Book Review: The Cubs Way (Tom Verducci, 2017)

Not just a baseball book, this one doubles as a millennial management blueprint, with several insights into the philosophies of team president Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon. Baseball fans and personnel managers alike will enjoy this one.

Built around the 2016 World Series, the chapters alternate chronologically between action within the seven game series and the several years of individual decisions leading up to those critical days.

While reading the depictions of the games themselves brings back the tension remarkably well, I also enjoyed the focus on the personnel strategies, some of which transcend baseball. In Chapter 6 (titled “That’s Cub”), Epstein discusses a moment of clarity when he consciously moved away from an unwritten baseball rule that precluded executives from discussing the weaknesses of players with the players themselves. While working for the Padres alongside former player Gary DiSarcina, Epstein found old scouting reports on DiSarcina that noted he was slow at turning double plays. DiSarcina, surprised, remarked that no one had ever shared that information with him during his playing career, and he lamented how helpful it would have been to have known that information and been given the opportunity to improve upon a weakness.

From that moment on, Epstein purposed to bring players up to speed with the scouting reports that were written on them, thus giving each player the opportunity to maximize their talent, and in turn, benefiting the player and the baseball team.

Later, in Chapter 12 (titled “The Zen of Joe”), Maddon lays out his 13 Core Principles of Managing, some of which are exclusive to baseball, though others transcend the game and are applicable to personnel management in general:

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1. Make a personal connection first; everything else follows.
2. There is only one team rule.
3. Freedom is empowering.
4. Never hold a team meeting in your home clubhouse.
5. Do not have a fine system.
6. Wear whatever you think makes you look hot.
7. Empower your coaches.
8. But don’t allow your coaches-or your veterans-to be harsh on young players.
9. Question data with feel.
10. Pregame work is excessive.
11. Keep signs simple and to a minimum.
12. A lineup card is all a manager needs in the dugout.
13. Forget “the book.” Making the first or third out at third base is okay.

Joe Maddon is a baby boomer. The cover touts this one as a sports book, but remember not to judge a book by the cover. This is also a book about managing millennials, and good books in that genre are hard to find. If Joe can take his first rule and connect with this generation, bringing them historic organizational success, we can follow his path and get there as well.

Spoiler alert: The Cubs win Game 7 of the 2016 World Series in extra innings.

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