Feeding the beast: Managing at Wrigley Field

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Feeding the beast: Managing at Wrigley Field

Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010
6:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade has acknowledged that his life could be in a completely different place if Lou Piniella hadnt agreed to make him part of the Cubs coaching staff almost four years ago.

Quade had spent the past four seasons managing at Triple-A Iowa and 15 of the previous 18 working in the minor leagues. He couldnt know when hed get another chance to get back to the majors.

Quade remained grateful for that, even as other opportunities opened up around him. He sat in the Wrigley Field dugout one morning in late September and remembered the last thing Piniella told him before he took over as Cubs manager.

He said just be prepared to deal with (the media), Quade recalled. It wasnt negative. It was just like this is a huge part of this job. When you do this at the minor-league level, ok, you might see one (reporter).

So thats (new). The managing of the game, the managing of people is something youve done (already) and (will keep) working at. But this onslaught every day is something that you need to get through.

That is something to think about as the Cubs patiently approach three months since Piniella first announced his retirement. General manager Jim Hendry is under no obligation to wait until Joe Girardis season is over, though the New York Yankees manager will continue to create headlines in Chicago until he signs his next contract.

Its entirely possible that the Cubs will make an announcement before the World Series. The intensity here is of course different than Des Moines or Rockford, two of the 10 stops Quade made during his 17 seasons as a minor-league manager. But for the next Cubs manager it wont be the same in 2011 as it was in 2001, or even two years ago.

Some of the greatest moments of Piniellas professional life came in the worlds media capital, amid the crossfire of the New York tabloids. Hes partially credited the amazing comeback of the 1978 Yankees from 14 games back on July 19 to World Series champions to the citys newspaper strike that year.

We just concentrated on playing baseball instead of the gossip, Piniella said this summer.

But that exposure still didnt completely prepare Piniella for managing a franchise that has won one postseason series since 1908 and is now heading into its 103rd year without a championship.

In Chicago, every win or loss is almost covered as if its an NFL game and not just by the traveling beat writers Piniella addressed by name.

Major League Baseball has made serious investments with its network and websites. So have national outlets like ESPN and FOX and regional affiliates such as Comcast SportsNet. Piniella knew the digital landscape completely altered the way he was seen and heard.

The media is so overwhelming because of everybodys expectations, Cubs pitcher Randy Wells said. If you can somehow put that out and just let the play on the field talk, then I think the media scrutiny will kind of come down a little bit.

This year we saw Piniella, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox move toward retirement. Together they won more than 6,600 games and represent a generation of managers that used to enjoy more autonomy and a more relaxed relationship with the press.

Front offices increasingly rely more on statistical analysis than a managers instincts, and view him as an interchangeable piece. But organizations shouldnt diminish the importance of the one person who communicates with fans before and after every game, nearly 400 times a year.

That is one of Ozzie Guillens definite strengths, his ability to take the pressure off the 25 men in the White Sox clubhouse.

Hes always been the guy that will take away the attention of the media, White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. Hell distract them and hell make something happen and I really think he does it intentionally.

Maybe he doesnt maybe its Ozzie being Ozzie. But he really does get the attention off his players and onto himself.

Does he like the attention? Probably, but at the same time I think hes doing the right thing (so that) no ones constantly harping on the offense or constantly harping on the bullpen or the starting staff. Its all about him and players are able to relax and just go out and focus on what they need to do to win.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has indicated that the team needs a manager who understands what he would be getting into, the culture of Wrigley Field and the fans expectations.

Ryne Sandberg has been an enormous public figure in Chicago since near the beginning of the Reagan administration.

For all their experience, Eric Wedge (Cleveland) and Bob Melvin (Seattle, Arizona) dont fit that part of the description, having worked in smaller markets, though they seem to be in good position to be managing somewhere soon, possibly in the National League Central.

Near the end of his 37-game audition, Quade still enjoyed the back-and-forth with reporters, though it would be interesting to see if he still felt that way next July during the middle of an 11-day homestand, should he get the job.

Whoever that man is, he will have to be himself.

You look guys in the eye, Quade said last month. You realize (youre) going to have rough stretches. Whether Im talking to them, or Im talking to you guys (in the media), thats the only way I know how to handle things.

(You) got to be honest and say what you need to say, make your adjustments and move on. (I) hope I get to keep doing it.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

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Cubs Talk Podcast: The making of Reign Men

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull sits down with CSN executive producers Ryan McGuffey and Sarah Lauch, the creators of 'Reign Men: The Story Behind Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, which premieres March 27 at 9:30 p.m. on CSN.

McGuffey and Lauch share their experience making the 52-minute documentary as they sifted through hours of sound from the likes of Joe Maddon, Theo Epstein, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo and more recapping one of the greatest baseball games ever played.

Plus, hear a sneak peak of 'Reign Men’ as Heyward and Epstein describe their perspective of the Rajai Davis game-tying homer and that brief rain delay that led to Heyward’s epic speech.

Check out the latest Cubs Talk Podcast right here:

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

Cubs president Theo Epstein, world's greatest leader? 'The pope didn't have as good of a year'

MESA, Ariz. – Cubs president Theo Epstein showed zero interest in playing along with Fortune magazine putting him on the cover and ranking him No. 1 on the list of "The World's 50 Greatest Leaders," or two spots ahead of Pope Francis.

"The pope didn't have as good of a year," manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday, channeling Babe Ruth.

Epstein essentially bit his tongue, responding to reporters with a copy-and-paste text message that reflected his self-awareness and PR savvy. 

"Um, I can't even get my dog to stop peeing in the house," Epstein wrote. "The whole thing is patently ridiculous. It's baseball – a pastime involving a lot of chance. If (Ben) Zobrist's ball is three inches farther off the line, I'm on the hot seat for a failed five-year plan. 

"And I'm not even the best leader in our organization; our players are."

Epstein obviously has a big ego. No one becomes the youngest general manager in baseball history and builds three World Series winners without a strong sense of confidence and conviction. But he genuinely tries to deflect credit, keep a relatively low profile and stay focused on the big picture. 

Fortune's cover art became an older image of Epstein standing at the dugout, surrounded by reporters during a Wrigley Field press gaggle. (This was not Alex Rodriguez kissing a mirror during a magazine photo shoot.) The text borrowed from Tom Verducci's upcoming "The Cubs Way" book. 
 
Fortune still hit an Internet sweet spot and generated a lot of buzz, ranking Epstein ahead of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (No. 4), Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster (No. 7) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (No. 10).

"I'm all about the pope," Maddon said. "Sorry, Pope Francis. We're buds. I'd like to meet him someday. But after all, what we did last year was pretty special. 

"Has the pope broken any 108-year-old curses lately?"

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Epstein also ended an 86-year drought for the Boston Red Sox, putting the finishing touches on the immortal 2004 team and winning another championship in 2007 with eight homegrown players. 

No matter how the Cubs try to airbrush history now, that five-year plan featured lucky breaks, unexpected twists and turns and payroll frustrations as the franchise went from 101 losses in 2012 to 103 wins last season. But even after the biggest party Chicago has ever seen, no team in baseball is better positioned for the future. And there is no doubt that Epstein is a Hall of Fame executive.  

"He's very good at setting something up and then permitting people to do their jobs," Maddon said. "That's the essence of good leadership, the ability to delegate well. But then he also has the tough conversations. 

"He sees both sides. I've talked about his empathy before. I think that sets him apart from a lot of the young groups that are leading Major League Baseball teams right now. You know if you have to talk to him about something, he's got an open ear and he's going to listen to what you say. He's not going to go in there predetermined. 

"You can keep going on and on, him just obviously being very bright, brilliant actually. He's got so many great qualities about him. But he leads well, I think, primarily because of his empathy."

That blend of scouting and analytics, open-minded nature and pure guts led to the Cubs: drafting Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber; trading for Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, Addison Russell and almost their entire bullpen; and signing transformative free agents like Jon Lester and Zobrist.            

Chairman Tom Ricketts locked up Epstein before the playoffs started last October with a five-year extension believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $50 million. Arrieta didn't laugh off the Fortune rankings.

"It just shows you all the positive that's he done," Arrieta said. "Not only here, but beforehand in Boston and what he's built for himself and for the city of Boston and the city of Chicago. It's hard to understate what he means to the organization."