Quade gets his chance with Cubs
Mike Quade realized just how much his life had changed when he
returned to Florida and a neighbor delivered some chicken soup to
welcome him home.
She also brought along a dozen baseballs for him to sign.
He’s a man whose signature means more now than ever. He’s the
manager of one of baseball’s marquee teams, the Chicago Cubs.
After managing more than 2,000 minor league games and serving as
the team’s third base coach, Quade ran the Cubs on an interim basis
for the final six weeks last season – and did a good job – after
Lou Piniella retired in August.
Then in October, he got the job for good. Now the decisions he
makes will analyzed daily by thousands and they’ll be much more
crucial to the Cubs’ success than whether to send a runner home or
hold him at third.
As pitchers and catchers reported to spring training, Quade was
eager to get going, but said Friday when the full squad reports
will be a much bigger deal.
”I downplay stuff. Somewhere deep in my heart, yeah, this is a
big day to start this thing,” the 53-year-old Quade said.
Those final six weeks, when the Cubs compiled a 24-13 record
under his guidance to complete a 75-87 season and fifth-place
finish, helped Quade get a feel for the job and how the players
would respond to his style. It was all positive.
”Obviously he’s changed a little bit because he’s the man in
charge now,” right-hander Ryan Dempster said. ”But his
personality didn’t change. His relationship with us as players
didn’t change. What you see is what you get, what he says is what
you get. He did a really good job of communicating with all of us.
We all really enjoyed playing for him.”
Those six weeks may have been enjoyable, but they came after the
Cubs were far out of contention. Quade was chosen from a pool of
candidates that included popular Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg
and now must find a way to make the Cubs a force in the NL Central,
where the Reds are defending champs, the Cardinals are always
formidable and the Brewers have greatly improved.
And not that anyone needs to be reminded, but it’s been 102
years since the Cubs won a World Series. And many managers, with
longer resumes and bigger names than Quade, have tried and come up
short in that mission to bring the championship to the north side
Quade will let his coaches do their jobs but plans on being
hands-on with some of the finer points, like cutoff plays, going
from first to third, bunt defenses and other fundamentals.
”I just think for these guys to understand what I’m about,”
Quade said, ”these are areas I have to be involved in.”
Quade, a native of Evanston, Ill., was 1,213-1,165 as a minor
league manager in Montreal, Philadelphia, Oakland and Cubs farm
systems before becoming Chicago’s third base coach in 2007.
An avid fisherman, he makes his offseason home in Florida. And
since last season ended, he’s made a trip to Italy for baseball
clinics and attended the Cubs’ winter caravan.
He’s got plenty of decisions ahead, like picking his opening day
starter, where newcomer Matt Garza, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan
Dempster are the candidates. He’s hoping that the emotional
Zambrano, who underwent anger counseling last season after a
meltdown in a game against the White Sox, can show the same form
that allowed him to go 8-0 at the end of the season.
He must determine the rest of the rotation, sort out middle
relief and find a leadoff hitter.
”I couldn’t wait to get here. It’s probably the first time I’ve
relaxed in two or three months, if that makes any sense at all,”
said Quade, who walks to work at spring training and will do the
same in Chicago since he lives only two blocks from Wrigley Field.
He’s also been known to take public transportation.
Chicken soup as a gesture and a dozen baseballs as a favor sort
of sums up where a baseball lifer like Quade has landed. He’s a
normal guy who’s now a public figure.
”I understand the magnitude, believe me,” he said. ”But it
doesn’t do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in the magnitude.
I’m more of a grinding day-in, day-out guy. If we’re going to be
successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of
myself and do what I need to do.”