Chicago Cubs

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.

Fuming over ninth-inning call, Joe Maddon is done with playing nice in MLB sandbox: ‘That’s asinine’

Fuming over ninth-inning call, Joe Maddon is done with playing nice in MLB sandbox: ‘That’s asinine’

A walk-off win in the middle of a pennant race didn’t dull the edge in Joe Maddon’s voice, the Cubs manager blasting Major League Baseball and expecting to be fined for his rant in the Wrigley Field interview room.    

“That’s asinine,” Maddon said after Wednesday night’s 7-6 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, fuming over the ninth-inning at-bat where Ben Zobrist showed bunt and got drilled by Wandy Peralta’s 96-mph fastball. Home plate umpire Ryan Blakney signaled for Zobrist to jog to first base, only to have first base umpire Chris Conroy call strike two.

“Listen, I don’t even know what to say about that call,” said Maddon, who stormed onto the field and got ejected for the second time this season. “We’ve had different things happen, and I’ve been playing really good in the sandbox. Really good. And I’m not right now. That call cannot be made under those circumstances.

“I can understand if the guy’s actually swinging, and all of a sudden you get like a check swing. But he’s bunting – and then trying to get out of the way – and you’re going to call a bunt?

“There’s no way any hitter under those circumstances – with the ball coming at his thigh – is going to bunt through it and then get hit in the thigh.

“That really almost did cost us the game. Fortunately, we came back, they made their wild pitch. But I’ve been playing good in the sandbox. That was wrong.”

Zobrist – who called for an electronic strike zone after watching a controversial strike three end Saturday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field – still managed to put the ball in play, move up Javier Baez and Jon Jay and keep the pressure on the last-place Reds.  

“I tried to pull the bat back, but there was nowhere for me to go,” Zobrist said. “It started right at me, and was going down towards my ankle, and I could not physically pull it back and still pull my ankle up at the same time. I tried to pull my ankle up and (Conroy) thought I was offering at it, apparently.”

Imagine the reaction if the Cubs hadn’t regrouped and maintained a 1.5-game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central.

“I know that instant replay is not perfect,” Maddon said. “But all this little minutia needs to be looked at as we move this along, because that impacted the game. That’s bases loaded, nobody out. It’s a different at-bat for (Albert) Almora. It’s a different thought for their pitcher. Everything’s different. The world rotates differently at that point.

“To influence a game like that is wrong. And, listen, the guy’s a good guy. I think he’s a good umpire. But I’m not going to concede consistently to these guys. You can’t make that mistake.”

The evolution of Kris Bryant and why Joey Votto became his favorite player

The evolution of Kris Bryant and why Joey Votto became his favorite player

Kris Bryant already has a bromance with Anthony Rizzo, their Bryzzo Souvenir Co. brand and a joint appearance at a downtown Chicago hotel this weekend where Cubs fans can pay $699 for their autographs.

Bryant also has a friendly rivalry with Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals superstar who loves trolling on social media and teasing where he might land as a free agent after the 2018 season. Even their wives had fun with it on Instagram earlier this month when the Nationals came to Wrigley Field for a potential playoff preview.

But the player Bryant patterns himself after now – the one who lives up to “The Science of Hitting” and the principles his father absorbed from Ted Williams and passed down in the family’s batting cage in Las Vegas – is Joey Votto.

“He’s the best player ever,” Bryant said before Wednesday night’s 7-6 walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds. “He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain.

“He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”

Favorite player? Really?

“Besides, you know, people on my team,” Bryant said with a laugh.

The Cubs contained Votto on a night where their bullpen nearly imploded, holding him to a 1-for-4 that stopped him from tying the major-league record Williams set in 1948 by getting on base at least twice in 21 straight games with the Boston Red Sox.

Through Votto, Bryant sees where he can grow after becoming a National League Rookie of the Year and MVP and World Series champion before his 25th birthday.    

“He’s not just doing it this year – he’s doing it his whole career,” Bryant said. “He’s a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”

Bryant – who has reached base safely in his last 13 games and put up a 1.035 OPS in August – is heating up at a time when the Cubs are trying to fend off the Milwaukee Brewers (1.5 games back) and St. Louis Cardinals (2.5 games back) in a tight division race.

Where Votto famously dismissed old questions about whether or not he was being too selective, Bryant blocks out any talk about an All-Star snub, his batting average with runners in scoring position (.227) or RBI total (54). Bryant is getting on base more than 40 percent of the time and also leads the team in doubles (25), runs scored (78) and OPS (.936).  

“Sometimes it’s almost like you can kind of go up there and force the pitcher to throw the pitch that you want, just by taking pitches,” Bryant said. “My first year, I was kind of just up there swinging at everything. I still felt the approach was good and it could work in the big leagues. And it did. But I think there’s ways to have a better approach up there.

“(Votto’s) a different guy with that. I feel like he’s aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it. And he mentioned that to me, too, when I got to first (on Monday night). He said: ‘Your approach looks a lot better this year.’”

Bryant sincerely thanked Votto, but the reigning MVP isn’t trying to put together a package deal with Harper and turn the Cubs into Major League Baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors.  

“I already told him before: ‘We already have a pretty good first baseman. He’s not going anywhere,’” Bryant said. “Joey can switch positions if he wants to play for the Cubs.”