Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
HOUSTON Mike Quade still remembers the nights they sold beer for a quarter at an old stadium in Charleston, S.C., to lure in students from The Citadel. The rowdy fans would be hanging over the railings.
Quade cant forget the 14-hour bus rides, and a back wheel falling off somewhere between Jacksonville, Fla., and Memphis, leaving his players stranded. He couldnt read the newspapers in the Dominican Republic, but knew they were ripping him when his winter ball team got off to a slow start.
It took Quade 17 years and 2,378 games as a manager in the minors to get to this point. He won a Caribbean World Series in between and had to wait until almost the end of his seventh season as a major-league coach before receiving the phone call from Jim Hendry.
Quade had no idea why he was summoned to the general managers office on Aug. 21. He wasnt aware of how deep Lou Piniellas family issues ran in Tampa, Fla.
Two days later, a man who had only 215 career at-bats above the Class-A level would be replacing a potential Hall of Fame manager (Piniella) and bypassing a bench coach with borderline Cooperstown credentials (Alan Trammell).
On Sunday night, Quade flew back to Chicago after a 4-0 loss to the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. By any measure, his 37-game audition was a smashing success. The 53-year-old baseball lifer returns as the leading candidate to be the Cubs manager in 2011.
The Mount Prospect native will spend a few days packing up and visiting with his family in the suburbs. By the end of the week, he plans to be waist-deep in saltwater fishing off the Gulf coast of Florida. He likes his chances with Hendry and the Ricketts family.
I believed that I was capable and ready to get an opportunity to do this at this level. But believing it and proving it to yourself are two different things, Quade said. Its no different from (the players). They have great minor-league careers (but) now (youve) got to do it here.
I still wanted to find out myself if (the) way I do things (was) going to resonate with this group of guys.
Quade gave the players a clearer sense of when they would be playing and how they would be used. No longer would they keep circling back to that empty space on the clubhouse wall, waiting for the lineup to be posted. The rookies in the bullpen could relax a little bit and trust their stuff.
I dont think its a secret that everybody in the clubhouse (would) really like to see Quade get the job, catcher Koyie Hill said. Hes been through it all. (He) related to everybody.
Ive never seen a manager or a coach get everything out of every single player. Veteran guys, rookie guys, bench players, starters, relievers he brought it out of everybody.
Hendry appreciates that Quade didnt manage every night like it was Game 7 of the World Series. And the results were still there. The 75-87 Cubs finished with a strong 24-13 push, winning eight of 12 series. They had won 11 of their 40 series under Piniella.
We always knew what type of baseball guy Mike was, Hendry said. A lot of people were surprised when we named him the manager for the rest of the season and hes certainly done nothing but enhance his situation.
Weve won probably more games than any of us would have expected. The young players certainly developed at the rate that we needed them to going forward. (The) clubhouse responded extremely well to Mike, so for me to sit here and be critical in any way would be wrong.
On purpose Hendry never labeled Quade as an interim manager. Quade says he wont change if he gets the job next season. These past six weeks hes thought often about where hes been and at the end he quoted the Grateful Dead.
I dont get real nostalgic, Quade said. How does that song go? What a strange trip its been? For my year to end this way whod have thunk it?
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.