Just a few days after the Cubs hiring of Mike Quade as their new manager, I’m learning more and more about the guy that I like. I like that he’s down to earth. I like that he expects accountability, from himself AND his players. I like that the players respect him and have come out to support the hire. I like that he will rely upon the numbers and statistics, but will also manage with his gut and instincts. An example – he told a story of how they were looking at Sean Marshall’s numbers against a particular batter late in the season. The overall numbers were bad, but Quade decided to look deeper into the numbers and he found that Marshall had retired the batter each of the last 9 times he faced him and that most of the bad numbers occurred years ago when Marshall was used as a starting pitcher every so often. So Quade went with his gut, used Marshall in the situation and he got the guy out again. It’s stories like that that make you think he’s going to lead the 2011 Cubs team in a way that we haven’t seen a manager do since Lou Pinella did back during the 2nd half of 2007 and in all of 2008. Pinella essentially gave up after that – during the Milton Bradley fiasco of a year in 2009 and when he decided to leave the team in August 2010 after an atrocious 2010 MLB season. Something tells me that this Mike Quade guy won’t quit on the job like that – he can’t afford to if he expects to make the most of this golden opportunity.
Here are a few other quotes from Quade — “I’d loved the game and wanted to manage at this level, yeah. But when you get done playing and you’re young and you’re fired up and you’re going, ‘OK, three years, four years. I’ll start moving up the ladder and I’ll be there.’ And then, five years go by. You’re still staying after it. You love what you do. You’re teaching, working and then 10 years go by. You change your goals. All of a sudden, you’re going, ‘Wow, this is a tough gig,’ but all the while getting to do what I love to do… I talk so much about the process with the ballclub and it’s probably the same for me. If it ever get to a point where I said, ‘Gosh, am I going to get it?’ I probably would have walked away.”
Asked how he felt about the negative Cubs history — “But I’ve lived here and I was raised here. I get it. You’re totally aware of it. But it’s not going to do us any good at all as a ballclub or me as a manager or me as a person, to have that anywhere near my thoughts on a daily basis.” That is the perfect response – let’s just hope he means it and can implement it.
As for his feelings about Ryne Sandberg potentially joining his staff at the major league level – “Having Sandberg join the staff is not impossible, that’s for sure… That would be a unique circumstance, but I’m telling you, everybody is on the table. I would never say anybody is not available… That would be a unique situation that Ryne and I would have to talk about. And look, by the way, he’s got other opportunities from what I understand. It’s not only what I want, necessarily, he’s got a lot of things to deal with as well. But we’ll have to see.” That was a polite and professional way of saying, “not a chance in hell and I hope he goes elsewhere”, but what else was he supposed to say given how badly Sandberg campaigned for the job the last 4 season as he toiled and earned his stripes in the minor leagues.
However, you cut it, Quade has his work cut out for him. The team really isn’t all that good and with payroll concerns in mind, it will be hard for GM Jim Hendry to add more valuable pieces to the puzzle from the outside. The Cubs should still be able to draw a free agent or too into the mix (Adam Dunn at 1st base, maybe a starting pitcher or maybe a seasoned veteran reliever), but they will primarily place high expectations on some of the young players that will get considerable playing time in 2011 – Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Blake DeWitt and a few others. If they put the pieces together, and the players continue to buy into the Quade magic, who knows, maybe we’ll see a team still in contention at the end of the summer. It’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened…