Sandberg's drive for manager surprises Dawson

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Sandberg's drive for manager surprises Dawson

Monday, Aug. 30, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The brand is so powerful that Andre Dawson has been recognized by Cubs fans in Japan and Hong Kong. Around the world, people are wondering who their next manager will be.

Thats part of what makes the job so attractive. Every candidate dreams about running from the top step of the dugout to the pile of players celebrating on the infield grass. He will be remembered forever as the manager who guided the Cubs to their first World Series title in more than a century.

The front office is trying to define what sort of leader that man should be. Ryne Sandberg has shown that hes willing to ride buses, eat peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and break a sweat throwing batting practice.

With a search that could last into November, fans and reporters alike are curious for any detail. Sandberg played with Dawson for six seasons and lobbied for him to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Im still kind of amazed that he wants to do it at this level, Dawson said Monday. Its different at the minor-league level when youre doing more evaluating. Youre working with the kids and youre trying to get them to the next level.

Here its just egos, attitude, business and youre under the microscope a little bit more. Ryno (was) a little bit more laid-back, quiet. Maybe theres a different animal now thats trying to surface.

Last month, Dawson joined Sandberg in Cooperstown, N.Y., and for that induction, he was honored during a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field, which was largely empty on Monday night when The Hawk walked in from the right-field gate.

The fans in the bleachers once poured beer on Dawson when he played for the Montreal Expos, but he again credited them for the second act of his career. His knees ravaged after 11 seasons of playing on the artificial turf at Olympic Stadium, he needed to play on natural grass.

Insulted when the Expos asked him to take a 200,000 pay cut, he offered a blank contract to the Cubs and Atlanta Braves. He doesnt know how long he would have lasted in baseball without the surge of energy he experienced playing in Chicago. His numbers 438 home runs, 2,774 hits, eight Gold Gloves, eight All-Star appearances would almost certainly look different.

It might take the Cubs telling Joe Girardi to draw up his own contract to lure him out of New York and the empire the Yankees have built.

Sandberg took a risk when he decided to leave his comfortable post-playing existence and start out managing at Class-A Peoria in 2007 before working his way up the organizational ladder to Triple-A Iowa.

Youd never know (hes a Hall of Famer), Iowa outfielder Sam Fuld said. He doesnt just rest on his laurels. If you saw his work ethic, youd think he was a guy who never played above A-ball.

Mike Quades high point as a professional player came at Double-A Buffalo in 1981, and on Monday night, the Mount Prospect native managed his first game at Wrigley Field. Even as a third-base coach, Quade always tried to take a moment each day to look at the rooftops and all the scenery and appreciate his surroundings.

That the Cubs chose Quade when Lou Piniella decided to step down last week does not necessarily signal a lack of faith in Sandberg. Iowa is trying to make a playoff push, and imagine the media circus if a Cubs legend just showed up in the clubhouse one afternoon.

How will Quades record after this 37-game audition be judged?

I hope that the overall picture is taken into account, Quade said. Im sure wins and losses will be a part of it. To what extent? Thats for the people that are evaluating me to (decide).

Ironically, Quade used to have Sandbergs job in Iowa, and he is wearing No. 8, just like Dawson did during his MVP season in 1987. Dawson thinks Sandberg can handle this, but knows that he wont be viewed the same if he becomes the 52nd Cubs manager in franchise history.

There are going to be certain expectations, Dawson said. Its a tough situation to put yourself in because youre used to success. Youre used to being put on a pedestal. (With) your accomplishments, your achievements, theres always been a lot of hype.

Now youre in a different situation where (youre) trying to get players to perform at a certain level. (And) if you cant do that, youll know right away whether youre cut out for 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-Dodgers today on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers today on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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

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

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

Cubs: Jason Hammel still fuming after Joe Maddon’s quick hook at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – Even from the upper levels of Dodger Stadium, inside the Vin Scully Press Box, you didn’t need binoculars or a lip reader to tell that Jason Hammel wanted nothing to do with Joe Maddon. 

Not this early on Saturday afternoon, not when the Cubs pitcher came into a possible playoff preview with a 13-6 record and a 3.07 ERA. An animated Hammel gestured toward home plate and walked off the mound in the middle of the third inning, continuing a sometimes awkward/usually productive relationship with the star manager that dates back to their time together as Tampa Bay Rays.    

The media waited several extra minutes outside the visiting clubhouse after a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers while Hammel met with Maddon in his office. Maddon’s postgame press conference then lasted almost eight minutes, giving Hammel time to shower and change into his street clothes. Hammel was still fuming by the time reporters wandered over to his locker.

“That’s between me and Joe,” Hammel said. 

Hammel – who normally enjoys the back-and-forth exchanges and gives insightful answers, even to uncomfortable questions – declined to get specific about the meeting, the decision-making process or how to work with Maddon.  

“That’s a conversation for me and him,” Hammel said. “There’s no reason for that to be in the papers. It’s a professional way of working through it. We’ll leave it there.” 

No, Hammel doesn’t get much latitude, even during his 11th year in the big leagues and a strong individual season that had so far answered questions about a second-half fade. But Maddon didn’t like what he saw against a stacked left-handed Los Angeles lineup.

Maddon walked out from the dugout with two runners on and one out in the third inning. Adrian Gonzalez loomed next, trying to extend a 3-1 lead with one big swing. Maddon summoned Rob Zastryzny from the bullpen and watched the rookie lefty get two groundball outs.  

“I didn’t even pitch today in my mind,” Hammel said. “I barely threw 40 pitches, so this is a side day for me.”

Zastryzny looked extremely impressive, retiring 11 of the 12 batters he faced, eight days after getting called up from Triple-A Iowa and making his big-league debut, showing that he could become an X-factor for October.

“He was not happy with me taking him out that early,” Maddon said of his conversations with Hammel. “I can understand why, because it’s happened in the past. But I just didn’t see the game straightening out.

“Watching them one time through, it looked like they were on him a little bit. And I thought that was a great lineup for ‘Rob Z.’ One of the things with bullpen arms – I want to put them in a meaningful spot. 

“I didn’t see it happening for ‘Hammer’ today, and that’s cool, because he didn’t throw that many pitches. He’s going to be very well-rested for his next start. But it also illustrates ‘Rob Z’ and what he can do for us in the future.” 

No, Hammel didn’t look all that sharp, giving up five hits to the 12 batters he faced, including a first-inning homer to Corey Seager and three consecutive hits to begin the third. But Hammel is also a respected veteran teammate who helped the Cubs transform into a playoff team last year and build baseball’s top-performing rotation this season. 

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Who cares? The Cubs are still 36 games over .500 and began the day with huge leads over the St. Louis Cardinals (14) and Pittsburgh Pirates (16.5) in a watered-down division. 

Well, Hammel is a guy who feeds off confidence and positive reinforcement. The Cubs might need him in October, especially if John Lackey (shoulder) experiences a setback before coming off the disabled list or another starter gets hurt down the stretch.  

“It is what it is,” Hammel said. “The guys fought hard. ‘Z’ did a hell of a job coming out of the ‘pen.”

Then again, the Cubs already think Mike Montgomery could develop into a good big-league starter – the lefty swingman got a longer leash given this particular Los Angeles matchup on Friday night – and thought enough of Zastryzny to make him a second-round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2013.

But for now, Maddon allowed Hammel to take advantage of his open-door policy and vent.

“I want them to be able to do that,” Maddon said. “I have a reason why I did it. I’m not going to hide about anything. It’s not like I just picked that out of the hat and chose to do it today. 

“You just got to shoot them straight back. And hopefully they can deal with it. There’s a great line: ‘Honesty without compassion equals cruelty.’ So at some point, you got to understand your audience, too.”

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

Joe Maddon defends bunt decision after Cubs can’t knock out Dodgers phenom Julio Urias

LOS ANGELES – The Cubs had Julio Urias and the Los Angeles Dodgers on the ropes, but couldn’t knock out the young lefty from Mexico who’s drawn comparisons to franchise icon Fernando Valenzuela and could be the next star to burst from this pitching-rich pipeline.  

The Cubs created their “you go, we go” sense of momentum on Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with Dexter Fowler drawing a leadoff walk and MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hitting back-to-back singles into right field to generate the game’s first run.

Urias had already thrown 17 pitches in the first inning when manager Joe Maddon instructed cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist to try to bunt for a hit. It became an easy out for Urias, who then struck out Addison Russell and Jorge Soler looking and began to find his rhythm during a 3-2 victory in front of 49,522 at Chavez Ravine. 

“Second and third was kind of a nice spot to be,” Maddon said. “(Zobrist) could have hit into a double play. He’s the one guy who’s heavy groundball against that particular pitcher. 

“I actually like the bunt for the hit right there, (because) we had (already) scored (and) Addison’s been a pretty good RBI dude. I thought it was a nice move right there (to) at least get one (run) out of that. 

“You got him and Soler coming up versus a left-hander who’s a little bit shaky right there – I kind of liked it.”

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The Cubs had roughed up Urias during his second career big-league start on June 2 – or two-plus months before his 20th birthday – by hitting three homers and scoring six runs off him in five innings at Wrigley Field.   

But Urias – who pitched at four different minor-league levels last season – clearly has an accelerated learning curve. He managed to last six innings this time and didn’t allow another run after that early flurry, finishing with eight strikeouts against two walks.  

Urias has gone 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last six games (four starts), helping bail out a $250 million team and a fragile rotation that’s used 14 different starting pitchers. If the Dodgers (72-57) can get Clayton Kershaw back to full strength, keep Rich Hill healthy and continue to bring along Urias, then the Cubs might have some matchup nightmares in October. 

“(Urias is) all of what they think he is,” Maddon said. “The kid was outstanding. He knows how to elevate against the guy you’re supposed to elevate against. He knows how to throw the ball down against the guy you’re supposed to throw the ball down to. He’s got a nice move to first base. He handled himself well at the plate. And he’s 20 years old. That’s pretty good.”