Quade hits on long shot, keeps his dream job

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Quade hits on long shot, keeps his dream job

Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010
Updated 8:15 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

One night in late September, near the end of the 37-game tryout for the job he always wanted, Mike Quade disappeared down Waveland Avenue. Walking home in jeans, sandals and a polo shirt, he went completely unrecognized.

That is about to change for a baseball lifer who was used to doing his job in the shadows -- until Lou Piniella abruptly resigned on Aug. 22. With the television cameras rolling, the Cubs reintroduced the 53-year-old Quade as their manager Tuesday afternoon at a Wrigley Field news conference.

Quade -- who managed 2,378 games across 17 seasons in the minors while waiting for this opportunity -- has essentially viewed his career as a series of 30 one-year contracts.

Born in Evanston and educated at Prospect High School and the University of New Orleans, Quade will now have the relative security of a two-year deal with a club option for 2013 -- in the city where surprised fans have seen him on the platform waiting for the L.

Yes, this is a manager who uses public transportation, doesn't carry much name recognition -- it's pronounced "KWAH-dee" -- and has vowed to be himself. He received a text message from a friend that referenced his first job in 1985, managing a Class-A affiliate in Georgia: It's a long way from Macon.

"I wanted to manage at this level," Quade said. "You get done playing and you're young and you're fired up and you're going, 'Ok, three years, four years, it doesn't matter, I'll be there.' And then five years go by. You're still staying after it. You love what you do.

"You're teaching and working and then 10 years go by. You change your goals. You're going, 'Wow, this is a tough gig.' But all the while getting to do what I love."

In rewarding Quade for the team's 24-13 finish -- and the way he showed faith in some of the young players they will need in 2011 and beyond -- the Cubs have bypassed a franchise icon in Ryne Sandberg as well as the chance to pursue Joe Girardi once his contract expires with the New York Yankees at season's end.

General manager Jim Hendry purposely did not use the interim label when he promoted the third-base coach and insisted that Quade would be a candidate. But it was still difficult to view Quade -- who played only 63 games above the Class-A level in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization -- as the long-term answer at that point.

Sandberg, the Hall of Famer whose retired No. 23 flies on the right-field pole at Wrigley Field, was serving his apprenticeship at Triple-A Iowa, nearing the end of his fourth season managing in the minor-league system.

There was also the buzz in baseball circles that Girardi -- the ex-Cubs catcher who grew up in Peoria and graduated from Northwestern University -- could be tempted to come home with his family after the Yankees finished defending their World Series title.

Perception changed gradually, beginning Aug. 23 in Washington. Quade took over a team that had won 11 of 40 series under Piniella and looked like it could be heading toward a 100-loss season.

The Cubs won eight of their next 12 series to finish 75-87. Ultimately, player development was just as important to upper management.

"It was imperative that we didn't waste the last (six) weeks," Hendry said. "We had to find out what we had in some of these young players and we had to see if the veterans could be pushed a little differently.

"You have to give (Quade) an A-plus for it."

A bullpen leaning heavily on rookie relievers demonstrated growth, ending the season with 28 consecutive scoreless innings and a 1.19 ERA in its last 25 games. Carlos Zambrano pitched up to his 91.5 million contract, going 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his last 11 starts.

Quade showed conviction by benching 20-year-old rookie Starlin Castro for his mental lapses at shortstop and a comfort level in dealing with the media. Those communication skills defined roles in the bullpen, set the lineup in advance and assured players who sometimes didn't know where they stood with Piniella.

By late September, clubhouse veterans from Ryan Dempster to Marlon Byrd to Aramis Ramirez were lining up to endorse the return of Quade, the man almost no one saw coming.

"Opportunity knocks at your door, man, and he answered the call," Dempster said Tuesday inside the Cubs clubhouse. "He just made it fun. There are a lot of pressures that come with playing here and managing here and coaching here (and) I know he's as good as anybody to handle that.

"(That's) not a knock on anybody who had their name in for this, whether it's Eric Wedge or Bob Melvin or Bob Brenly or Joe Girardi or Ryne Sandberg...It's (just) a great thing that it was given to somebody who worked their tail off and took advantage of that opportunity."

And there was Quade late Tuesday afternoon in a dark suit, a light blue shirt and a striped tie doing interviews in the stadium club instead of fishing off Florida's Gulf coast, where he lives in the offseason "and the speckled trout have been on fire."

Quade's chased his dream across Canada -- Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver. He's worked in cities like Rockford and Des Moines. He's managed a winter-ball team in the Dominican Republic. And he's come home again.

"I've been all over the planet with this career," Quade said. "But it's never over until you retire and I'm never satisfied. It's not like, 'Ok, you've arrived.' No, no, no, you got to prove yourself.'

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for 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.”