Mike Quade never stops hustling

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Mike Quade never stops hustling

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Posted 10:15 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Over the phone the old college coach could sense the frustration in Mike Quades voice: Im not going anywhere with this.

Quade had already become one of Ron Maestris favorite players at the University of New Orleans. They stayed in touch throughout Quades long and winding career. Maestri long ago recognized Quades inquisitive mind and absolutely loved the way he played the game.

Quade excelled in hit-and-run situations and as a converted center fielder always took charge and chased after everything. Quade obsessed over details and thought his teams should do the same.

Quade always had supreme confidence in his leadership abilities. Growing up in Chicagos northwest suburbs, he was the natural three-sport athlete option quarterback, point guard, shortstop that teammates took cues from at Prospect High School.

But on the other end of the line it sounded like Quade had doubts about the business, his ability to play politics and promote himself.

The Oakland As had won 91, 102 and 103 games and made the playoffs each time during Quades three years as first-base coach (2000-02). Quade wasnt asked back for a fourth season and, well, it wasnt the first time his career seemed to stall and hit a dead end.

Maestri now the chief operating officer for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Florida Marlins knew Quade had pounded the pavement for so long in places like Rockford, Macon, Ga., and Scranton, Pa. He had already managed all across Canada Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Why give it up? Youre so close. Dont quit now.

At the age of 54, a baseball lifer finally has his dream job. Camp Quade ended Wednesday in Mesa, Ariz. By the time the United Airlines charter lands at OHare International Airport, the Cubs will have less than 48 hours until Opening Day.

And then the hard work really begins.

Q tells it like it is, Maestri said. Theres no B.S.-ing. Hes a grinder.
You cant fool players

Bumped back to the minors, Quade latched on with the Cubs organization in 2003. You ask three different people who worked with Quade at Triple-A Iowa and in three separate interviews they say the exact same thing: He hasnt changed a bit.

On a recent morning Quade took off his windbreaker, hat and sunglasses and stood on the mound at HoHoKam Park. Aramis Ramirez smoked a line drive right off the screen and Quade pulled his bald head back.

One player joked that eventually Quade will get tired of throwing batting practice when its 100 degrees in August. But its not an act. You see Quade with a bat in his hands, bunting off a machine during a defensive drill.

Before the Cubs played a single exhibition game, Quade had mapped out virtually the entire Cactus League schedule. He drafted all the lineups to ensure that each player would reach a certain number of at-bats this spring.

Lou Piniella should be in the Hall of Fame one day, but the Cubs hated how late hed post the lineup each day, and it was impossible to ignore the difference.

There was a big white board on one wall in Quades office at HoHoKam Park. The grid featured player names, dateopponent and the number of plate appearances he got each game, plus a running total. The ink reveals an organization man.

Love it, first baseman Carlos Pena said. Hes very communicative. Hes always talking to us players. Hes making sure all of us know exactly where were going to be days in advance, so we can prepare, and that goes a long way.

He gives us a lot of responsibility. He trusts us that were going to take care of business and keep ourselves healthy.
The monster

While managing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Quade was asked how well he understood Spanish. It was a good thing he couldnt read the newspapers there, because he was getting ripped every day.

The new guy got off to a slow start in a place where fans like to put money on the games. That 1996-97 Aguilas Cibaenas team eventually turned it around and won a Caribbean World Series.

As Cubs vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita said: Thats an experience you cant read in a book.

Quade seems to get along well with Latin players. Maybe its because he remembers buying them so many fast-food meals in places like West Michigan as they struggled to adapt to a strange, new country.

Perhaps its because he also comes from nothing in terms of a baseball pedigree and was never handed anything either. The reasons could be even simpler than all that psychoanalysis.

Quade gets along with every single player in here, Ramirez said. It doesnt matter where theyre from, or what color they are. Hes that type of guy.

If you cant play for him, you got to check yourself.

During his speech before the teams first full-squad workout, Quade stressed that players should look reporters in the eye and be accountable with the monster that is modern media.

Of course, Carlos Silva soon turned a dugout argument into a three-day fight story by refusing to speak to the media. But through it all Quade projected a sense of calm.

In listening to Quade, you get the sense that he genuinely enjoys some of the give-and-take with reporters. He knows that he is very good at this part of the job. Deep down he understands that he doesnt have enough clout yet to say whatever the hell he wants.

With all these demands on his time, he may have to learn how to say no.

You want to please everybody and make everybody happy. Sooner or later youre going to have to start making yourself happy, pitcher Randy Wells said. Managing the game is probably still the same. You got to deal with all the other (expletive) on the side (the media), egos, players that are not happy about their roles.

Sorry, Ryno

As a college kid, Quade earned extra cash by working as a security guard at the Louisiana Superdome, mostly during Saints games. When Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks came to New Orleans in 1978, Quade and his buddies decided to put on their rent-a-cop uniforms and sneak in to watch the heavyweight prize fight.

Thats the image Quade carried through 17 seasons and 2,378 games as a minor-league manager the blue-collar guy whos always working the angles, and never stops hustling.

That wealth of experience combined with a 24-13 finish last season in Piniellas absence forced the Cubs to pass on Ryne Sandberg. The Hall of Famer had spent four years managing in the minor-league system.

Its awkward, said Fleita, the Cubs farm director. But at the same time Quade worked for me for four years before he went up with Lou. It was hard not to be honest and say: Look at the job Mike Quade did.'

Were pretty blunt (here). Guys are going to tell you just what they think. And I dont think wed be the people we think we are had (we) not rewarded the guy who earned it.

That might not have gone over so well in the marketing department, but it sent the right message to the entire organization.

A working-class hero who rides the El may not sell tickets at first. But anyone whos ever paid a price for standing up to their boss, or lost a game of office politics, or wondered why someone else got the promotion can identify with Quades story.

On Friday morning Quade will walk into his Wrigley Field office several hours before first pitch. Tickets for friends and family will already be taken care of and he will likely take a moment to reflect during the national anthem.

Thats when Quade likes to scan the rooftops and soak in the scene. And then he will find relative peace in those nine innings, because he knows hes done everything he possibly could to prepare.

Im smart enough to realize that if were going to win today, Quade said, 95 percent of the time its going to be because of those guys that are out there (on the field and) sitting here with me. (But) its not about me.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

Theories on why Cubs haven’t played up to their defensive potential yet

“That’s what we’re supposed to look like,” Joe Maddon said Monday night after a 6-4 loss where the San Francisco Giants scored the first six runs and Wrigley Field got loudest for the David Ross “Dancing with the Stars” look-in on the big video board, at least until a late flurry from the Cubs.

But for a manager always looking for the silver linings, Maddon could replay Addison Russell’s diving stop to his right and strong throw from deep in the hole at shortstop to take a hit away from Christian Arroyo. Or Albert Almora’s spectacular flying catch near the warning track in center field. Or Anthony Rizzo stealing another hit from Brandon Belt with a diving backhanded play near the first-base line.

The highlight reel became a reminder of how the Cubs won 103 games and the World Series last year – and made you wonder why the 2017 team hasn’t played the same consistently excellent defense with largely the same group of personnel.

“Concentration?” Jason Heyward said, quickly dismissing the theory a defensive decline could boil down to focus or effort. “No shot. No shot. It is what it is when it comes to people asking questions about last year having effects, this and that. But this is a new season.

“The standard is still high. What’s our excuse? We played later than anybody? That may buy you some time, but then what?

“The goals stay the same. We just got to find new ways to do it when you have a different team.”

FiveThirtyEight.com, Nate Silver’s statistical website, framed the question this way after the Cubs allowed the lowest batting average on balls in play ever last season, an analysis that goes all the way back to 1871: “Have the Cubs Forgotten How to Field?”

Even if the Cubs don’t set records and make history, they should still be better than 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency, with 37 errors through 43 games. The Cubs have already allowed 28 unearned runs after giving up 45 all last season.

“We just got to stay on it and keep focusing and not let the miscues go to our head,” Ben Zobrist said. “We just have to keep working hard and staying focused in the field. A lot of that’s the rhythm of the game. I blame a lot of that on the early parts of the season and the weather and a lot of difficult things that we’ve been going through.

“If we’re not hitting the ball well, too, we’re a young team still, and you can carry that into the field. You don’t want to let that happen, but it’s part of the game. You got to learn to move beyond miscues and just focus on the next play.”

Heyward, a four-time Gold Glove winner, missed two weeks with a sprained right finger and has already started nine times in center field (after doing that 21 times all last season). Zobrist has morphed back into a super-utility guy, starting 16 games at second base and 15 in two different outfield spots.

[MORE CUBS: Have the Cubs found their new leadoff hitter in Ben Zobrist?]

Maddon has tried to drill the idea of making the routine play into Javier Baez’s head, so that the uber-talented second baseman can allow his natural athleticism and instincts to take over during those dazzling moments.

The Cubs are basically hoping Kyle Schwarber keeps the ball in front of him in left and setting the bar at: Don’t crash into your center fielder. Like Schwarber and Almora, catcher Willson Contreras hasn’t played a full season in The Show yet, and the Cubs are now hoping rookie Ian Happ can become a Zobrist-type defender all over the field.

“I’m seeing our guys playing in a lot of different places,” Heyward said. “It’s not just been penciling in every day who’s going to center field or right field or left field. We did shake things up some last year, but we did it kind of later in the season. We had guys settle in, playing every day. This year, I feel like we’re having guys in different spots.

“It’s May whatever, (but) it seems like we haven’t really had a chance to settle in yet. Not that we’re procrastinating by any means, but it’s just been a lot of moving pieces.”

The Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 with a formula that incorporated lights-out pitching, airtight defense and just enough clutch hitting. The Cubs are now a 22-21 team trying to figure it out again.

“Defense comes and goes, just like pitching,” said Kris Bryant, the reigning National League MVP, in part, because of his defensive versatility. “I feel like if you look at last year, it’s kind of hard to compare, just because it was so good. We spoiled everybody last year. Now we’re a complete letdown this year.”

Bryant paused and said: “Just kidding. Different years, things regress, things progress, and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

For Joe Maddon, Cubs winning World Series came down to Giant comeback in SF and avoiding Johnny Cueto in elimination game

Jon Lester vs. Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field – the playoff matchup the Cubs dreaded in an elimination game – will happen more than seven months later under far different circumstances.

The Cubs have a 2016 championship banner flying next to the iconic center-field scoreboard – the ultimate response to any questions about their slow start to this season. The San Francisco Giants can’t have Madison Bumgarner saunter out of the bullpen when he’s recovering from a dirt-bike accident, another reason why an odd-year team is much closer to last place than first in an improved National League West.

The Giants don’t have the same aura, because the Cubs staged an epic comeback to end a best-of-five division series last October, scoring four runs again five different relievers in the ninth inning at AT&T Park.

“I’m telling you, man, Game 4 pretty much won the World Series,” Joe Maddon said. “I did not want to see Mr. Cueto pitching back here again. I’ll get to see him (Tuesday night), but that’s OK, compared to whatever that day would’ve been.”

Maddon has admitted this already, but it is still telling from a manager who always tries to stay in the moment and ignore the negativity. It says something about a Giant franchise that had won 10 straight postseason elimination games and World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014 – and a fan base that used to expect things to go wrong in Wrigleyville after more than a century of losing.

“That whole Game 4 in San Francisco, I did focus on that a lot,” Maddon said. “Just trying to understand Game 5 back at home – how this is going to play out – and do whatever we possibly can to win that game there that night in San Francisco.

“That was the game for me – out of the entire postseason. To have to play the Giants where they were battle-tested – Game 5, back here with (Cueto) pitching – I did not like that at all. I thought that pretty much the postseason hinged on that one game in San Francisco.”

Even though the Cubs still had to survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Los Angeles Dodgers before winning their first NL pennant in 71 years. And come back from a 3-1 deficit in the World Series and beat the Cleveland Indians on the road in a 10-inning Game 7 for the ages.

[RELATED: Cubs can't complete another miracle comeback against Giants bullpen]

“That’s what good teams do,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “They’re a very talented club, very solid all around. You don’t win the World Series unless you are.

“Look back at our success, how many times were we looking at elimination? No, you’re never surprised in the postseason. Anything those teams do, it’s because they’re there for a reason. They’re very good.”

Lester beat Cueto in a 1-0 instant classic when Javier Baez lifted a 3-2 quick pitch into the basket beneath the video ribbon in the left-field bleachers. Cueto kept the Cubs so off-balance in Game 1 that Baez actually walked up to home plate in the eighth inning thinking bunt.

The Giants reacted to that Game 4 meltdown by giving All-Star closer Mark Melancon a four-year, $62 million contract at the winter meetings, trying to fix a bullpen that led the majors with 30 blown saves last season.

“It was close,” Bochy said. “Three outs from taking it to Game 5 with a pretty good pitcher going. We can speculate all we want. There’s no point in that. It didn’t happen.

“But, sure, you look back. That’s how tight that series was. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on. Give them credit – great job coming back. We’re a team that plays very well under pressure, and we did there. Just couldn’t hold on to that ninth inning.”