Chicago Cubs

Quade recalls the "Moneyball" days in Oakland

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Quade recalls the "Moneyball" days in Oakland

Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 9:44 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
CINCINNATI Mike Quade will come home late one night and find Moneyball on HBO. He will sit down and wont be able to change the channel. At some point, curiosity will take over.

Its like a car wreck at an Indy race, Quade said.

The Cubs manager doesnt plan to go see the movie when it hits theaters on Sept. 23. He didnt read the book either. As someone who worked seven years in the Oakland organization three as an As coach, four as a minor-league manager he already lived through Moneyball.

Billy Beane let Michael Lewis behind the curtain during the 2002 season, to show the bestselling author how a small-market team could compete against the games economic superpowers. The As used statistical analysis to stay ahead of the curve, finding value in overlooked assets like on-base percentage and college pitchers.

A recent New York Magazine cover story details the struggle to get this movie made. Film rights to the book were sold in 2003. Several screenwriters and directors took a swing before it made it to the big screen. The star power of Brad Pitt, who plays Beane, kept the project moving forward.

Carlos Pena, who spent part of the 2002 season with Oakland, was once contacted by a Moneyball movie representative, but never heard anything back.

The Cubs first baseman was featured in the book, but doesnt remember being interviewed for it, and hasnt read it either. But hes definitely curious to see how it translates and who, if anyone, plays him in the film.

Given unprecedented access, Lewis did a great job of blending into the background. As an As first-base coach, Quade was a low-priority source. It took awhile before Quade finally asked someone: Who is that guy?

I show up at the ballpark a lot of times with blinders on just because I got work to do, Quade said. In a major-league clubhouse, there are a lot of unfamiliar faces, whether theyre friends of players, (the) manager (or) GM. I basically approached things like: Its none of my business who this is.

While shadowing the Oakland front office in the run-up to the 2002 draft, Lewis developed a relationship with Mark Teahen, and the two would stay in contact years later. A gifted writer and reporter, Lewis reconstructed the scenes where the As select Nick Swisher and Teahen within the first 39 picks.

I read Moneyball right away I know Swisher didnt, Teahen joked last year during spring training while he was with the White Sox. I think Michael even sent it to him on tape. But he didnt have the patience to even listen to it.

Quade, who maintains a home in Florida, enjoyed The Big Short, another Lewis book about the global financial crisis. But the manager has only read a few excerpts of Moneyball.

Why do I need to read what I lived? Quade said. (But) I was so interested in the real estate meltdown. I love contrarians, those people that were looking at numbers (saying): This is ridiculous. This cant happen. This isnt true. (There) were a few lone voices nobody listened to and these guys make gazillions.

Theres no doubt that Quade has felt like that during his career. The 2002 As won 103 games including 20 in a row at one point but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the division series. Quade wasnt brought back the next season as Beane made room on the coaching staff for his good friend Bob Geren, another future manager hed ultimately have to fire.

As a younger man, Quade was devastated when he was fired from the Pirates organization. Now 54, he knows that in this business you're hired to be fired.
Carlos Pena was part of the Moneyball philosophy when Billy Beane acquired him from the Texas Rangers, he is mentioned in the book and was contacted about the movie. (AP)
You (are) resolved to the fact that this is the nature of what you do, Quade said. The times I have been let go, many of them I understood and almost expected. Oakland was not one of those. But personality conflicts (happen). Its not the best part of the game, but you understand it.

Even in private moments, Quade doesnt sound bitter. He still considers Oakland farm director Keith Lieppman to be a close friend and a major influence in his career. That decision pushed him to Triple-A Iowa, Lou Piniellas staff and ultimately his chance as a big-league manager.

No one knows how this movie will end. Beane has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the general manager job on the North Side, even though the As havent had a winning season since 2006.

Miguel Tejada has credited Quades tough-love approach in the minors the same one now used with Starlin Castro for helping him develop into the American League MVP in 2002. Against long odds, Tejada, Eric Chavez and the Big Three of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder formed the core of a contender.

Thats what Quade takes pride in and will remember most from the experience. Hell wait to let others see it and report back with their reviews of the movie version.

One friend in San Francisco told Quade a scene was shot in which a coach on the field is wearing a Quade jersey. The kicker is that the Quade character had hair.

It was a pretty damn good baseball factory, Quade said. I just hope that comes through in the movie. It was a really good time to be an Oakland Athletic.

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.”