Quade must prove himself all over again

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Quade must prove himself all over again

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
10:00 PM
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It's beyond last call and the lights are on in the hotel bar and you're talking about how you were fired from your last job.

The lobby of this Walt Disney World resort is filled with people who desperately want to break in - or get back into - the game.

There are college kids looking for unpaid internships and coaches hoping to latch on with another organization. Even Gary Sheffield showed up Tuesday and told reporters he isn't officially retired and could still hit 20 to 30 home runs.

The winter meetings are baseball's ultimate networking session. Mike Quade managed 2,378 games in the minor leagues and had to wait until the age of 53 before he ran his first one in the majors. He was once the type of anonymous baseball lifer you'd see here roaming the hallways.

"When you have a passion for what you're doing, nothing's going to deter you," long-time pitching coach Rick Peterson said of Quade, whom he knew as a Class-A player and later worked with on the Oakland A's staff. "It becomes your life's work. It's not a job."

On Tuesday, Quade met the media as the 51st manager in Cubs history. He didn't promote himself to get here. And he understands the faction of Cubs fans that wanted Ryne Sandberg in his place.

"I don't blame them. I get it. It's a heck of a deal when you have a guy that meant so much to the city," Quade said. "(But I) needed to find out in my own mind. I believed I could do it. Now I just need to keep proving to myself.

"(The) people of Chicago (have) always been great fans and great people. They appreciate hard work and a good job."

The Cubs are hustling to identify a new first baseman. They have met with agent Scott Boras about Carlos Pena and are scheduled to do so again.

One team source described a report that they were on the verge of agreeing to a deal with Adam LaRoche as inaccurate. They want a left-handed bat and there's a chance that could wind up being Tyler Colvin.

The Cubs continue to check in with Brandon Webb's representative, though sources say the one-time Cy Young Award winner still has lingering shoulder issues that could cause teams to hesitate. There are also rumors that Tom Gorzelanny is being shopped around.

Whatever direction the Cubs decide to take, Quade will adjust. That's what he's done his entire career.

"Whether it's my training for a thousand years in the minor leagues," Quade said, "I think you need to stay flexible.

"You find a way to get it done however you can do it, whether it's mixing and matching, (or) a trade, (or if) they do have some money - one way or another, I'm going to manage the club that was put together when I get there. I don't think it does me any good (to) fool around with lineups. You get your heart set on something and - bang! - a trade comes. So I like the group I finished with. I owe them a lot."

That 24-13 close to an otherwise disappointing season brought out contrasts to Lou Piniella, a legendary manager Quade also feels indebted to. If Piniella refused to put the Triple-A Iowa manager on staff some four years ago, Quade might just be another guy in jeans and a blazer wandering around the Swan and Dolphin resort.

"Mike's a good, (solid) baseball man. He's young. He's got a good rapport with the players," Piniella said. "With the team going younger, that's one of his strengths."

No matter how it ended, the Cubs will remember Piniella as the right man for the right time. The franchise opened the checkbook, got two division titles and thought it had a team built to win it all in 2008.

That seems like a very long time ago. The Cubs aren't looking for quick fixes in free agency. It is a different job now, one Quade has been quietly preparing for in the shadows.

"My nature is never to be satisfied," Quade said. "We'll take that confidence. (A) whole bunch of guys realized they could do this. And now we got to build on it. We will not rest on it. We've got to get better."

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

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs in a game that lasted almost four hours.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured an insurance run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save before summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t protect a five-run lead in the ninth inning.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Ryan Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “In a perverse way, it may benefit us in the long run.”

Jason Heyward: Banged-up Cubs ready to be tested vs. Nationals

Jason Heyward: Banged-up Cubs ready to be tested vs. Nationals

WASHINGTON – The cut on Jason Heyward’s left hand has been compared to a third-degree burn, an injury that would have required stiches if the skin had not ripped off already.

The Cubs can’t count on their Gold Glove outfielder – or their World Series MVP (Ben Zobrist) or ERA titleholder (Kyle Hendricks) – for this four-game showdown against the Washington Nationals. All-Star shortstop Addison Russell didn’t start Monday night while dealing with a sore right shoulder, taking more juice out of this potential playoff preview at Nationals Park.

“Every day’s a test, regardless of whether we’re healthy or not,” Heyward said after taking about 15 swings off a tee. “Bottom line, every team goes through tests. Every single season, guys get hurt. And whoever’s there at the end of the year in the playoffs, they handled that the best and was able to weather that storm the best. 

“This team’s no different. Every single day, you’re expected to win. We expect each other to win and go out there and try to find a way to get it done every day. There’s going to be more tests, but that’s what you want.”

The next step for Heyward would be getting cleared to take a full batting practice.

“It’s getting better every day,” Heyward said, “but until it gets to the point where I can swing every day and take BP, I just got to do a little more waiting and healing.”

Heyward – who sliced open his hand while trying to make a sliding catch in foul territory on June 18 – is eligible to be activated from the 10-day disabled list on Thursday but would probably need some at-bats in the minors first.  

“We’ll let you know,” Heyward said. “I don’t do ‘probablys.’ I probably wouldn’t have wanted to be on the DL, either, but we’ll see what happens.”