St. Louis Cardinals

Loose Cubs are a reflection of their laid-back manager

Given their club's post-season history, a 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series could easily rouse familiar feelings in the guts of Chicago baseball fans.

The Cubs haven't been in the post season since 2008, haven't won a playoff series since 2003 and a world championship? That's the most well-documented drought in all of sports.

So was the first game loss in a five-game series just a down payment on another disappointment? Was that just "the Cubs being the Cubs?"

Manager Joe Maddon to fans: "go ahead and worry."

But don't think he and his clubhouse subscribe to a culture of fear. History, he says, has nothing to do with the here and now.

"I don't vibrate at that frequency. It has nothing to do with anything, it really doesn't," he said in the hours before Game 2. "I talked about it the other day — the process is fearless. If you want to live your life based on the outcome, you're going to be fearful a lot and, when you're doing that, you're not really living in the particular moment ...

"For our fans back home, please go ahead and be worried, but understand that from our perspective in the clubhouse, we're more worried about the process than the outcome."

Keeping a team with five position players 26-years-old or younger loose, especially in the post season, starts by being an example, Maddon says.

"It's just the way I act," he said. "When the players look in the corner of the dugout, what do I look like? How do I walk in the door after a tough moment? When I have conversations with them, that's really important that I remain consistent."

Maddon prefers to keep preparation loose, too. Pre-game batting practice is optional even before a so-called "must-win" Game 2 Saturday. And Sunday's off-day workout sounds more like a day at the country club.

"We're going to have some breakfast at Wrigley, enjoy our optional batting practice, watch some NFL football on the big screen then get ready for the next game," he said.

It's an effective way to manage, says lead-off hitter Dexter Fowler. He should know — he's had six managers during his eight-year career.

"He lets us relax and have fun and I think that's huge," Fowler said. "He doesn't get too uptight. He lets the veterans in the clubhouse manage the clubhouse, and he goes out and manages on the field. And, you know, that's been working, and he's our manager for a reason. He's had success for a reason."

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman