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.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

[SHOP CUBS: Get your Cubs gear right here]

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Despite early hook again, Cubs may need Jason Hammel in October

Despite early hook again, Cubs may need Jason Hammel in October

LOS ANGELES – Even from the upper levels of Dodger Stadium, inside the Vin Scully Press Box, you didn’t need binoculars or a lip reader to tell that Jason Hammel wanted nothing to do with Joe Maddon.

Not this early on Saturday afternoon, not when the veteran Cubs pitcher came into a possible playoff preview with a 13-6 record and a 3.07 ERA. An animated Hammel gestured toward home plate and walked off the mound in the middle of the third inning, continuing a sometimes awkward/usually productive relationship with the star manager that dates back to their time together as Tampa Bay Rays.   

No, Hammel doesn’t get much latitude, even during his 11th year in the big leagues and a strong individual season that has so far answered the questions about a second-half fade.

But Maddon walked out from the dugout with two runners on, one out and Adrian Gonzalez up next, trying to extend a 3-1 lead with one big swing. Maddon summoned Rob Zastryzny from the bullpen and watched the rookie lefty get two groundball outs.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]  

The move worked, even during a 3-2 loss, as Zastryzny looked extremely impressive, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced, eight days after getting called up from Triple-A Iowa and making his big-league debut, showing that he could become an X-factor for October.

No, Hammel didn’t look all that sharp against a tough Los Angeles lineup, giving up five hits to the 12 batters he faced, including a first-inning homer to Corey Seager and three consecutive hits to begin the third. 

But Hammel is also a respected teammate who helped the Cubs transform into a playoff team last year and build baseball’s top-performing rotation this season.

Who cares? The Cubs are still 36 games over .500 and began the day with huge leads over the St. Louis Cardinals (14) and Pittsburgh Pirates (16.5) in a watered-down division.

Well, Hammel in particular is a guy who feeds off confidence and positive reinforcement. The Cubs might need him in October, especially if John Lackey (shoulder) experiences a setback before coming off the disabled list or another starter gets hurt down the stretch. 

Cubs can't climb out of early hole in loss to Dodgers

Cubs can't climb out of early hole in loss to Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs had Julio Urias and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the ropes, but couldn’t knock out the young lefty from Mexico who’s drawn comparisons to franchise icon Fernando Valenzuela. 

Saturday afternoon began with Dexter Fowler drawing a leadoff walk at Dodger Stadium and MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back singles into right field.

Instead of going for the jugular, cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist dropped a sacrifice bunt back to Urias, who then struck out Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking to keep it a 1-0 game.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!] 

Urias – who pitched at four different minor-league levels last season and only turned 20 this month – settled down against the best team in baseball to earn the win in a 3-2 victory in front of 49,522.

Urias lasted through the sixth inning, allowing no more runs and finishing with eight strikeouts, helping rescue a first-place team that’s used 14 different starting pitchers and put a major-league record-tying 27 players on the disabled list.