By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Great players win awards, great teams win championships.
The Cubs’ success in 2016 has been based on a couple important variables. First and foremost, the team’s baseball operations department did a fabulous job of acquiring players who had talent and excellent makeup. Step two was understanding the collective power of 25 men pulling the rope in one direction.
Manager Joe Maddon and his staff have been blessed with good young players and veterans who have won it all elsewhere. The mix appears to include selfless play equaling team success when combined with outstanding talent, as evidenced by the Cubs (93-53) clinching the NL Central crown Thursday night.
“That may be the most important concept,” Maddon said of the one-for-all Cubs methodology. “The fact that if you are selfless, then you are accountable. Then you are accountable to each other. If you are all of that, then there will be no excuse-making. There will be no whining or finger pointing, none of that really bad stuff that drags a group down. We have all been there and been a part of those groups. That can be destructive to the fabric of a group. If you start with the altruistic component and balance the part of going out there to perform and get to level five, all they want to do is win. That becomes the incredible team part.”
When he was hired by the Cubs in November 2014, Maddon emphasized that building relationships was the fundamental key to any group’s success. He then immediately set out to do that.
“I said at my first press conference that the first thing was about building relationships,” Maddon said. “If you build those relationships, it’s easier to cheer for the other guy. When those building blocks are in place and you trust each other, that is when really good stuff begins to occur. At the end of the day, it’s not about more numbers or better scouting reports. It’s about people interacting well. This group holds itself accountable to the moment better than any group I have been around. They are really special and really young. They will get even better. Their mentors in the clubhouse have been really fabulous.”
Perhaps the most selfless player on the team is reliever Hector Rondon, who stepped aside from his closer’s role and into a setup role after the Cubs after for Aroldis Chapman. Rondon had to embrace the reality that the team had gotten better despite the fact he had done nothing to lose his job based on poor or subpar performance.
“The first two games he replaced me, I felt a little different,” Rondon said. “After that, I talked to him. We started a really good relationship. He is here to help us win. It is not his fault. I told Theo (Epstein) and the other people, they made a really good decision. He has been really good and a great teammate.”
Rondon agreed with Maddon on the quality of the group and its ability to play winning baseball together.
“Everybody has a different way of being a leader here,” Rondon said. “Some are quiet, some are louder, but all of them get it done when they go onto the field. We feel great trust in each other as teammates and players.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.