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: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system at 9:51 p.m. on Wednesday as Aroldis Chapman trotted toward the mound. Nothing would get lost in translation as the Cubs unleashed their new closer on the White Sox.

Chapman didn’t feel the full rush of adrenaline, because a revived offense scored five runs in the eighth inning, ending the save situation and any real suspense for the crowd of 41,166. The game within the game became looking up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board in left field for the velocity reading after each pitch and listening to the oohs and aahs.

Chapman made it look easy against the middle of the White Sox lineup, with 13 of his 15 pitches clocked between 100 and 103 mph in the ninth inning of an 8-1 victory. That triple-digit default setting, fluid left-handed delivery and intimidating presence showed why the Cubs made a game-changing trade with the New York Yankees.

The first impressions from Tuesday’s press conference apparently bothered Chapman enough that he initially refused to speak to the reporters waiting around his locker after his debut. There had been questions about his 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the off-the-field expectations from chairman Tom Ricketts and where the wires got crossed with coach/translator Henry Blanco.

After taking a shower – and listening to a few associates inside the clubhouse – Chapman agreed to two minutes of questions with catcher Miguel Montero acting as his translator.

“It happened,” Chapman said when asked about his portrayal in the Chicago media. “Don’t want to go further with it.”

The controversy will begin to fade after Chapman struck out Jose Abreu swinging at a 91-mph slider that almost scraped the dirt, forced Todd Frazier into a routine groundball and struck out pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia looking at a 103-mph fastball.

“It’s just entertaining to watch the gun, beyond everything else,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a different kind of a pitcher. You don’t see that every 100 years or so. He’s just that good. Everybody talks about the fastball. How good is the slider? The slider is devastating.

“He was very calm in the moment. He was able to get through the last couple days to go out there. It was almost good it wasn’t a save situation just to get his feet on the ground.”

Picture the drama and the excitement when Chapman isn’t throwing with a seven-run lead and has to get the final three outs in a playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“I’m not impressed – I thought we were getting a guy that threw 105,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel joked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s jaw-dropping. To see that type of velocity and command, it’s almost unfair to have a slider and offspeed pitches after that, too.”

This is what the Cubs envisioned when they decided to weather the media storms and absorb the PR hits, how Maddon could reimagine the entire bullpen and the whole team would sense the game-over feeling when the ball is in Chapman’s left hand.

“That’s a confidence-booster for us and it’s a morale kick for anybody out there,” Hammel said. “For the other side, it’s got to be black clouds: ‘Oh man, we can’t let the bullpen get in there.’”

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees directed blanket coverage of the Cubs in the weeks leading up to the Aroldis Chapman deal, looking closely at prospects throughout their farm system. Three names figured to be prominent if the Yankees decided to sell and the Cubs wanted to make a blockbuster trade: Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ.

The Yankees made Torres their headliner in that four-player return from the Cubs, getting the organization’s top prospect and a supremely talented defensive shortstop out of Venezuela. The Cubs invested $1.7 million in Torres during the summer of 2013, the signing formalized the same day as the Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

This has been years in the making for Theo Epstein’s front office, building the first-place team that drew 41,116 to Wrigley Field for Wednesday night’s 8-1 crosstown victory over the White Sox, watching Chapman throw 13 pitches in the ninth inning that hit triple digits on the huge video board, understanding that the Cubs had to sacrifice parts of their future for the now.

“That’s the right word – inevitable – just because of the timing of when we thought we were going to be good,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We all knew as we were doing this that there was going to come that time when you trade the player that you not only feel is an impact-type prospect, but the organization just loves the person.

“Gleyber certainly fits that. That was one of the tougher calls I’ve ever had where we’re trading a guy, just because of how much the kid meant to us personally, and just hearing him, too.

“He was – as you would expect (with) a 19-year-old – shaken up and saddened by it, just because in three short years he had dreamt of nothing but being a Cub and playing here at Wrigley. I just told him: ‘You’ll still be wearing pinstripes. They’ll just be a different (color).’”

The Cubs didn’t want to trade core guys off their major-league roster and have a middle-infield foundation with Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist. So they gave up a high-floor player from Class-A Myrtle Beach while holding onto Jimenez and Happ and seeking out more possible deals before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“All of them would have been hard to swallow,” McLeod said. “But we know that’s part of why we try to stockpile as much talent as we can.”

The Cubs can market Happ as another polished college switch-hitter with first-round pedigree, second baseman/outfielder versatility and an early ETA (already at Double-A Tennessee during his first full season of professional baseball).

Jimenez – who got a $2.8 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic during the same signing class as Torres – enjoyed a breakout performance during the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and almost has a .900 OPS at Class-A South Bend.

At the age of 19, with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and a smooth right-handed swing, Jimenez reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman season at the University of San Diego, meaning the sky is the limit.

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

The Crosstown Classic concludes on Thursday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA)

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