(670 The Score) It’s not just the resumes and teaching abilities of new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis, pitching coach Jim Hickey and third-base coach Brian Butterfield that have manager Joe Maddon feeling comfortable with his revamped coaching staff.
He’s also highly complimentary of the personalities of Davis, Hickey and Butterfield, notably in their ability to take criticism and not be afraid to share their mind at the same time. Maddon revealed that much in a long-winded answer at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday afternoon.
Davis as a player and Maddon as a coach overlapped with the then-California Angels from 1994-’96, while he previously worked with Hickey in Tampa Bay.
“Chili and I go way back,” Maddon said. “Chili and I used to sit in the ballroom, the baseball room at Anaheim Stadium before it was redone, when I was there as the bullpen coach. And I’d be rubbing up baseballs and Chili would come back with a cigar and sit with me. We’d talk about hitting often. Even at that point, I thought, ‘This guy’s going to be a very good hitting coach someday.’ My point, I think, is that he and I have really open conversations about hitting. And there’s a lot of similarities. We overlap philosophically a lot. Even in that meeting prior to hiring him, it really came out again in regards to the philosophical amenities there that we really agree with. Primarily, it’s about approach, like approach with a runner in scoring position, approach situationally, approach with two strikes. Because I thought he was really good at that. Even then, he and I would sit and talk and there was so many similarities in how to go about this.
“So I’m going to be very comfortable throwing out there what I want to throw out there to Chili. Chili is a very strong personality, and he has a really strong belief system. With all our coaches, but I know with him specifically now with him being new and even with Hickey being new, the history I have with both of these guys, it’s easy. Just throw it out there. You don’t have to go through that tip-toe moment — ‘Am I going to offend this guy? Is he going to take what I say the wrong way?’ Which I absolutely hate. I love cross pollination when it comes to coaching meetings, that coaches are not afraid to step outside of their own little department to add to the conversation, because they know the guy they’re talking to is not going to be offended. Because their self-confidence is strong enough. With Butterfield (too), we have a real great group, a very self-confident group that nobody’s going to feel offended or threatened if somebody wants to try to help. So I try to do that with all my coaches, and I want the coaches to feel free to do that among each other.”
Whether that can be read as implicit criticism of the past coaching staff depends on your viewpoint. What’s clear is that the Cubs coaching staff went through a complete overhaul, as the team parted ways with hitting coach John Mallee, pitching coach Chris Bosio and third-base coach Gary Jones. Bench coach Davey Martinez also left to become manager of the Nationals, and assistant hitting coach Eric Hinske left for a promotion with the Angels.