By Chris Emma–

CHICAGO (CBS) — Nearly three hours before first pitch of Tuesday’s game, Cubs manager Joe Maddon arrived at the Waveland Avenue entrance of Wrigley Field for another day of work.

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Fans lined the street to get a glimpse and some words of encouragement in with Maddon, who’s always quick to offer a wave and smile. Then, it was off to third-base clubhouse and preparing for another game — and another important step closer to the playoff push.

Where many before him have failed, Maddon is thriving. Pressure has pushed previous Cubs managers over the edge, but the easygoing Maddon seems to be immune to it. The concept of curses, billy goats and 1908 means nothing to him.

“I’m really a big believer in not overthinking anything,” Maddon said.

In fact, Maddon has a phrase for it: unconsciously competent.

The Cubs entered Tuesday with a 67-49 record, in third place in the NL Central but good for a four-game lead for the second wild-card spot. Frankly, this seemed unlikely in spring training. For the Cubs to be this good, their rebuilding process had to come a lot earlier than expected. Growth had to occur in the process of a pennant race.

“If we had expected all these young players to come in and contribute, it would’ve been unfair,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But they’re doing it night in and night out. At this point, I think we expect these guys to go out and perform.”

What’s followed is starters Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta both reaching the top seven in National League WAR, Anthony Rizzo making a case for MVP, Kris Bryant becoming a leading Rookie of the Year candidate, Kyle Schwarber surprisingly joining that mix so soon and so many more contributing.

Part of the young Cubs’ success comes from Maddon’s mindset. He keeps it loose when times are tough — playing Barry Manilow after a loss in Miami was an all-timer — but also maintains focus on the grind of a baseball season. It resonates with his players.

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“I just like to see how we do that day,” Schwarber said. “It’s only about wins. If we keep winning, we’ll put ourselves in a good situation.”

When Maddon met with the Cubs’ baseball brass, drinking wine outside his “Cousin Eddie” RV, he was pitched on managing this young club. Theo Epstein and Hoyer said that talented prospects were coming, but no timetable was in place. Expectations were kept realistic, as they have since the baseball brass first came to Chicago.

But Maddon made his own expectations. After all, he led the small-market Tampa Bay Rays and a team of young prospects to the World Series in 2008. Maddon believed in the process of growth and also that his quirky style would work.

“I promise you — I mean this sincerely,” Maddon said. “There’s nothing I would change about our guys right now.

“I really thought we could be this good — I did. I’ve been saying it all year.”

Expectations will continue to pile on these Cubs as the season progresses. Each win brings the club closer to clinching the postseason, each loss adds to the pressure. Cubdom has been known to eat its kings alive, but this is all different. As Cubs great Billy Williams explained, this team and its manager are having too much fun.

Every game becomes more meaningful, the stage grows larger and the pressure should seem to hit harder. But that doesn’t apply to Maddon and his Cubs. He doesn’t feel the heat of his predecessors, many of whom crumbled on the job.

Each day brings new joy on the job for Maddon, all part of the push for history.

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Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.