Quade tries to mold Cubs into winner
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 season.
''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 Sandberg.
''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 Andrew Cashner.
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 starts.
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.''