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.

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

After winter of taking heat, Cubs still have Joe Maddon's back

MESA, Ariz. — It only took 21 minutes into spring training — or the first press conference on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona — before Joe Maddon listened to another question about all the heat he took for his World Series Game 7 decisions.

More than 2,000 miles away at Yankee camp in Florida last week, Aroldis Chapman told the Chicago Sun-Times that he "was just being truthful" when he used the conference call to announce the biggest contract ever for a closer — five years and $86 million — to inform the New York media that Maddon misused him during the playoffs. Nothing lost in translation there.

Miguel Montero finally declared a ceasefire on Monday night, getting the sit-down meeting the Cubs felt should go longer than the standard meet and greet after the veteran catcher's jarringly critical comments on WMVP-AM 1000 (if only because it happened on the same day as the championship parade and Grant Park rally).

"It's such an unusual situation," general manager Jed Hoyer said, "because we won the World Series, and theoretically you think that people would be really happy."

As ex-Cub manager Dale Sveum might say: "Ya think?"

Ending the 108-year drought might lead Maddon's Hall of Fame plaque someday, but it also led to waves and waves of second-guessing and speculation about how it might impact his clubhouse credibility. But with Maddon and Montero declaring their Andreoli Italian Grocer summit a success, gonzo strength and conditioning coordinator Tim Buss cruising onto the field in a Ferrari for the first wacky stunt of 2017 and Cactus League games beginning on Saturday, it's time to remember that the Cubs still have their manager's back.

"Everyone says they don't see or read anything," pitcher Jake Arrieta said. "We see and hear a lot of the stuff. But I just think that critics are going to find holes in something always.

"Joe was our leader all year last year. He obviously set the tone in spring training and gives us all these freedoms that help us play the way we played. So the people that matter — and know what Joe's about — are on the same page with his philosophies.

"The way he expresses himself to us is the most important thing. And we stand behind him. We trust that he's going to do what's in our best interest. And we know that any decision he makes is geared towards trying to help us win."

Within the last two seasons, the Cubs have won 200 games, five playoff rounds and their first World Series title since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. Maddon readily admits that the scouting and development wings of Theo Epstein's front office did most of the heavy lifting and credits the strong coaching staff he largely inherited. Spending more than $475 million on free agents like Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist certainly helped.

But all this doesn't happen without Maddon and the environment he created. The Cubs Way absolutely needed a ringmaster for this circus.

Arrieta developed into a Cy Young Award winner. Kyle Hendricks transformed into an ERA leader. Kris Bryant burst onto the scene as a Rookie of the Year and the National League MVP. Addison Russell became an All-Star shortstop by the age of 22. Maddon didn't prejudge Javier Baez, immediately appreciating the dazzling array of skills and super-utility possibilities.

Surprised by the Maddon backlash?

"Yes and no," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. "Because there needs to be a story. But what he did — people who are real involved know that since Day 1, he came in and he set the tone.

"He completely flipped the way people think, the way we believe, and everyone has bought into it. The credit he deserves — he gets a lot of it — but I don't think he gets enough of it. Because he lets me be me. He lets Javy be Javy.

"Willson (Contreras), Kris and Addie — everyone has their different personalities. He understands that. And it's not easy to do."

It's such an impossible job, at times, that even Cubs officials and players have acknowledged their frustrations with some of Maddon's in-game decisions and communication gaps. This can't just be written off as a media creation. But imagine the grumbling if the Cubs didn't have a leader with seven 90-win seasons and three Manager of the Year awards on his resume.

"We have a competitive group of guys," Hoyer said. "Every guy wants to be on the field at the right time. Every guy wants to be on the roster. Every guy wants to pitch in winning games.

"That's not realistic sometimes. It comes from a great place. It doesn't come from a place of selfishness. It comes from a place of: 'I want to contribute to winning.'

"The meetings we've had have been awesome. Our camp is unbelievably focused. We are just as focused as last year. I really don't look at it as a negative."

The last word from Maddon, who turned 63 this month and has a $25 million contract, a wide range of off-the-field interests and the championship ring that will make him a legend in Chicago forever, no matter what kind of heat he took this winter.

"Stuff like that doesn't bother me at all," Maddon said. "Regardless of what people may have thought — like any other game that I worked all year long — I had it planned out like that before the game began. So it wasn't anything I tried to do differently game in progress. Had I not done what I thought I was supposed to do — then I would have second-guessed myself.

"So, no, I have no problem with that. I really don't mind the second-guessing from anybody. I kind of encourage it. Please go ahead and do it, because I'll take that kind of second-guessing after winning a World Series on an annual basis. Thank you very much."

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down 'slippery slope' with rules changes

Kris Bryant: Major League Baseball could be going down 'slippery slope' with rules changes

MESA, Ariz. – Kris Bryant has led a charmed baseball life – Golden Spikes Award winner, Arizona Fall League MVP, consensus minor league player of the year, two-time All-Star, Hank Aaron Award winner, National League Rookie of the Year and MVP and World Series champion – all before his 25th birthday last month.

So, no, the Cubs superstar doesn't see the need for any dramatic overhaul to a sport that's desperately trying to connect with Bryant's demographic and keep up at a time when iPhones are killing everyone's attention spans and the entertainment options are endless.            

"I love the way it is," Bryant before Wednesday's workout at the Sloan Park complex.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred essentially fired a warning shot during Tuesday's Cactus League media event at the Arizona Biltmore, threatening to unilaterally impose pace-of-play changes – think pitch clock, limited mound visits, new strike zone – for the 2018 season if the players' union doesn't cooperate.

The first reported difference is the traditional four-pitch intentional walk turning into a dugout signal, which seems to be more of a cosmetic change than an actual efficiency measure.

"You're in the box, you want to force someone to make a pitch," said Bryant, who remembered Anthony Rizzo’s 10th-inning matchup against Cleveland Indians reliever Bryan Shaw. "Just the World Series, for example, when 'Rizz' got intentionally walked. There were a couple that were low. What if the ball got away? That's huge. Especially in that type of situation – Game 7 of the World Series – you want to put pressure on the pitcher any way you can.

"It seems like it's not stressful at all, but any time you're not throwing at full effort for a pitcher, it seems like there's a chance that we could do damage on that."

That's actually Manfred's agenda in an age of grinding at-bats, specialized bullpens and defensive shifts – trying to create more action and eliminating some of the dead air more than simply cutting the length of games by a few minutes.

"The game's been the same to me since I was young, so I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Bryant said. "I think that's what makes our game great. It is a long game and we play 162 games a year and there's more strategy involved with it. I think it could be a slippery slope once you start changing all these things. 

"The people you really need to ask are the fans. The diehard fans are going to be the ones who oppose more changes. They're the ones who pay to watch us play. Those are the opinions that you need."

In using this power in the new collective bargaining agreement as leverage, Manfred is looking at the future of a $10 billion industry, insisting the game isn't broken when more than 75 million people visited major-league stadiums last season.

But even Cubs manager Joe Maddon – who’s usually open-minded and in tune with these kind of big-picture ideas – doesn’t get the pace-of-play focus.

"I'm not privy to all the reasons why it's so important," Maddon said. "It just appears to be important for the people in New York. My job is not to make those decisions. My job is to ultimately make the Cubs play well again, etc., so there are certain things that I don’t quite understand.

"If I had more interior information maybe you could be more supportive of it. On the surface – I've talked about it in the past – I don't really understand the pace-of-game issues because I don't really pay attention to that. I'm just locked into managing the game. The nine innings go 2 hours and 15 minutes, or 3 hours and 20, as long as you win, I don’t care.

"That's where I come from, but there's something obviously larger than that that's really causing a lot of these discussions. Again, from my office, I don't necessarily know what that is. But I do know new normals may occur."