Quade acts like he doesnt feel the heat

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Quade acts like he doesnt feel the heat

Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2011Posted: 12:45 p.m. Updated: 5:30 p.m.

By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow @CSNMooney
Mike Quade presented himself as someone who likes to take a moment. Hed scan the rooftops, soak in the scene and reflect on the long journey that brought him here.

But as reporters poked around on Wednesday for quotes to use in their obituaries for this lost season, the Cubs manager wouldnt play along with the line of questioning. Quade refused to get sentimental and admit that this could be his final game at Wrigley Field.

Dont think about it. Dont believe it. Lets play ball, Quade said. Im going to be back. Why would I look at it any other way?

The calculus certainly changed when Jim Hendry got fired. The people who work with Quade watched the press conference. They noticed that chairman Tom Ricketts didnt endorse the coaching staff the way he did others in the front office, saying those decisions would be up to the next general manager.

A new administration is about to come into power at Clark and Addison. That executive will be free to hire his own manager.

Nothing I can do about that, Quade said. I dont see any reason to look at it any other way. Im not going to wax nostalgic. I plan to be back. And I plan to do a good job next year.

Quade hasnt spoken with Ricketts about his job status yet, though the chairman was spotted in the clubhouse walking toward the managers office after Wednesdays 7-1 victory over the Brewers.

If they make a decision in a different direction, so be it, Quade said.

Quade is eternally optimistic. Thats how he beat the long odds and rose to this position. Thats why he says things like Im not a lunatic and announces that the Cubs are still in the playoff hunt, even when theyre 18 games under .500.

It seems hard to believe that less than a year ago Quade rode the momentum of a 24-13 finish and landed his dream job. A baseball lifer who spent so much time in the shadows suddenly became the story.

The Prospect High School graduate had moved all over the world to advance his career, coaching 19 seasons in the minors and managing winter ball in the Dominican Republic.

This time, Quade was given pieces that didnt quite fit together, aging veterans who were getting paid for past performance and young players who didnt show the progress the organization promised.

The Cubs have played hard and maintained a sense of professionalism through a difficult season. But the public perception of Quades authority seemed to erode on July 9, when Ryan Dempster got into a shouting match with his manager in the dugout.

All this came at a time when the Cubs were trying to cycle off bad contracts and frame their next window of opportunity. They have too many tickets to sell to publicly call it a bridge year. But they also didnt think that theyd lose around 90 games and finish in fifth place again.

I look at this as a variety of things, Quade said. No one escapes blame and you understand that. But I also look at it as a realist and try and think about the things that I could or couldnt control.

The Cubs couldnt overcome the injuries to Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner during the first week of the season. There went 40 percent of a rotation that didnt live up to expectations. What was supposed to be a shutdown bullpen has blown 23 saves.

Quade also promised to drive home fundamentals, insisting that the Cubs would play the game the right way. They woke up on Wednesday leading the majors with 128 errors.

Thats one disappointment, Quade said. But it wasnt for lack (of) concentration or emphasis on it from the beginning of spring training. So you go back to the drawing board and you look at (why).

Thats the most frustrating thing. If its something that we neglected, then, yeah, the hell with me. When youre working on it and talking about it every day. What else can we say or do?

Those are the kinds of questions the next general manager will be asking.

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

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

Jon Lester thinks Cubs have a special player in Willson Contreras: ‘It’s about time we got an offensive catcher’

MESA, Ariz. – Jon Lester couldn't resist when a reporter mentioned the two home runs Willson Contreras launched off Danny Salazar, an All-Star talent who might have changed last year's World Series if he had been at full strength.

"It's about time we got an offensive catcher," Lester said.

Zing! Lester had already seen David Ross on "Dancing with the Stars" by the time he finished up against the Cleveland Indians and met with reporters on Monday night at Goodyear Ballpark. While Lester knew Grandpa Rossy would appreciate that one-liner, there is also some truth behind it.

Yes, Ross became the security blanket for a $155 million pitcher, helped push and encourage young players like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant and got carried off the field after delivering his own Game 7 homer. But whatever Contreras may lack now in game-calling experience and pitcher psychology, he can make up for it with his rocket arm, smooth swing and willingness to learn.

A camp that began with questions about how Lester would work with Contreras ended with a sincere endorsement.

"Willie's obviously very special, to be serious about it," Lester said. "He's definitely going to add a presence to that lineup as far as protecting ‘Rizz' and ‘KB' to where they're not going to be able to just pitch around those guys. We're going to have some other guys to do some damage in the middle to the bottom of that order.

"He's a special kid, just like anybody else on this team. He's (24), so he'll only get better as time goes on and (he gets) the at-bats and the innings and all that stuff. So I'm excited to see him for a full season and how well he can do back there."

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That's another reason why the defending World Series champs might actually look better on paper than the unforgettable 2016 Cubs. Ross did a "Dancing with the Stars" routine based off Young MC's "Bust a Move," a song released in 1989, or years before Bryant, Contreras, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. were born.

Before the Cubs packed up and left Arizona, Ross made a promotional appearance in Mesa this week and caught up with some old friends like John Lackey.

"We got rid of Rossy," Lackey told reporters as the Cubs finished their Cactus League schedule with Wednesday's 15-11 win over the Oakland A's at Sloan Park. "He stinks. And we should be better. Actually, I was just inside talking to Rossy and he said that, so that's from him."

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

MESA, Ariz. – One minute into the media scrum outside the West Wing, a Washington reporter asked Theo Epstein if this season would be considered a disappointment if the Cubs don't win the World Series.

"Oof, I hadn't thought too much about 2017 yet today," Epstein said after President Barack Obama's final official White House event. "But, yeah, I mean, that's our goal. I think the organization has come such a long way and we have this talented young core. We're clearly in a very competitive phase where I think if we do our jobs, we could be as good, if not better, than any team in baseball.

"So if you're going to compete, you set your sights for the world championship. It doesn't always work out that way. But we see it as our jobs to do everything we can to be back at the White House next year."

Whether or not Epstein would actually go through with a Donald Trump photo op is a different story. But with the Cubs signaling their Opening Night roster – keeping outfielder Matt Szczur and infielder Tommy La Stella while lefty reliever Brian Duensing begins the season on the disabled list – you could make the case that the team breaking camp on Wednesday looks better on paper than last year's World Series winner.

"This is a crazy talented group," All-Star closer Wade Davis said. "There's 10 or 12 players on this team that are some of the best players in baseball."

That doesn't mean the Cubs will develop the same chemistry or sense of purpose, but this team is completely used to the national spotlight, hanging out with celebrity fans and being followed around like rock stars on the road. 

Epstein compared this camp in Arizona with what the Boston Red Sox faced after ending the 86-year drought. 

"I will never forget in '05 spring training, we had 5,000 people the first day, 3,000 fans every day," Epstein said. "I was expecting it to be as nuts. But it's been refreshingly normal, reflecting the personality of our players, taking everything in stride."   

This doesn't mean the Cubs will stay as healthy as they did last year, when the projected rotation made 152 starts combined. But four-fifths of that group returns with Brett Anderson – given his natural ability, pitching IQ and extensive medical file – appearing to have a higher ceiling and lower floor than Jason Hammel.

As Anderson said: "It's not too often that you have a salty veteran with multiple rings (John Lackey) in front of you and a guy (Kyle Hendricks) that led the league in ERA behind you."

The 2016 Cubs won 103 games and scored 800-plus runs: without Kyle Schwarber contributing a single hit during the regular season; and with Jason Heyward finishing with a .631 OPS (or 103 points below the league average).

Manager Joe Maddon said Geek Department projections have this lineup generating even more offense with Schwarber as the new leadoff guy (even with a brace on his left leg), continued growth from young players like Addison Russell and Willson Contreras and Heyward not being one of the worst hitters in the majors.

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The Cubs are also counting on a full season from Davis, instead of a half-season rental like Aroldis Chapman. Where last year's Opening Night bullpen featured three guys who would get DFA'd or traded by midseason (Neil Ramirez, Clayton Richard, Adam Warren), this version features three guys who've already notched the final out in a World Series (Davis, Koji Uehara, Mike Montgomery).

"All the additions are wonderful complements to what this team was already," Schwarber said. "Upgrades. It's going to be really cool to see how it all plays out this season with more guys getting another year of experience under their belt."

Ian Happ raising his profile and hitting around .400 in the Cactus League should help his trade value if the Cubs need to deal for pitching at the trade deadline. The combination of Albert Almora Jr. and Jon Jay in center field should be an improvement over Dexter Fowler for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency last year.

As someone with fresh eyes – and the perspective from being on Los Angeles Dodgers teams that won back-to-back National League West titles – Anderson hasn't see any signs of complacency.

"Not at all," Anderson said. "The young guys are still hungry. And the handful of guys that weren't here last year makes you that much more hungry and itchy to get back where they were last year.

"It's a really good mix – if not a perfect mix – of young guys, veteran guys and a couple fresh faces that are eager to get back to what these guys accomplished last year."