Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

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Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 9:12 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. There will be times where Alfonso Soriano stands at home plate and admires the flight of his double off the wall, or a ball skips past Aramis Ramirez at third base. And you will want to see the manager flip out.

READ: Will older core stay strong?

As a younger man, in places like Rockford and Scranton, Pa., Mike Quade might have given you the satisfaction. But after managing 2,378 games in the minors and seven more seasons as a major-league coach he has a sense of perspective.

Of course Quade wont treat Soriano the same as Blake DeWitt. They are different people. Its not like hes managing 25 robots.

And just because Quade doesnt jam his finger in a players chest while the dugout camera is rolling doesnt mean the issue wont be addressed behind closed doors.

WATCH: Can Cubs win NL Central in 2011?

The moments that will test Quade are coming, but there was a relaxed vibe around Fitch Park on Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported. Quade learned so much from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but knows that he will have to shape the Cubs in his own image.

Anybody that thinks Mike Quade can go about managing a ballclub like Dusty or Lou is missing the whole point, he said. From a personality standpoint, from a respect standpoint, all the things that I think I need to do those guys had built in with all the success they had.

Everybody wants to go hit in the cage. Quade will stress the details: bunt defense, relay throws, going first to third, what he calls the jobs that nobody else wants. As assistant general manager Randy Bush said: Hes going to drive home fundamental play.

Quade, who will turn 54 next month, will be involved, but most of the Cubs already knew that. A team that looked dead in August won 24 of its final 37 games and Quades life would never be the same.

Hes the man in charge now, pitcher Ryan Dempster said. But his personality (or) his relationship with us as players didnt change. What you see is what you get. And what he says is what you get.

A few weeks ago, Dempster and about 25 teammates woke up before dawn and piled into a few vans, like they were high-school kids. They went out in sub-freezing temperatures and climbed Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

It was a team-building exercise for a group that isnt generating much hype. There was no national media present at the Cubs complex on Sunday, and only a small group of Chicago reporters.

What people write or what people perceive thats their own opinion, Dempster said. Having no expectations is a good thing. I think we put enough pressure on ourselves as it is.

This may or may not work 37 games only gets you to the second week of May but its doubtful that Quade will find the pressure suffocating. He is passionate about but not consumed by the game.

Quade has outside interests, from cooking to fishing to politics. Once the cameras were turned off and the news conference ended, the Prospect High School graduate asked beat writers about Jay Cutler and Derrick Rose. He even answered a question about Carlos Zambrano by quoting a Rush song: Freeze that moment.
Mike Quade is a far different manager than Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but that could be good. One thing is for certain, he already has the respect of his players and even the most basic fundamentals won't be overlooked on his watch. (AP)
Hes easy to talk to, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. You can walk into his office anytime.

More and more people want a piece of Quade. When he returned home to Florida at the end of last season, a neighbor brought over some chicken soup and a dozen baseballs to be signed.

For someone who occasionally slips into the third person, Quade is remarkably grounded. It will be fascinating to see if he remains that way, and how he gives in to the demands of fans, media and players in this very public job.

I understand the magnitude, believe me, but it doesnt do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in (it), he said. Im more of a grinding, day-in, day-out guy. If were going to be successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of myself and do what I need to do.

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

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

Jake Arrieta getting close and message to Cubs is clear: ‘We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut’

MIAMI – Kyle Schwarber’s offensive spiral had gone on for so long and gotten so deep that the shock value of sending a potential franchise player to Triple-A quickly wore off once the news broke on Twitter.

The Cubs sent their message directly to Schwarber. Even if the bosses wanted to, the Cubs couldn’t put the rest of the clubhouse on edge by demoting a .171 hitter with 260-plus plate appearances in late June. 

The Cubs are in survival mode, not a position to play mind tricks, beginning an 11-games-in-11-days road trip with World Series MVP Ben Zobrist (sore left wrist), Gold Glove outfielder Jason Heyward (cut left hand) and Cy Young Award finalist Kyle Hendricks (right hand tendinitis) all on the disabled list.   

The Cubs didn’t rebook Schwarber to Iowa so he can be converted into a pitcher. An aging, stressed rotation remains a much bigger concern than the boom-and-bust periods with a young offense. 

All these circumstances made a vintage Jake Arrieta performance during Thursday night’s 11-1 win at Marlins Park so important. Whether or not the Cubs make a blockbuster trade for a pitcher, there are still five-plus weeks left until buyers and sellers will feel the urgency of a deadline.   

“If something presents itself that makes sense, we’ll certainly jump on it,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “But to us, the answers are in that clubhouse. We can’t expect outside help to get us out of this rut. The answers are in there, and we believe in those guys. 

“Will we be active? No question. But that’s not going to happen for a while and there’s a lot of games to be played between now and July 31.”

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On a night where he felt “low energy,” rocked a new buzz cut and covered his right thumb with Dermabond to treat a cut/blister issue that can be traced back to spring training, Arrieta needed only 82 pitches to get through seven innings, completely shutting down a strong Miami lineup except for a Marcell Ozuna home run.

Arrieta’s inconsistencies (7-5, 4.36 ERA) have mirrored a 37-35 team, but he didn’t hesitate when asked where he is at now in a season that has so far not lived up to his Cy Young/All-Star expectations.  

“I’m close,” Arrieta said. “I’m really close.”

The Cubs are still the defending champs. Kris Bryant unleashed an MVP swing when he launched a three-run homer into the left-center field patio deck. Blocking out a messy personal situation, All-Star shortstop Addison Russell almost hit for the cycle (no triple) the day after getting questions about his divorce and a Major League Baseball investigation. This year’s Schwarber – rookie Ian Happ – also went 4-for-5 and gave the team another jolt.  

“It’s tough to see Schwarber go down,” Arrieta said. “We know that he’s going to be one of our mainstays in the lineup eventually. He’s hit a rough patch and it happens to the best of us. 

“I’ve been there. I talked to him yesterday a little bit about just keeping his head down and going to work and getting his at-bats and trying to find that comfort level. He’ll be back soon. He’s a tremendous hitter who’s going through some struggles and he’s going to right the ship. There’s no doubt about that. He’s too good of a hitter.

“A night like tonight where we pitch well and we score 11 runs, it looks easy. But it’s about consistency and trying to build off of a night like tonight. We’ve got the guys necessary to do so. We’re very capable of doing that.”

Especially if Arrieta gets hot again and shows how he can lift an entire team. 

“To get Jake pitching that kind of quality game again is going to be a big boon to us,” manager Joe Maddon said.

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

Did Cubs start the tailspin by making Kyle Schwarber their leadoff guy?

MIAMI – Everything aligned for the Cubs to make Kyle Schwarber their leadoff hitter. Joe Maddon’s gut instincts told him to do it – so the manager asked the Geek Department to run the numbers – and the projections backed him up. A front office raised on Bill James principles endorsed the idea after Dexter Fowler took an offer he couldn’t refuse – five years and $82.5 million – from the St. Louis Cardinals.
   
It all looked good on paper and sounded reasonable in theory. But by the time the Cubs made the Schwarber-to-Iowa move official before Thursday’s game at Marlins Park, the slugger once compared to Babe Ruth in a pre-draft scouting report had devolved into the qualified hitter with the lowest batting average in the majors (.171) and an .OPS 75 points below the league average.  

If Schwarber had been batting, say, sixth since Opening Day, would the Cubs be in a different spot right now?   

“Obviously, I can’t answer that,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “It’s an impossible question to answer. We put him in a leadoff position and he struggled. We obviously moved him out of that position (and) that didn’t work either. I know that’s what people are going to point to, because that’s a variable in his career. 

“Obviously, hitting him leadoff in 2017 didn’t work. Whether or not it caused the tailspin, I have no way to answer that question.”   

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The Cubs also deserve credit for: drafting Schwarber when the industry viewed him as a reach with the No. 4 overall pick in 2014; fast-tracking his development to the point where he could help the 2015 team win 97 games and two playoff rounds; and overseeing a rehab process that allowed him to be a World Series designated hitter less than seven months after reconstructive surgery on his left knee.    
 
The Cubs will have their hitting instructors give Schwarber subtle suggestions, focusing on how he starts his swing and where he finishes, trying to reestablish his balance and confidence during this Triple-A timeout.
    
But deep down, this is a 24-year-old player who never experienced a full season in the big leagues before and wanted so bad to be a huge part of The Cubs Way.

“I do think a lot of the problems are mental,” Hoyer said. “These struggles have kind of beaten him up a little bit. Like anyone would, he’s lost a little bit of his swagger, and I think he needs to get that back. But I think when you look at what a great fastball hitter he’s been – how good he was in ’15, how good he was last year in the World Series – the fact that he hasn’t been pounding fastballs this year is a mechanical/physical issue that we’ll be looking to tweak. 

“This is a guy that has always murdered fastballs and he’s not there right now.”