Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
Maybe next week, while running baseball clinics in Italy, Mike Quade can escape all the questions.
Quade will likely view this through the prism he sees everything else, whether its a racing form or the thick binder of statistics on his desk. He will weigh the possibilities, play the percentages and realize: It is worth it. This is part of the job.
Even if Quade isnt entirely comfortable with some of the public aspects of being a major-league manager in 2011, he will still be front and center this weekend at the Cubs Convention.
Cubs executives wont be hanging a Mission Accomplished banner across the lobby of the Hilton Chicago. This offseason at Wrigley Field has seen an Undercover Boss cleaning toilets, two college football teams running at the same end zone, ownership asking local government for help and strangers weeping at Ron Santos memorial.
But the baseball operations department has achieved its three primary objectives, all with only about 10 million to spend this winter on a first baseman, a veteran reliever and a No. 2 starter.
If you are a Cubs fan, you will be impressed by how polished and intelligent Carlos Pena comes across (while wondering if hell hit .196 again).
You will appreciate that Kerry Wood values family and loyalty over greed (and hope that he doesnt get injured again).
You will be intrigued by Matt Garzas talent (as well as the potential of the five players it took to get him).
That wont erase the memories of an underachieving team, or automatically fill all those empty seats you saw in the bleachers. The 13-game plan that went on sale Thursday is a new way of doing business, part of the makeover.
A team official said that by Friday, when the convention opens, the Cubs will have sold roughly the same amount of tickets to the event as recent years, but acknowledged that hotel bookings have been soft.
In terms of a Q rating, the Cubs will be running behind the Bears and LeBron James at the United Center. And a source indicated that Santos replacement will not be announced this weekend, so they wont make headlines that way.
Still, the question-and-answer sessions with baseball management and business operations should feature some entertainingly awkward moments. The Ricketts family will have to defend their record after their first full year of ownership.
Fans will want to know: why Ryne Sandberg wasnt hired (relative lack of experience); who will bat leadoff (Blake DeWittJeff Bakerdepends on the matchups); and who will start Opening Day (Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster or Garza).
The second-guessing isnt why Quade will be leaving the country. But soon decisions will have to be made, the names on the big board in Jim Hendrys office coming to life.
It will be difficult to not bump into one of Sandbergs former teammates at the hotel. Time will tell if the general manager made the right call, which team chairman Tom Ricketts has said was all Hendrys.
If some are skeptical, the man who managed 2,378 games in the minors has already convinced the people that matter.
We feel like Q is one of us, catcher Koyie Hill said. There are a lot of different temperaments and personalities in a clubhouse. To get a guy in charge and feel like hes a part of what youre trying to do hes not just showing up and putting the lineup up but hes literally a part of the groupthat goes a long ways.
We really appreciate the honesty and the effort that he gives every day. I think youll see us give that back.
For someone with such a blue-collar approach, Quade is a bit of a foodie. On Wednesday he visited his old high school in Mount Prospect, a place filled with memories. One night next week, somewhere near Bologna, he might enjoy an Italian meal, sip a fine glass of wine and reflect on how far he has come and how much work he still has to do.
I will not change, Quade said on the final day of last season. Whether thats good or bad for the marketing department, youll have to talk to them.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.