Quade gets his chance with Cubs

BY foxsports • February 13, 2011

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 of Chicago.

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.''

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