Quade hops on board for wild ride with Cubs

386940.jpg

Quade hops on board for wild ride with Cubs

Friday, April 1, 2011
Posted: 4:19 p.m. Updated 6:07 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com
Mike Quade took the Red Line to work on Friday morning, another blue-collar grinder getting off at the Addison stop. The Cubs manager doesnt drive a fancy car or get escorted around by a limousine.

Its a fitting image for a guy who managed 17 seasons in the minors and the perfect cover for a group of millionaires the city seems slow to embrace on Opening Day.

People want to win here, Quade said. People want effort. They want a club that comes out and plays hard and earns their money. I think theyre going to get that right out of the chute. Lets hope the results follow.

Last summer, Quade took over a team that looked like it might be heading toward 100 losses. Fans had tuned out by then and theyre not sure what to make of that 24-13 finish. The manager grew up in Chicagos northwest suburbs and understands all the demands and expectations.

Out of uniform, with his head down and a hat on, the 51st manager in Cubs history can walk unrecognized through Wrigleyville. Maybe it can become a new drinking game in the bars around the stadium: Wheres Q?

Its kind of fun to get on the train and come to the ballpark and walk to Wrigley incognito to feel the excitement, Quade said. Im pretty good. Hey, look, with a face like this, you can put makeup on. You can do all sorts of stuff. I can put wigs on. I can do anything I want.

I cant help (but) try to get the flavor of the ballpark and the neighborhood, especially on a day like this.

Quade has been staying downtown this week but will eventually move back into a Lakeview apartment and walk to work most days.

Its hard to imagine Lou Piniella or Ryne Sandberg adding money to their CTA card and waiting on the platform. But the Cubs have moved away from the celebrity manager. Theyre committed to Quade, who has a two-year contract that includes a club option for 2013.

Quades a special cat, chairman Tom Ricketts said. The players really respect him. He communicates well. Hes engaged, hes energetic I think he has what it takes to get this team winning and keep us there until the end of the season.

When Quade got to the office on Friday morning, he made several phone calls to family and friends. The 54-year-old stays in shape, talks really fast and runs around the field.

That makes Quade seem younger than he actually is and almost makes you forget how long it took him to get this chance, the nights in Huntsville, Ala., and Harrisburg, Pa.

I thought about places Ive been and people that Ive worked for, Quade said. None of us get to where were at without help from a lot of good people. In spite of the craziness around here, I thought it was good to take a moment.

I cant call everybody, because if I did, I would miss the game, and maybe tomorrows.

Right hand on his heart, Quade stood front and center on the third-base line during the national anthem, and then it was on to the nine innings he usually finds so relaxing.

It will be fascinating to see how Quade responds to the public nature of this job, if hell get worn down or learn to love the spotlight.

After a 6-3 loss to the Pirates, the manager was asked if hell need a new disguise for the El ride back downtown: I got Pittsburgh gear.

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

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."