Quade hits on long shot, keeps his dream job

290282.jpg

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.

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 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 pitching. 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.”