a team meeting on Monday. Next-man-up mentality, which most teams do. Said, Hey, we’re missing these guys, here are the next guys up, we believe in these guys, let’s go.

Everybody has to rally behind them, help pick up the slack. It’s not just the two guys replacing the two starters, but everybody has to pick up.

Very proud of the way our guys handled adversity all year long. We had to come out and win out to put our ourselves in the position to win the South. Our kids responded. Beat Oregon, Colorado, then beat our rivals right down south, BYU, right in succession with those guys, those new players.

Like coach’s team, our guys answered the bell all season long. Stared adversity in the face, never flinched. I’ve been coaching a lot of years, this might have been my most enjoyable year of coaching.

The personality of our football team this year was incredible. Great leadership. Only 11 scholarship seniors, but the leadership and the things those guys provided were incredible from that senior class.

Q. I heard Utah fans inundated the Holiday Bowl offices with letters asking for the invitation. What does that say about the desire of your team to be here?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: It says a lot. We got great fans. We’ve sold out 57, 58 some odd straight games. The support we have from our community is incredible. Our fans are great. Doesn’t surprise me they took things into their own hands and wanted to make sure you guys knew they were going to come down if we got invited to this game.

Can’t say enough good things about our fans, the support they’ve given our players over the last several, many years.

Q. Did you have an extra message to give your players about what this bowl means because of your experience here?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Not really. We’re pretty used to the bowl situation. Had a pretty good run of getting into bowls. I don’t think that my participation in the game really factors in.

But I can tell them firsthand what a great experience it was. When I was a college football player, I remember vividly every game down here in the Holiday Bowl. It was really the highlight of the year. Really was a great experience. We had just a great time together.

I told them, Hey, you’re in for a really good experience.

Q. From your playing experiences here, any memory stand out?
KYLE WHITTINGHAM: Yeah, there’s a few. Let’s see, against SMU, I made 22 tackles, 21 of them were about 10 yards plus downfield chasing Eric Dickerson and Craig James. The stats were padded, I guess, because I was looking at their rear-ends (laughter). That was the game we won in the last second there, Hail Mary pass. Two Catholics connected on a Hail Mary at a Mormon school to win the game. That was interesting.

I had the dubious honor of being the first guy to run a fake punt in a bowl game. It was my sophomore year in the Holiday Bowl. It was fourth-and-one, I got six inches. We didn’t get the first down because I got stopped.

But I have a lot of great memories here. Holiday Bowls one, two, three and four were outstanding. Been wanting to get back here since. Took 30 some odd years, but now we’re back, so…

Oakland A’s, Needing Rotation Help, Looking for In-House Solutions

Bob Melvin, manager of the year in 2018 for the Oakland A’s, talked about the upcoming season at the winter meetings.

Q. I was asking you about nontraditional coaching staff hires, with analytics in mind. What will that mean for the game, immediately or going forward?
BOB MELVIN: I think you’re seeing certainly some strides in that direction. And it’s how you present what you want to present to the players as far as analytically, whether it’s launch angles or whatever the fact. And you have to have the right personality to be able to do that. You have to understand which players you can give a lot of information to, which players you give a little to.

We feel like our staff is pretty good at it. Darren Bush and Scott Emerson do a good job with the pitchers and position players. I think at this point in time we’re happy with what we have right now, but the more you see it, it’s kind of a trend that you’ll see more of.

Q. What about the actual nontraditional hiring, guys coming in who haven’t been entrenched in pro ball, how will the players respond to that?
BOB MELVIN: I don’t know. Some of the other organizations do it already and I think they’ve had some success. And if you get some buy-in from some of the premier players, certainly in the case with Houston, when you get a Justin Verlander who buys into that, it’s going to be easy to sell it to some of the other guys. I think it’s just as much the personality of the person that you’re bringing in but also the guys that you hook.

Q. You guys are in a little bit of an unusual situation coming off of playoff appearance and having so many holes particularly in the rotation. How do you see things with so many needs in the starting pitching roles?
BOB MELVIN: Well, you know, the one thing that we don’t talk a lot about is the fact that we’re going to have a lot of guys coming back at some point.

So I think part of our decision is holding down the fort until we get some of these injured pitchers back. And you’re talking about a lot of — even down to the Kaprielians and Jefferies and guys like that we feel like are going to have great careers with us. So you have to balance what you think is the need for now and what the need is down the road as far as signing a guy to a multiyear.

We saw last year we had some issues with the rotation. We were able to identify some guys to hold down the fort and perform for us. Certainly the bullpen is a strength for us and continues to be.

So, yes, we want to bring in some starters, but I don’t think we’re in a hurry to go out and be like a market maker and have to dole out some three-year deals.

Q. Could you see using that opener strategy some more especially considering the bullpen remains a strength?
BOB MELVIN: I could. I think we’re a little bit — we’re used to it, so to speak. And you’re seeing other teams do it, too. And I think you’ll see more of it next year.

So, yeah, I think depending on who we identify as guys that we need to get innings from and then maybe if there’s some vulnerability with some other guys, maybe that’s the route we go as far as the opener. Yeah, I think that is here to stay.

Q. David was mentioning yesterday that Triggs is more of a relief option. Did you see him being a guy maybe used as an opener or a bridge guy or whatever?
BOB MELVIN: I hadn’t thought about that for him. But I think that we’re past the point of trying to get six or seven innings out of him. I don’t think physically he’s able to do it. So whether that’s length in the middle of the game, whether that’s potential opener, wherever, but with the injuries we’ve had from him, we don’t want to have to count on him for starter-type innings.

Q. David said last night that Chris Davis is a top priority. But also there’s some things that he’d like to get done first. Chris seems to be the kind of guy who that probably is okay with him to not be on the front burner?
BOB MELVIN: Obviously he’d like to get something done. I think he wants to remain with us. He’s been open about that. But he is coming back. So there’s still time to be able to get that done.

But I think like anybody, there’s some other — he sees the needs that we have to address right now, yet he’s always a priority for us. So there’s ongoing dialogue for him but there’s not the urgency trying to get it done for Spring Training.

Q. With Barreto [inaudible] based on what you’ve seen recently, how close to being ready in an everyday role?
BOB MELVIN: I thought even last year or the year before, earlier in the season, he was on the verge of being ready. The strikeouts, commanding the strike zone is going to be — kind of tell the tale where he goes. But we’ll never know until he has an opportunity, and an opportunity to potentially struggle and stick with him and get through it.

I think that’s when we’ll see what Franklin Barreto has to offer us. Now, having said that, Jed Lowrie is still a bit of a priority for us. And if that’s not Jed, then how do we go about the Franklin situation. Do we want to platoon with him? Do we want to give him the job? He’s athletic enough to play other positions too. I think once we figure out where we’re going with Jed, then we’ll have a little better idea where the needs are with Frankie.

Q. What’s your impressions of Luzardo and is he Major League ready?
BOB MELVIN: I think he is, based on what we’re hearing from all our guys in development, what we saw in Spring Training last year too. We ran him out there against a formidable lineup and did it on purpose. And he’s the type of kid that if you talk to him, what is he, 20? Doesn’t seem like that. When he’s on the mound, there’s some presence to him that maybe you don’t typically see from a younger guy.

I was asked yesterday if there was kind of a comp, and I remember Felix Hernandez when I was with Seattle, we were thinking about early on how quickly was he going to get to the Big League level. And I think there’s probably some similarities with Luzardo in the fact that he’s awfully talented, obviously there’s a need for us at this point. And I think the way he went about his season last year would suggest that we’re going to bring him to Spring Training this year with an opportunity to start with us.

Q. How has your job as a manager changed from the first year in 2003, and how has the player-manager relationship changed from when you were a player?
BOB MELVIN: It’s changed significantly with analytics and the front office being more in touch with lineups and the day-to-day operation that maybe a manager had control of in years past. The front office is always at the forefront of signing and putting together a roster. But now it’s the day-to-day stuff. So that’s just something that you have to smart people — you have opinions from, you’re trying to make good decisions based on maybe a few more people involved now.

And I think that’s a good thing. As far as the relation with the player, it really hasn’t changed for me as a manager. I remember when I was a younger player and Sparky Anderson was one of my first Big League managers, I was scared to even go have a conversation with him.

It’s not that way now. Not only are we communicative with managers with the 25-man roster we have. But it’s deep in our system I’ll go over to the Minor League camp in Spring Training and watch some games over there, a few innings and get to know those guys. They’re that much more comfortable when they get with us in Spring Training. It’s changed pretty significantly as far as that goes.

Q. What do you spend more time on now than you did when you first started managing?
BOB MELVIN: My time — my day during the season is pretty much the same as it’s been. There’s a lot more information to digest, and there’s a few more people that you’re in contact with before a game or lineups or whatever. But as far as my preparation, what I do from a day-to-day basis, that really hasn’t changed a whole lot.

Q. A.J. Pollock [inaudible] a guy when he comes out of rehab to impact down the stretch?
BOB MELVIN: It’s tough to forecast. Each guy is a little different as far as coming back from those type of injuries. And I don’t think when they come back, whether it’s 12, 14 months that you can expect them to be at their best. I think it’s once you get through that next year and you’re into your next year that maybe the expectations are a little bit higher. But each guy’s different. Some guys come back throwing bullets right away, other guys take more time. We’ll see what happens with him. I know he’s working really hard. I saw him the other day working at our complex and he’s working diligently and he’s working forward to try to get himself ready to have a good season this year.

Q. You’ve been with the A’s for a while. What have you learned from working with Billy Bean and the way his mind works, have you seen him change over time?
BOB MELVIN: You know, I think the fact that we had a good relationship before I was a manager here allowed us to come together pretty quickly.

In my first year I was interim. So a little bit more at stake that year. In half a year you have to show the organization what you can do. And I think our relationship helped as far as that went.

But our discussions, our day to day interactions have been consistent. David, with an elevated role now, the three of us always have conversations every day.

But once you’re around for somebody for a period of time, then you kind of know what they’re thinking at times and what routes you’re going to go. It’s been pretty seamless here. It’s been easy for me to work with these guys, the fact I’ve been around for a little while means that we work pretty well together.

Q. Despite some of the holes in your roster, what’s your excitement level in terms of the guys who progressed last year, Chapman, Wilson, Laureano?
BOB MELVIN: Right. Laureano came from out of nowhere. We knew he had a talent level potentially after the injury, get with us, but to be impactful as he was — that was probably a lot to expect.

But you look around our infield the years that those guys had last year, and they were all in Gold Glove consideration, including Jed last year. We’re happy with where we are in the infield. Barreto and Lowrie still to be determined. But Stephen Piscotty, he goes under the radar, when you think about guys, Chad and Thompson and Marcus, but Stephen Piscotty became a mainstay for us last year. But not only was he out there every day, he had to go through a lot and maybe ended up having the best season that he’s had.

When you look at our team last year, I don’t know that anybody kind of embodied what we were about more than Stephen Piscotty, and the production would show that too. And it was a great, and I get asked about a lot of questions, and not as much — I’m not allowed to talk about him as much as I’d like to. I’m glad you asked about him.

Q. [inaudible] Gold Glove recognition, you knew how good those guys were, everyone around the ballclub. What was it about the fact that they were recognized throughout the game?
BOB MELVIN: Right. And going in we knew we had — we knew the two corner guys, we had a pretty good idea, but to be Gold Glovers in their first year, it’s remarkable, and then to see the strides that Marcus made to be in consideration for a Gold Glove, and Jed, too, and his durability to be — and you look at us a year or two years before that, we were not a good defensive team at all. Now I think we’re one of the better defensive teams in baseball.

So it’s come together pretty quickly. Our coaching staff does a great job working with these guys. Matty has been terrific for these guys, and Al as well in the infield portion of it, and Ryan [phonetic] with the outfield, we went from a poor defensive team to a very good one. That had a lot to do with the results we had last year.

Q. How much time did you spend watching Oklahoma football this year?
BOB MELVIN: More than I expected too and continue to. So we are pulling hard for them. I mean, you’re reading before the season started is he going to be the starter, is he going to be the starter there. Next you know he’s Heisman Trophy winner and now is the chance to win a national championship. We’re big Oklahoma fans right now for sure. It’s kind of tough to watch them scramble around a little bit sometimes, but it’s exciting.

Q. This time last year no one knew what to expect from [inaudible] not just this year, but do you think people will view the possibilities in the future with other players?
BOB MELVIN: Absolutely. What he did, we’re lucky enough to see him early in the season when he was on top of his game pitching-wise, almost threw a no-hitter against us early in the season. He came as advertised. I was like how do you do this, both ends of it.

He did it pretty seamlessly. Could have had the surgery done earlier but wanted to stay with his team and perform offensively. We had a little bit more on him on the pitching end than the offensive end. And we knew looking at the stuff that he would be a premier performer, but obviously I had no idea he was that good. He is. He’s unique in what he does. Maybe opens up some avenues for other people to do it but it’s not easy and he made it look easy.

Q. Related to that last question, you’ll see him as a hitter probably most of the time next year. Are you going to get him out?
BOB MELVIN: We had trouble this year. Now that he knows the league a little bit more, seems like the season went along he got more and more confident.

Power, hitting the ball the other way, we had some ideas on how we thought we could get him out, and then next the time you saw him, you weren’t getting him out that way anymore. If I knew, I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s a star, there’s no doubt about it.

Q. Bring more lefties against him?
BOB MELVIN: His numbers against lefties were lower last year, but every time I brought in a lefty, he got a hit. Looks like he’s taken care of that issue too.

Q. Some of the value that J.D. Martinez brought to the Red Sox this year was nonquantifiable, not just his presence in the lineup, but his impact on his teammates in the way he talked to them about hitting, the approach. Who is that guy for you? The guy or guys?
BOB MELVIN: I think Jed was our guy last year for us. And the most experienced guy, switch hitter, understands mechanics both sides, understands what he needs to do to be successful. But also understands the analytics too. He understands launch angles and exit velocities and was a nice kind of player-coach for us to help Bushy out with some of our younger guys, too. Yet to be determined whether or not we’ll have him back, but I would say if you’re picking a guy that was like that, it would be Jed for us.

Q. Has the definition of veteran leadership changed in any way, with that in mind, that you not only need to carry yourself as a veteran but pass this information?
BOB MELVIN: I don’t think that’s changed. The information has changed, but I don’t think the leadership qualities from the guys you need and every team needs has changed. That’s pretty consistent. And you know right away when you get guys who are the guys who are going to be more instrumental along those lines.

It’s just the numbers and analytics and some of the things we’re teaching have changed a little bit, but not the leadership part.

Q. There’s been talk in recent weeks about changing or eliminating the shift. Where would you fall in that?
BOB MELVIN: I don’t like that. There’s an easy way to combat that. Just hit the ball the other way. If you start hitting the ball the other way, getting hits that way, it will shift back around. Baseball is a game of adjustment. I’m not for that. We’ll see where it goes.

Q. What do you think of the division right now, especially with Seattle now kind of joining Texas as maybe in a little bit of a rebuild phase?
BOB MELVIN: You never know, when younger players perform, you see what happened with us last year, I don’t think anybody predicted us doing what we did last year.

We’re lucky enough to see our teams in spring and get a little bit of a handle on them before you start. But, man, there’s so many younger players that are impactful, and it’s hard to focus what the team is going to do or not do.

And it’s different for us, too, now with Banister not in Texas and Scioscia not in Anaheim, there are going to be a lot of changes that maybe we need to look at a bit differently on teams. I don’t count anybody out in our division. It can flip in a hurry.

Q. The types of swings that are more in vogue today, does it make it more difficult to be able to hit the ball the other way?
BOB MELVIN: Yeah, there’s probably something to that. It’s a little bit more of a lift to it. And guys are probably a little more understanding of. When I played, I had no idea mechanically what I was doing compared to some of these guys now, and you have better instruction now, too. But I think what you’re seeing is pitching trying to combat that with more up and down than side to side.

Guys that are launch angles are a little bit lower in trying to lift, you’re seeing guys pitch at the top of the zone because it’s tough for them to handle that.

And/or depth to a breaking ball. I think the cutter and slider and the changeup, and now you’re seeing more high fastballs and curveballs off of high fastballs to try to combat what the hitters are doing to get the edge.

Q. Maybe in your mind, generically, in terms of maybe one of those types of swings, what’s the solution?
BOB MELVIN: The solution for me is with two strikes, make an adjustment. And I think back in 2001 I was at Diamondbacks when we won the World Series that year, and Luis Gonzalez was our best player, and he was up with a man on third, and less than two outs in a World Series, it’s the first time he choked up all year to try to get that big hit.

So it’s understanding the situation and a lot of times with two strikes. Once you’re able to make some adjustments and do things a little bit differently, then it’s going to flip around again.

I remember succinctly when he said it was the first time I choked up all year, because he understood the situation, what was at stake at that point in time. He was a home run hitter with a scoop to his swing, and this situation didn’t call for that. And he was able to do it in a situation that was the biggest of in Arizona’s history.

Q. You had Chip Allen on staff; now he’s a candidate for Orioles manager. What attributes do you think he brings to that?
BOB MELVIN: He’s terrific. I’ve had him as manager as Arizona, and bench coach and third base coach. He’s one of the great instructors. He’s a true instructor. If you look at where that team is going and breaking it down, having some younger players there, that’s right up his alley. Did a great job in Arizona, especially the first year. I’m pulling hard for him.

Q. [Question about the position.]
BOB MELVIN: I pull for him. But other than that, I don’t know what’s going on there.

Q. You were talking about strikeouts and launch angles and stuff, situations particularly with [inaudible], how can you see he can cut down on his strikeouts, is it pitching level, or what do you see from that?
BOB MELVIN: Getting more consistent bats at the Big League level. We’ve seen at times him be really good about controlling the strike zone, and that’s when he has tons of success, and then at times when he struggles some that maybe he starts to expand a little bit more.

That’s what I was talking about when is the time to let him get through a struggle and see how he is on the other side of that. So I think he has the ability to do it. He works really hard. He’s one of the hardest working guys we had. He’s got a ton of talent. He’s got power and speed. There’s a lot for him to offer, he’s just never been afforded the opportunity to struggle and come out of it. Most of his opportunities have been based on injuries to Jed or whoever when he’s been here.

Q. Have you seen him?
BOB MELVIN: I’ve seen him at batting practice. He loves running around there. If we look at potentially moving a position for him, he’d be on board with just about anybody to be in the lineup. And I think athletically he can do it.

Q. [Inaudible]?
BOB MELVIN: I’d have to see it again, he’s one of the great athletes you’re going to see. How many guys are able to do what he — drafted in the first round and doing — Heisman trophy winner. There’s not that many of those guys. You know athletically he can do anything. From the day we saw him in Oakland, looked like he had an advanced approach at the plate. Wasn’t trying to pull everything. He was hitting the ball the other way. Was showing some power. Pretty level-headed kid for any — at young age. A think there is a high ceiling for him.

Q. As far as relievers’ year-to-year volatility, why do you think that happens and what challenge does it present?
BOB MELVIN: A lot of times I think it’s the hardest element to forecast. Guys will have a really good year and next year not. Maybe it’s workload, maybe not. We feel like we have a pretty good bullpen coming from last year, and it should be intact for this year.

So I’ve been on teams where guys have had great years and then the league’s making an adjustment to them or whatever the next year. You look at the personnel we have and we’re really — we feel good about the guys we have brought back, I think it’s to be determined if our bullpen was as good as it was last year, but we feel good about it.

Q. With the success that the Rays had with the opener last year, will we start to see more of that?
BOB MELVIN: I think you’re seeing more of it last year, but I think it probably started with Cleveland and the postseason a couple of years before that, how they used their bullpen. Now, it’s a little more difficult to do during the regular season when you’re playing every day, postseason have you some days off. But you’re seeing teams come up with creative ways to combat whatever their deficiencies are, and that’s going to continue. So it’s not like it’s a fad that’s a one- or two-year fad, you’re going to see more and more of it.

Rockies Staying Pat at Winter Meetings

Rockies Staying Pat at Winter Meetings

The Colorado Rockies, knocked out in the wild card round of the 2018 playoffs, don’t see the need to make any big moves this off season. Manager Bud Black discusses the upcoming season at a press conference at the winter meetings in Las Vegas.

Q. How Comfortable are you guys if you didn’t make a major move this winter?
BUD BLACK: I think very comfortable. We have a lot of guys back from a team that we feel is very competitive. But I do think that we will — I do think that will not be the case.

Q. I read an article the other day, you talking about the Jake Peavy trade that never materialized, the Cubs, you talked about Kevin Towers. Do you like the Winter Meetings? Do you like to be involved?
BUD BLACK: In what way? Yes.

Q. With like work that the front office — would you prefer not to even have —
BUD BLACK: No, I think the Winter Meetings are — I think — Tracy can speak to this probably better than me. But there’s a drastic change in the Winter Meetings now than back in the day. And even the last I’d say five years. But I still enjoy it. I still think there’s a place for a gathering of all of us.

Q. But from your perspective, do you like — I’m sure you must like to offer your input. Do you like to be in the middle —
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think there’s a collection of us in the room that offer different perspectives on the direction of our team and our roster, Big League roster, even what’s going on in the minor leagues.

I think the managers are a part of that collaboration. And I enjoy that.

Q. Are you in the final year of a three-year deal, we talked to Jeff about it a while ago, six weeks ago, and he said nothing had been done yet, but he had a good vibe, I think is what he said about it. Can you tell us from your side of it where your future in Colorado is?
BUD BLACK: Well, I’m concerned about what’s going on at the present, right? I think that where we are as a team takes precedent over anything that might be happening with me. So that’s where my focus is.

But I’m happy to hear that Jeff thinks there’s a good vibe. That’s a good thing.

Q. We talk a lot during these meetings about free agents, possible trades. Can you kind of go over some of the younger guys that we saw a little bit of that you’re expecting to have bigger roles, especially in your everyday —
BUD BLACK: To Tracy’s question, I think that the roster will look different than how it ended. I think that’s just how the nature of going from one year to the next, based on where players are in their careers, where contracts are.

So definitely I think we have — I wouldn’t call it a wave. But we have some new players coming on the horizon that should be a bigger part of our roster construction.

And you saw a lot of those guys last year. David Dahl coming back from a couple of years of being a little banged up, hopefully will be at full strength and give us a full season in the Big Leagues.

Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson, those two fellows. Position player side come to the forefront of maybe having an impact. Pat Valaika bouncing back from a year that was a little bit up and down for him. Tapia, I think, will be in the mix.

These guys have been in the Big Leagues. They’ve shown at times a Major League performance that could indicate that better performance is on the way. So that’s what we’re looking at from those fellows.

Q. It looks like we don’t know about Adam Ottavino coming off career year as a free agent if he wanted to come back to the Rockies. How do you see the back end of your bullpen? I know it’s still early and a lot of things can happen. But that’s going to be a challenge to solve that?
BUD BLACK: He was a big piece for sure. He pitched at a level that really helped us win games from start of the year to the end.

We have a number of guys that we think can bounce back from off years, Shaw, McGee, to name those guys right up front. I think their performance will be key. They’ve done it before. Oberg pitched very well. Seunghwan Oh pitched very well in the force when we got them and a couple of others guys, Estevez, D.J. Johnson who we saw.

So we have some guys that we think, if we do not have Otto, that these guys can step in and perform.

Q. When you talk about some of these guys had bad years coming back, first of all, from your own experience, but Ottavino himself, that’s not unusual?
BUD BLACK: Not unusual. You look at a lot of relief pitchers in general, their career path, you’ve seen some variability. That was sort of surprising thing with Shaw was that the consistency that he had in Cleveland for five years.

So to have an off year, you know, lends me to believe that he’ll bounce back. But that’s not uncommon for a lot of relief pitchers. And that’s been documented by a lot of front offices.

That’s what we’re hoping for from those two guys. But we feel pretty good obviously about Wade, where he is. I think Oberg made great strides, but whether we stand pat with those guys that we have, you know, we feel pretty good about it. Dunn has a chance to come back after his surgery, to make an impact.

Chris Rusin pitched probably not to the level of expectation. But I thought found his way a little bit at the end of the year.

Q. Otto last year was an example —
BUD BLACK: Is a big example of a bounce-back for sure.

Q. When he went into Spring Training?
BUD BLACK: Yeah.

Q. Would Otto dominate Babe Ruth?
BUD BLACK: You know, Babe was pretty good down and in. That breaking ball coming down and into him. He might be able to get that at Yankee Stadium, or at Coors Field if Babe played at Coors. But I think the record speaks for itself. Babe was a pretty good hitter.

Q. Was that your breaking ball that got hit down or across the board?
BUD BLACK: I once threw a pretty good slider down and away to Babe that he had a pretty good swing on. He was a tough out for me. For the most part I felt pretty comfortable against left-handed hitters, but Babe was always a challenge for me.

Q. We’ve seen some nontraditional coaching staff hires in baseball recently. With pitching and hitting analytics off the driver. What are your thoughts on that, what does it mean looking forward?
BUD BLACK: We’ll see going forward. But I like the creativeness of the thinking of those of us in this game from the people who were making hires, I think it shows that it’s not a closed box; it’s opened for whoever might have a skill set that a certain team is looking for or to give it a shot. And I think that’s great.

Q. You’ve had a little bit of turnover this offseason with your coaching staff. There have been some rumors out there who might come in. What are some characteristics that you’re looking for in those hires to replace?
BUD BLACK: In general?

Q. Yeah.
BUD BLACK: That’s a — I wouldn’t say it’s a tough question, but it’s really open ended. But for me I think — and I’ll say this: As long as I’m in this game, I think from a coaching perspective, I think there’s a teaching component that I think is real. So the coaches that I have, I want them to be regarded as teachers. I want them to teach our players.

I think there’s a leadership component that comes with a good coach. The ability to individually lead men or as a group lead a group. And I think there’s an aspect of coaching that is motivational, to be able to motivate players, inspire players. So those three aspects, I think, the teacher, leader, motivator.

I look at the qualities of that person as a coach. So to have those, that’s sort of the baseline of where I go from.

There’s also the knowledge, the credibility that where they’ve been to be able to get through to players.

Q. The importance of measuring with your philosophy as a manager?
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I think there’s the interaction and the collaboration of the coaching staff is vital. But I do think that the diversity also of each coach is important, too.

But there’s a collectiveness to us that seven or eight guys as a coaching, Big League coaching staff, their everyday with the players, that unit has to be together.

Q. One of your coaches, Mike Redmond, has been linked with the Orioles now. If he were to get that job, what do you think he would bring, seeings as how he’s been in a similar situation with Miami?
BUD BLACK: Well, Mike’s a very good baseball man. I think he sees the game in a way that lends itself to being very practical but, yet, I think he’s creative, too.

I think he has a good way with people. He has a good way with players. I think players respond to him. He’s easy to be around. So in that regard the interaction with ownership front office players, media, I think he’s very well schooled and all that and for me he has — he has those qualities.

So if the Orioles go in that direction, you know I think they’ve made a good hire.

Q. In what ways would you say that your role as a manager has changed over the last, I don’t know, 10 or so years since you first became one, the game has changed so much so quickly, I’m wondering if you felt that as a manager and kind of —
BUD BLACK: I think as a manager or in any leadership position, I think you have to be really current with what’s evolving. You have to be aware of what’s happening in the game.

Do you change as a person? No. I mean, do you change in who you are on a day-to-day basis? No. I think there’s some principles that we all have about how to lead and what we do in our sport to get the most out of our players and the most out of our team.

But what it’s changed is I think that the front office dynamic has changed from my first year in 2007 and even going back to when I was with the Angels in 2000, when I really became part of the coaching staff.

So these last 18 years, we’ve seen the front office expansion of just people in the offices from the general manager to the many assistant GMs and all the people who are surrounding the GMs, the different departments, the analytics departments, strength and conditioning, medical staff, I mean, it’s a much bigger group of people on the baseball op side.

Even the coaching staff has expanded to assistant pitching coach, assistant hitting coaches. Eighth and ninth coaches across the board.

So with that, I think what has changed is your ability to manage all that and how we interact with all those different departments that are growing and being able to utilize all those departments in the present. Of everything that is happening. I think that is what’s changed. And I do think way back when there was only one time when you met with the media per day. Now it’s two, potentially three.

Q. You have a good relationship with Bruce Bochy, and if this is indeed his last year as a manager in baseball, would you share what you think his impact has been on the game?
BUD BLACK: Well, I hope it’s not his last year. I truly mean that, because Bruce is — he’s great for the game. Because he’s a great manager. I think historically, what he’s done in his entire career, and more recently with the Giants winning three world championships, that’s fantastic work. That’s hard. I mean, it’s hard to win one let alone three.

And he’s done it. But my relationship with Bruce, especially the last number of years, has become a little closer. We’ve socialized more, doing some things in the offseason together with other guys.

But his impact has been a big one, I think, in the game, because I think a lot of other managers have looked at Bruce to see how he’s done things.

And for me there’s been in my career — and I’ll go back to my days with the Angels when he was managing the Padres, there’s been no better in-game manager strategically than Bruce.

I always felt as though when the game started, there was never going to be a mistake on his side. And there were many times when I thought we were going to be in a pretty good position to pinch-hit or a pitching change, but I wasn’t. So he’s very good in that regard.

And I think he brings a — I think there’s an old-school sturdiness to Bruce and a grittiness and a toughness that I admire, that I think is natural and genuine. And it’s good stuff, man. He’s a good guy. I think that’s the main thing.

Q. This offseason, I don’t know if you were tinkering around with potential lineup or defensive configurations, and if so, has that looked any different than what it did last year?
BUD BLACK: For sure. Like I said, there’s going to be a little turnover in our roster. And I do think there will be some new additions. And I think, like I said, there’s going to be younger guys who will get more of an opportunity to play.

So we’ll have the rest of this offseason prior to Spring Training to think about some of these things in earnest. When our team assembles in Spring Training, we’ll be able to look at it more closely. But I think it’s natural to start thinking about those things for sure. But until you really have your team, I think that’s when it really starts.

Q. Follow up on that briefly, in center fielding, it’s logical we talked about whether Charlie would eventually move to a [inaudible]. Is that something that’s given more serious consideration?
BUD BLACK: We’ve talked about that with our group and amongst ourselves. And also with Charlie, I think he knows that at some point there might be a move to the corner. At some point in his career. So to your question, yes.

Q. Is that player on your roster that might play center in that situation?
BUD BLACK: We have a few options for sure. David Dahl could play center. Charlie could play center. Don’t forget Ian Desmond made the All-Star team in 2016 with the Texas Rangers as a centerfielder.

And Ian grew up as a center of the diamond player. He’s very comfortable being in the middle of the diamond. That’s a possibility as well.

Q. Did you say centerfield is Dahl’s eventual position?
BUD BLACK: I think with David, he could be anywhere. But centerfield suits David, as do the corners. But in our park, from — and this is even from the other side of the field when I was playing the Rockies, I think centerfield and left field are two very important defensive positions. Left field in our park is big. And to have a guy with centerfield skill set to play left I think is really important.

Q. You have some really good starters at the top of the rotation as we know. The back end there’s some guys that struggled the past year, but you have some really high-talented prospects in the organization. How much of a competition do you envision seeing for those last few spots in the starting rotation come spring?
BUD BLACK: Well, last year we felt really good about our rotation based on what we saw in ’17.

This year we feel the same, with German and Kyle and Jon and Chad, Tyler, Antonio. Jeff Hoffman, I think, hopefully bounces back. And Peter Lambert is a year older, touch Triple-A. He’s looking to make an impact too.

There’s some guys in Double-A that are making some noise. So we feel pretty good about our group of starters. And knock on wood, we’ve been fortunate about the health of these fellows. There’s only a couple rotations that have made their starts like our guys have. And we haven’t really had to go deep into the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th starter. And our guys have went to the post, which is what you need. It’s been a big part of our success.

But we feel good about our guys. And with some of these younger guys emerging, they’re getting closer, that helps. That helps the entire group. But as far as like guys pushing to being in the rotation, our guys are so competitive that they don’t need to be pushed.

There’s a natural great competition amongst our guys to pitch well and to go out there and perform.

I never worry about our guys in that regard. But it’s good to have some strength in numbers in case something does go awry.

Q. Do you remember the first time you were told to cover your mouth during a mound conversation?
BUD BLACK: No, I don’t. I’m not sure I do.

Q. So you’ve never done that?
BUD BLACK: No, I don’t think I ever have. So if there’s a lip reader, I’m in trouble. That might be the tenth coach, lip reader.

Q. Does everybody in baseball seem more paranoid now than when you played?
BUD BLACK: For sure. I think there’s a lot of inherent paranoia going on. And we’ve all talked about that as far as, because of technology, number of cameras, scouting, you know people really scouting the other teams from a different variety of perspectives. The camera technology has really made advances in the ability to maybe get some sensitive information.

Q. Nolan going into a contract situation, complicated situation for him, it could potentially spill on to the field, it’s a lot to worry about for him. Do you expect to have to maybe help him through it a little bitter from the negotiating standpoint, would you like to be involved in trying to lure him back?
BUD BLACK: Do I want him back? Absolutely. I think from my perspective, Nolan is very aware of our feelings. I’ll speak for everybody, coaching staff, players, Jeff, Dick, we’d love to have Nolan as a long-time Rockie.

To your first question, do you think it will affect Nolan, I don’t think so. I truly think that the best place for him all the time is on the field. That’s where he feels most comfortable. And I think that will continue to happen. I think its performance will be fine.

Will I get involved? Probably not — no, that’s something for — I think that’s really a small circle. That’s Dick and Jeff and Nolan and Nolan’s representative and probably — and the people that Nolan is closest to. I think that’s a pretty small group that when you really get down to it, those are the people in those conversations.

Q. Given the horror stories about Coors Field to see your rotation, the National League and innings pitched —
BUD BLACK: Isn’t that great?

Q. Is that a special —
BUD BLACK: Yeah, I’m so proud of our guys. I mean you can’t say that enough. Keep talking about it. That just goes to show the talent they have and how they pitched last year. They were good. They were really good. And through thick and thin, I mean, there was never — you’ve heard me say we don’t talk about it. It’s a baseball field. And there’s a game being played by two teams.

But is pitching in altitude a real thing? Absolutely it’s real. But I’ve said this before that when the game’s over, somebody’s going to win. So we just gotta outplay the other team. Gotta outpitch them and outhit them and out defend them.

Q. You see it turn on in the second half. Do you anticipate further improvement?
BUD BLACK: I think so, yeah. To what degree, can’t tell you that. But there’s still room in there. I mean, there’s a changeup in there of things coming. I think there’s always the fastball command improvement that all pitchers strive for.

I think there’s a breaking ball consistency in there. I think there’s a level of going from the bullpen to that first inning where you’re more calm and poised because of experience that something’s going to happen. But he’s a good one. He’s a good one.

Q. [Inaudible] mentioned the best pitchers in the game. Four Cy Young this year, but there’s always that little thing that —
BUD BLACK: Sure, again, you’ve heard me share this before. I’m a big believer in passing the test of time. I think Kyle’s two years. He’s shown that consistency — I know the second half of ’17 was maybe a little variable. But from the first part of May to the end of the season he was as consistent as any pitcher in the Big Leagues.

Now, the challenge for Kyle is to continue that performance, and I’m very confident that he can do it. I’m confident that he believes he can do it.

So again, like German and a lot of young pitchers, there’s still growth there. We saw the changeup make great strides. I think there’s still a little bit of growth there with the changeup usage and the consistency of the breaking ball, again, fastball command.

But passing the test of time is something that I think all players strive for to then get in those conversations that you’re talking about. But he’s on his way. He’s good, too.

MLB Winter Meetings: Cubs’ Manager Joe Maddon Officially Lame Duck

The Chicago Cubs, stung by the early exit from the 2018 playoffs, have refused to offer manager Joe Maddon a contract extension. Maddon talks about the news, and what that means for the 2019 season, in a press conference today:

Q. How did you initially take the front office coming to you and saying, we want more from everybody, including you? Maybe a different dynamic from you. How did you absorb that?
JOE MADDON: Easily. I mean, I expect more out of myself, also. It’s not just somebody else bringing that to your attention. First of all, I do want to say that I think a lot of our guys did do well. It wasn’t a horrible season. You can’t look at 95 wins and totally flush it down the toilet. But when you get ejected that quickly you’re going to look more deeply, how do you avoid that from happening again.

So that’s where we’re at right now. I actually like it. I love challenges, as you well know. I’ve already been writing different items down going into camp. Like I said, probably to this point, the 11th, I probably had more conversations via text or actual phone calls with guys than I’ve had in the past, despite moving around a whole lot.

It’s just what you’re supposed to do. It’s not like it’s anything new. It should not be a surprise when you have high expectations like we do and you don’t meet them, you’ve got to do something about it. And so like I said, we’ve had great conversation and the planning has been really good.

Q. How might your day-to-day life during the season change?
JOE MADDON: Well, I guess I’m not going to get to talk to you guys as long. I do have a tendency to get long-winded, I admit it. Part of the plan is to get out a little more often on the field, which I love. This is not like — part of these past couple of years for me is I thought it was important that I did spend a lot of time with you guys in regards to setting up the program, what we’re doing there, answering your questions, which I’ll continue to do. However, with all the new coaches this year and still a lot of young players being developed, I think it’s more important that I get more involved on the field a little more often.

It’s not going to be a dramatic difference. But I do like to coach. And there’s a distinct difference between managing a coach, like you all know. Having this opportunity to get back on the field more in a coaching role more often, I’m looking forward to it.

Q. How different is it from previous, however long you’ve been managing, how different do you expect it to be?
JOE MADDON: Minimally. You guys see me every day. The difference would be that I want to get out. You saw me in Spring Training; I get involved in a lot of the drills in camp. During the season I’ll just maybe make this a little bit shorter and get outside during the batting practice and make sure I walk around a little bit and talk to the guys a little bit more often.

I don’t think you’re going to see visually a dramatic change. I don’t want to paint the wrong picture at all. My teeth were cut in development. I am a developmental guy. I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times today. We need to get a lot of our young players — I would say primarily obviously the challenge is going to be offensively this year. Last year we played pretty good defense, we ran the bases well, pitched pretty well. We have to get more offensive. And that’s pretty much what I majored in as a Minor League coach.

So I want to get more involved in that a little bit, but not to the point of interference. I do believe and still believe in empowering coaching staff and staying out of their way, and I’ll continue to do that. But I just feel it’s necessary that I just get out there a little bit more often.

Q. With the coaching staff, these are new guys but obviously familiar faces and names, how important is that continuity?
JOE MADDON: Of course. Continuity in a coaching staff, of course selfishly from my perspective, makes it easier for me. But it’s all about the players. When players are around and coached by guys that they have trust and confidence in, obviously they have that trust and confidence, and when you speak to them they take it more to heart and it has a much better chance of being implemented and working.

So I know our players like the guys coming in. I think it’s going to be an easy transition, not a difficult one. All that stuff is going to be seamless. However, like for Tommy, for instance, Tommy has not done this. And pitching coach in a dugout, I’ve talked to him about this, because he and I communicated a lot, regardless. The difference is going to be in game communication and how you go about that. He’s got to get used to it. I get kind of quick in the dugout, having him think quickly and understanding me in the dugout is going to be important. We’ll get through that the first two weeks. But those are the kind of nuance.

The other part is I’m really into coaching the coaches. We talked about the players. I’ve done in the past a pretty regular bimonthly meeting with coaches. I like to coach the coaches. And last year I probably did it monthly not bimonthly. But with the young coaches that’s something also that’s going to be important to get back into that.

Best way I could describe it, I put my Minor League hat back on, which I love to do. The developmental component, the instructional component, try to challenge myself on that level. And again, kind of fun to think about it.

Q. What do you think now that you’ve had some time to digest it, happened offensively? There’s a lot to digest. What do you think went on there?
JOE MADDON: Well, for a lot of guys there’s a couple that really got off — Albert got off well early on, maybe struggled later on. We’ve got to get Kyle to the level he’s capable of and happy. Jason did better, also, maybe regressed a bit.

It’s just a communication thing, quite frankly. When I speak to you and how I say something to you as an instructor, how well do you take that and understand that. I’ve always been into the phrase. In other words, listen, Chili is outstanding, I’m a big Chili guy here, but you’re always seeking for the, in other words, method that makes sense to you.

So whether it was John or Chili, this is all us seeking the right message and a method that you understand perfectly. So maybe going back to people that you’ve been around before might unlodge something or make it somewhat easier to connect. The connection becomes easier.

Listen, hitting is difficult. It’s not just us. If you look around the industry, a lot of young hitters did struggle last year. There’s one part of our game, and that is hitting, to me, the offensive players have a great disadvantage based on most of the analytics, most of the stuff out there, most of the video study, really helps and aides pitching and defense and does very little for hitters. I stand by that, I believe that. Hitting is reactive, whereas pitching and defense is proactive.

So hitters, there’s a lot more to absorb when you’re only in the league a couple of years, Schwarber missed some time, Happi is still young, Albert, the same thing, they’re still working on the at-bats. Patience, that’s where I’m at. There is some technique that is applicable to make these guys better, but I think patience is required to permit these guys to get to the level of their competency. This is where I’m at with all this.

Conversationally, I’ve talked to Termel and talked about specifics about what I think. Definitely we’re absolutely on the same page. That’s where we’ve got to go with these guys. That’s the next level of our success. I think a lot of it is going to be commanded by how well we command the strike zone, how well we attack the baseball, how well we utilize the whole field, move the ball in situations.

Q. How do you feel about becoming a free agent manager?
JOE MADDON: I’ve been there before. I’ve been there before. No, it’s all good. We’ve had some really good conversations. I totally understand where he’s coming from. I am not offended. I don’t feel badly about it. I get it.

I’m excited. I’m really excited about all this. If you have a lot of self-confidence, things like that do not bother you, and I do. I’m going to do my job. I might alter it a little bit like getting out on the field more often.

What we’ve done over the last four years I feel pretty good about, feel strongly about, and I think you’ll see that trend continue. The whole objective now, and we want to put the emphasis on us and winning. And I definitely don’t want the emphasis on me. I want to get beyond all this.

I am very happy with my stature and my status. The Cubs have taken extremely good care of me and my family to the point where I could never repay them enough.

So regardless of your label attachment, your moniker right now, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to do the same job, and I feel very confident moving forward that I’m going to be a big part of the Cub organization.

Q. And you have a choice, as well?
JOE MADDON: Of course I will. And let’s just win the World Series and see how that plays out. I love the city of Chicago. I love the fans. I mean that sincerely. You’ve heard me say this all the time, the interaction is spectacular. To be able to report to Wrigley Field daily I consider an honor. And again, my whole life has changed over the last four years based on this opportunity. There’s no ill will.

And furthermore, the concept that Theo and I have any kind of a disengagement or a lack of philosophical sameness is untrue. We have great conversations. And we’re definitely almost a hundred percent on the same page all the time. It’s a great conversation. When you hear things like that, and I’m not going to defend myself, because I think that’s a boring method when you have to defend yourself against something like that, just know that we are on the same page. And philosophically really aligned well. So when I have to answer those questions to my mom, that makes it more difficult. That’s what bums me out a little bit.

Q. You said you want to stay in Chicago. Do you expect this will work out and 2020 you’ll be the manager of the Cubs?
JOE MADDON: I’d like to believe so. Absolutely. That’s my plan. Again, how could you not love that opportunity or the gig. The gig is the best. My players, the people I work with, I could not ask for more, it’s impossible. Facilities, if you need something you get it the next day or the next week. It’s an incredible situation. I think it’s the best in the Major Leagues. And I’ve often talked about Wrigley being the best professional facility in all the world, and I mean that sincerely.

So for me, of course I want to be able to maintain this method and I do believe that will happen.

Q. When you look around your division, the Brewers got to the other side of their rebuild pretty quick, the Cardinals added Goldschmidt.
JOE MADDON: I don’t like the Diamondbacks right now at all, I really don’t.

Q. Now the Reds have totally changed things.
JOE MADDON: I’ve been saying it all year: I think we have the best division in baseball, I really do. Team for team I think we’re the best because of the ascension of these other groups. Playing the Cardinals is no fun again. And the Pirates continue to get better, they made some really good deals. Milwaukee showed their mettle last year. Cincinnati, we’ve had decent success against them. They’ve had a lot of good players come through the door.

Our division is going to be very difficult this year. You’ve got to win your division overall. You’ve got to build up some spread there. And it’s not going away.

I’ve argued this last year: There’s no parity in the Big Leagues right now. I’m seeing it, talking about our division, but the ascension of the Braves, you’ve seen what the Mets are going to do, the Phillies. The whole thing has gotten tougher. NL West, I really appreciate their pitching a lot.

So the overall, it’s not an easy thing to do. And that’s the point, when you win 90 or 90-plus games, winning just one Major League Baseball game is really difficult to do. So, again, with all the negative stream that’s attached to the fact that we had a pretty good season last year but not get deeply into the playoffs, there’s a lot to love about our group, which I do, and I’m proud of what we’ve done over the last couple of years.

Q. How do you think Goldschmidt improves the Cardinals?
JOE MADDON: Did you ever see them play against us? Against everybody (laughter). This guy is a really good defender, and he’s a good baserunner, too. I have a total appreciation for this guy’s game. You put him in the lineup and Ozuna is another guy. Carpenter had a great year last year. Bader is ascending right now also. They’re very offensive. And they’ve got young pitching now. They’ve gotten really good. He’s kind of like, when he sashays into the clubhouse and everybody sees him walking in there, they all become better. That definitely makes them much more difficult to beat next year.

Q. What do you think of the potential of the shifts being eliminated or outlawed?
JOE MADDON: That’s the one — I’ve talked about I really want to be more acquiescent involving change. I’m primarily talking about a pitch clock. Shifting changes, I’m not on board with the fact that you’d eliminate that, legislate no shifting.

I still contend that there’s a part of the game that we don’t like that you want to make better or change, to really focus on that in the Minor Leagues, those are our next Big League players. You could easily identify, the heavy left-handed hitter that, with all the analytics, that he’s going to be in trouble. Really work on him learning how to bunt, hit the ball on the ground to the shortstop. I think that’s where it needs to begin. It’s more a technique-driven kind of situation to adjust.

Having said that, to get your guys that have been in the Big Leagues for four, five or seven years to change, it’s almost impossible. And when you ask them to do that, it looks easy, sitting up top, the game looks slower, it looks easier, but standing sideways at home plate at 95, and try to do something you’re totally uncomfortable with is very hard to do.

My answer is no, I would not legislate against the shift. The shift should be organically maneuvered. But if you really want your hitters to be more of a liberal arts method of hitting, work on that in the Minor Leagues. If the guy is big in — you never punt in the Minor League, and you never try to say, hit and run. You never did that with them. Those are the kind of things that need to be nurtured there so the shift becomes moot and not such a big issue.

Q. (Inaudible.)
JOE MADDON: I know I’m not — just the libertarian perspective — I see both sides. But really, I’m so anti-legislation, as you well know.

Q. Back to your team a little bit. Front office as recently as yesterday sort of intimated there’s maybe a little lack of leadership in one quality. Did you see that as you look back at it? Is it an edge you need to get back?
JOE MADDON: That’s something I’d like to have every year. You look at a couple years ago when the Royals got really good, Houston added a couple of vets in their locker room, catcher — McCann — they made a huge difference down there.

This is something that is very difficult to analytically prescribe regarding how important this is. It’s one of the most important things you could possibly do, to get that right kind of mix in your clubhouse. Whereas a manager, you should not be privy to a lot of the trivial conversations that occur. And if I am, that means I’ve got a stool pigeon; I don’t want one. If you’re this veteran leader and you hear this really inane conversation going on that you know is counterproductive and if you do not intervene, then you are not doing your job as a veteran player, as a leader in the clubhouse.

So people would say why doesn’t the manager, of course you’re the leader, you’re the overall leader of the group, but there are certain things you are not privy to and you shouldn’t be. That’s where these guys really make a difference in the fabric. David was unusual, because Dave would grab guys walking off the field after a play. And I would be entertained in my corner watching this whole thing unfold. I would address it afterwards. There’s nothing wrong with that. I know that some of the guys were afraid to come in the dugout. And still that’s okay, because they knew David was on their side.

Yes, we want that. I would say that every team out here wants that and they’re hard to find.

Q. (Inaudible.)
JOE MADDON: They’re more conversational. No, they do a nice job. Absolutely they do a nice job. It’s just different. A little bit edgier dude. Johnny Lackey, he had that edge all the time, didn’t he? We’ve had that within our group. I love it. I love it. It makes my job easier in a good way.

But also the young players benefit. This is a beneficial component to the younger players. It’s just something that is not as readily found as maybe as it had been. Even when I was in the Minor Leagues, we wanted to get a vet, like a guy that was a Triple-A player, place him in the A-ball club. Just to do these kind of things. It’s a concept that’s been utilized for years on a Major League level, love it.

Q. Can you kind of put your finger on why (inaudible)?
JOE MADDON: You know, I’m not often into mechanical panaceas, but I do believe it might be more mechanical than anything. I know he’s working on stuff right now. I’m looking forward to talking with him when I get back down to Tampa. Still when you miss an entire year it still has an impact. He missed an entire year. And he’s still playing catchup regarding at-bats. And then I consider all that stuff.

So him, Happi is the same guy, Ian is the same way. We need to nurture methods, thought process at the plate, self-awareness. These are the kind of things that make you a good situational hitter. And you want to get done. Schwarb has got all the ability in the world and who cares more than he does. That needs to be patiently worked with, I believe. I believe it’s mechanically — there’s some mechanical things that may be tweaked a bit and to really reduce, reduce, go up with a simple plan. But I can say that with anybody.

Q. So when people ask you about teams spending money, but can you understand certain consternation from the fan base or from the media people saying, well, you have this window here, why wouldn’t you spend that extra money to go for the biggest free agent out there?
JOE MADDON: Obviously I understand the conversation, absolutely I do. But from our perspective, we feel like we have a lot of that stuff already there that we’ve got to get more out of. It’s my job to extract Schwarber’s line drive, left center, two outs, RBI single. Ian Happ, running around third base, infield bat, one out, to be able to hit that ground ball to second base. We have it. These guys are that level of a player. They’re going to show that within the next couple of years.

So from our perspective, and I totally agree with this, we have what we need. They’re going to go out and do a couple of things. But we’ve got to extract from the group that we believe are their potentials. And I’m in agreement.

Q. One of your coaches, Brandon Hyde has been interviewed for the Orioles job, and you were in a similar position in Tampa Bay that the Orioles are now in. What kind of advice would you give him or any manager taking over a situation like that?
JOE MADDON: Well, you’ve got to — okay, tell you me, I’m going to bore you guys, you guys hear my crap all the time — I mean everybody wants the, well, we’re going to be tougher. We’re going to run plays, whatever. You’ve got to build relationships from the ground up. You’ve got to get to know people first. And they’ve got to get to know you. When you do that, you start trusting each other. And once you trust each other, I promise you the ideas flow more freely. And then when you’re constructively critical of one another you’re not pushing back.

It starts right there. It’s not complicated. And then after that you have to have a specific plan when you go out to practice, I believe in simplicity, you go out and create a simple plan that’s easy to follow and make sure that it’s adhered to. And if there’s anybody there that doesn’t belong there, they need to be gone. Early. So they’re the group that’s going to drag you down, drag your program down. When the program is being dragged down and they inflict these little wounds constantly, it’s difficult to get this thing to fly.

It’s not complicated, it’s not sexy, the explanation, but you’ve got to pay attention to those kind of things there before you really get your program running, and then you start playing right, you get the right dudes out there. Talking about the guys in the clubhouse, this team camaraderie and the sameness or this oneness about how you go about your business, that’s what matters.

Q. (Inaudible.)
JOE MADDON: I don’t know him that well. I knew obviously him and Longo were buds, and I’ve never really — I think I’ve talked to him one time by the batting cage. So I don’t know that answer. I don’t know health-wise where he’s at.

Q. If he’s got anything left on the field?
JOE MADDON: He was fabulous. When he was in Denver I loved what I saw. That’s been a while ago. I know the health has been an issue lately. I know Longo likes him a lot, which is good enough for me. That’s hard for me to assess.

Q. Relievers generally in their year-to-year volatility, why do you think that happens and what challenges does this present if building the bullpen?
JOE MADDON: Volatility, a lot of it has to do with feel. Some might have to do from the previous year. Some may have to do with feel. Just purely — and that’s hard to describe.

Sometimes, I mean if a guy’s done well and there’s greater expectations, maybe that’s an issue. So there’s a lot of little things going on. I think primarily would be two things, I would think, would be the usage from the year before and then how you match them up. I mean, you take a bullpen dude and you put him on the wrong guys all the time, he’s not going to pitch that well. So it’s a matter of how you set it up.

Stay away from injury, not running them into the ground the year before and how you match them up. I think that plays big into continued success. So I really pay attention to that.

A lot of it again is conversational. But there’s things that I believe in that you can’t necessarily mathematically indicate. It is feel. It is injury. It is what’s this guy thinking, the look in his eyeballs, are you setting him up right.

Q. Midway through the season (inaudible)?
JOE MADDON: I’m with you, man, and I was loud. And I totally believed it. I really thought once he made the All-Star Team, I thought that was going to take off. He’s going to be this guy. But for whatever reason the offense never came to fruition and he became really difficult on himself, and I think he dragged himself down a bit. We need to get him to continue to work on his defense to the point he understands the catcher’s responsibility regarding guiding his pitching staff.

Physically at the plate, you saw him two years ago, that last part of the season was phenomenal. So I just think he got in a bad rut and couldn’t get out of it. We’ve got to talk to him soon early on and get things straightened out with him mentally and how you approach this whole thing. I like that he plays with his hair on fire, but you can’t get too emotional. These are things we’ll talk about him. But talent-wise I meant that. I thought he was on the verge of becoming or was the best catcher in the National League.

Q. It seemed like he always had different setups.
JOE MADDON: Behind the plate?

Q. Is it important, at least this year, to have some semblance of consistency?
JOE MADDON: Sure. Always is. Yes. He was searching, he’s always searching for different methods. And when you have to search constantly, normally that means something is not quite right. We do have to arrive at a moment he’s most comfortable with and most functional. And sometimes you have to sacrifice comfort for function.

Even in the batter’s box, you have to sacrifice comfort for function, and then that becomes more comfortable as you get into this originally an uncomfortable spot. All of these things we’ve got to deal with with him.

The guy is an incredible talent. Strong, the way he throws, blocks the ball. There’s so much good right there. So we’ve got to, again, extract it out of him, start over a little bit this year, try to build into this method that he doesn’t become so emotional that he gets in his own way and permits this talent to take over.

Q. Talking about managing the Millennials and how that’s different now compared to when you started managing.
JOE MADDON: It’s a great read, “Managing Millennials for Dummies.” I’m in the middle of that right now. And you always think this for dummy’s thing is really rudimentary written, it’s really well written and researched. I’m learning about traditionalists, Baby Boomers, the X’ers, the Millennials. And I’m really starting to understand this a little bit better.

I think it’s important for me as a manager obviously, whether anybody here agrees or disagrees with the generation and how they process things, it doesn’t matter, because that’s the way it is. And if that’s the way it is, just like my dad, that generation, thought we were a bunch of babies, the Boomers, the traditionalist thought, they’re all soft. It doesn’t matter. You have to figure out how to communicate and extract the best out of this group and make sure that you’re always on the same page.

That’s what I’ve been studying. I’ve been studying that a lot. I’ve been studying social media a lot. A great book “Antisocial Media,” which I always thought there’s a strong component of that.

These are the kind of things we in this business today, football, baseball, whatever, again, regardless if you agree or not doesn’t matter, this is the way it is. And you have to make your adjustments. And that’s what I’m working on right now is to understand better how to better serve these guys.

Q. You’re reading something on Millennials?
JOE MADDON: “Managing Millennials for Dummies.”

Q. How much was symbolic moving from where the Cubs were before to a greater thing and maybe how a team can signal that with a big free agent sign?
JOE MADDON: You have to have short-term victories before you can have this long-term or reach your eventual goal. Short-term victories were to sign Jon Lester originally, and what Jon brought to the table. The Dexter Fowler addition was big. The ascension of KB. There’s so many short-term victories that eventually led us to the 2016 World Series victory.

Everybody wants to get things done right now. It doesn’t happen that way. You’ve got to be somewhat patient. You dog it in regards to how you’re going to go about it. But if you do that the reward is there. But everybody wants it right now, brother, and it just doesn’t play that way. But Jon Lester was probably the cornerstone of that ascension.