Quade: No Zambrano apology needed

Quade: No Zambrano apology needed

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 9:21 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER Others in the organization have more power and make more money. But no one who works for the Cubs will talk to the media as much as Mike Quade, and its not even close.

The manager understands that he has to manage the narrative what he says publicly matters in the clubhouse, fans want to know what he thinks and words have consequences.

From high up in the Minute Maid Park press box on Wednesday night, this looked like a serious breach of baseball protocol: Carlos Zambrano walking off the mound before Quade could even get there, then handing off the ball on the infield grass, about halfway toward the third-base line.

Less than 48 hours later, Quade stuck to his story and downplayed the incident, even though Zambrano was compelled to go to the managers office and say sorry immediately after a 9-5 win over the Houston Astros.

If that act offended Quades sensibilities as an old-school baseball guy, he didnt let it show.

I dont really think my ego is so big, Quade said Friday at Coors Field. If hes upset, just dont drop the thing, and I meant (that). I appreciate the apology, but I just didnt think it was that big a deal.

Thats it. I didnt need an apology to make this thing right.

The Cubs knew that Kerry Wood would pay dividends beyond the eighth inning. In this situation the veteran reliever should be credited with a hold or a save. Zambrano had hit his 22nd career homer in the sixth and then watched his five shutout innings evaporate.

When I came in, Woody told me to talk to Quade, Zambrano said. If Woody didnt say anything to me

Zambrano is almost 30 years old and has pitched in nearly 300 major-leagues games. But he sounded genuine when he admitted his mistake and said he didnt realize how far he had wandered off the mound.

There was no hint of Zambrano being defensive, making excuses or pointing fingers.

As a veteran pitcher, I have to be able to command more of myself and command the pitches, Zambrano said. I started the inning aggressive. Thats unacceptable.

To create that culture of accountability, you need guys like Wood, a beat cop patrolling the clubhouse.

Good for them, Quade said. I think those guys can police that kind of stuff more than I have to. Im not going to stomp around. Thats just not what I do.

Heres what Quade has to do: Before every game, there is a media briefing and a separate one-on-one interview with the teams flagship radio station. Postgame, 162 times a year, the manager has to sit there and answer questions and explain what just happened.

Factor in seven weeks of spring training and appearances on local and national radio and television outlets, Quades approaching 1,000 encounters with a microphone in his face.

The reporters come at Quade from all angles. They ask for updates on Kosuke Fukudomes strained hamstring, reactions to the Barry Bonds trial and opinions on instant replay.

Baseball culture doesnt allow Quade to dismiss it as a lower-body injury like Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Quade has to account for essentially double the number of players and games as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Quade cant help himself hell never be as boring as Lovie Smith at the Halas Hall podium.

Quade genuinely enjoys the give-and-take with reporters. He watches college basketball and wonders what the hell the coach is thinking, so he figures he cant be exempt from that second-guessing.

But there are limits. Picking a fight with Zambrano in the second week of the season probably isnt worth it. There will no doubt be other fires to put out.

In 17 years as a minor-league manager, and seven more as a big-league coach, Quade developed a thick skin. In this job, hes going to need it.

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

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

Preview: Cubs-Marlins Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Miami Marlins on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports App.

Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 11:30 a.m., followed by first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies on the call. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery (1-3, 2.26 ERA) vs. Edinson Volquez (3-8, 4.19 ERA)

Click here for more stats to make sure you’re ready for the action.

— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

Jon Lester: It’s go time for Cubs

MIAMI – Jon Lester dropped his head and wiped the sweat from his face. The Cubs ace didn’t jerk his neck and twist his body, hoping the swing and the sound somehow fooled him. The slow turnaround revealed the obvious – the 75-mph curveball out of his left hand flew over the left-field wall and nearly into the Clevelander bar billed as an adult playground. 

Lester gripped the next ball, stared out into the visual noise at Marlins Park and went to work late Saturday afternoon after J.T. Realmuto’s two-out, three-run homer in the first inning. This is the bulldog determination and tunnel vision that’s been the antidote to the big-market pressures at Fenway Park and Wrigley Field and made Lester such a big-game pitcher.

“You really just have to lock it down,” Lester said after doing just that in a 5-3 win. “You have to try to figure out a way to pitch innings. That was one thing I learned at an early age in Boston with ‘Schill’ (Curt Schilling) and Josh (Beckett). It doesn’t matter. Now we start over. You have to take that mindset of ‘It’s back to zero’ and not keep looking at the scoreboard.”

From that Realmuto moment, Lester retired the next 13 hitters he faced, 15 of the next 16 and 18 of his last 20 at a time when the Cubs needed that performance to buy time for their young hitters, weather a series of injuries and survive a brutal schedule.

Lester believed enough in the coming waves of talent to sign with a last-place team after the 2014 season, and got rewarded with his third World Series ring, continually impressed with this group’s poise and maturity.

The day after getting shut out for the sixth time this season, Addison Russell, Ian Happ, Javier Baez and Albert Almora Jr. – four 24-and-under players – combined to go 7-for-15 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s a test for everybody,” Lester said. “These guys are kind of getting broken in early. They’re going to figure it out and we’re going to go. Now it seems like our guys are really feeling comfortable at the plate. We’re having good at-bats, normal at-bats.

“The results will come. This is, obviously, a results-driven industry. But the plans – as far as on the mound and in the batter’s box – just look a lot smoother right now, a lot cleaner and hopefully we can just keep playing good baseball.”

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The Cubs are 38-36, a half-game behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and in position to win three consecutive series for the first time since April. Whether or not Lester (5-4, 3.83 ERA) returns to Little Havana for the All-Star Game, he is the bellwether for this rotation.  

“Jonny’s just got this thing going on right now,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He knows where the ball is going and he gets the high-number velocity when he wants to. He’s not just pitching at 92, 93, 94 (mph). It’s in his back pocket when he needs it. And he gets it with command when he wants it.

“As well as I’ve seen him pitch – I know he had a great run last year also – from a stuff perspective, command perspective, it’s as good as he can pitch.”

This $155 million investment will at some point become a sunk cost. The Cubs understand the history of nine-figure contracts for pitchers and how desperately they need reinforcements. But almost 100 innings into this title defense, Lester feels like he’s just getting started. 

“I feel better now than I did in April and May, for sure,” Lester said. “I think bigger bodies just take a while sometimes. Some years are different than others. Some years you come out like gangbusters and you’re ready to go and the body feels fine. And other years it takes a while to get into that rhythm of pitching every five days again. This was one of those years.”