Mike Quade had gone fishing, a passion for him that ranks right
up there with baseball. On his way to the boat earlier this month,
a call came from general manager Jim Hendry. Seems the Cubs were on
the verge of hooking a big one.
The Cubs were nearing a deal for a pitcher who could be at the
top of their rotation, a right-hander with an emotional approach
and a dominating fastball who had won 15 games while pitching in
the formidable AL East last season – Tampa Bay’s Matt Garza.
Quade turned off his phone, hit the water for four hours and
when he got to his offseason home in Florida heard talk radio
bemoaning that the Rays had lost Garza.
”So you get done with a fishing trip and yes! We got him,”
Quade said Friday at the Cubs winter convention.
Quade earned his job as manager of the Cubs after replacing Lou
Piniella on an interim basis last season, leading a team that was
far out of playoff contention to a 24-13 record. He garnered the
approval of veteran players, showed that after managing more than
2,000 games in the minors and coaching third base for the Cubs that
he was ready for the next step.
Now with Garza coming on board along with former Tampa teammate
Carlos Pena and fan favorite Kerry Wood returning, the Cubs are
expecting to better their fifth-place finish in the NL Central last
”Why not us? And that’s the way we’re going to look at it,”
said Quade, who’s been known to take public transportation to
Wrigley Field. ”It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to approach
this thing like we’re going to win a division.”
The Cubs won division titles in 2007 and 2008 in Piniella’s
first two seasons, only to be swept in the first round of the
playoffs both years. They failed to make the postseason in 2009 and
then fell apart a year ago before Piniella retired Aug. 22.
For those counting, it’s 102 years and counting without a World
Series title. Quade was chosen from a field that included one of
the most popular players in Cubs’ history, Hall of Famer Ryne
”He’s easy to talk to. You can walk into his office at any
time. He’s prepared. He knows how to manage, he’s been around some
greats. It’s time to take over,” Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd
said of Quade.
Quade’s team will be an interesting mix. There are three young
players who displayed their potential last season – the three Cs –
in shortstop Starlin Castro, outfielder Tyler Colvin and pitcher
There are veterans like Aramis Ramirez, Byrd, Geovany Soto,
Alfonso Soriano, Wood and Pena.
And now there’s a big-time pitcher in Garza to join a rotation
that includes Carlos Zambrano – a pitcher known for his emotional
outbursts – and Ryan Dempster with a strong cast of potential
fourth and fifth starters.
Zambrano was suspended and underwent counseling last season
after a fiery outburst across town against the White Sox when he
went ballistic in the dugout, apparently upset that some of his
teammates didn’t dive for balls.
When he returned, Zambrano went 8-0 over his final 11
Now with Garza and Zambrano in the same rotation, the Cubs have
two pitches not afraid to show what display what they feel.
Zambrano’s antics have some times been off the chart.
”We have another emotional guy on the team, which is Garza.
I’ve been watching him for some period of time,” Zambrano said
Friday. ”The same emotion and same passion for the game, nobody
will take that away from me.”
Garza and Zambrano chatted during Friday’s convention.
Garza said he wants Zambrano to teach him his sinker. Zambrano
said he would, as long as Garza shows him his curveball.
They both would like to be part of a Cubs team known for its
winning, not any theatrics. Garza’s already been part of a
turnaround with the Rays, who went to the World Series in 2008 and
won their division a year ago.
”I came from a team where they didn’t win forever,” Garza
said. ”I’ll just do my part and be a piece of the puzzle …
That’s all I can do. Be me and do my part.”