Monday, October 25, 2010

Interim no more; Quade gets two-year deal

First word that came to mind when Bryan Duling texted me that Mike Quade had been named Cubs manager? Disappointed. (Word that I actually texted in response? "Dammit." My vocabulary doesn't get much of a workout in the texting arena.)

I've said before that managers/coaches are the hardest element to judge in sports. How do you separate a manger from his players? Eric Wedge won AL Manger of the Year in 2007 and was out of a job shortly thereafter. Same for Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006. Is Lovie Smith a great coach or a terrible one? Certainly both arguments have been made during his tenure in Chicago. Is Phil Jackson the greatest NBA coach ever or lucky to have had the names "Michael Jordan" and "Kobe Bryant" on his rosters?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that Ryne Sandberg put in
four good years in the Cubs minor league system, that he's lauded by the players he managed, and that he's managed just 37 fewer major league games than Mike Quade.

Prior to the 2003 season, the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, fresh off a World Series appearance and two years after he won Manager of the Year with the Giants. One word for that? Impressed. Impressed that Hendry lured one of the most respected managers in the game to Chicago after a stretch of no-name managers on the North Side.

Prior to the 2007 season, the Cubs hired Lou Piniella. He had struggled with the woeful Rays but was in the top 20 all-time for wins by a manager and was easily the biggest name out there at the time. One word? Excited. A fiery manager with a winning history and a World Series ring on his finger. Can't do much better than that.

And now, prior to the 2011 season, we have Mike Quade. He has managed 37 major league games. He was a third base coach less than three months ago. And he is not a Hall of Famer and does not have his jersey number flying from the right-field foul pole.

There's my bias sneaking its way in. But that's okay. A lot of Cubs fans wanted Sandberg in part because of his legacy with the team. Of course we would understand if he got passed over for someone who clearly deserved the job more. But Mike Quade? The third base coach?

Sandberg expressed an interest in managing back in 2006. Piniella was a much, much better option. So Hendry told Sandberg to pack his bags and hit the minors if he wanted to work his way up. He did. Then he got promoted. Then he got promoted again. He was over .500 as a minor league manager. He was named PCL Manager of the Year in 2010. In the last two years, he took a Double-A team to the league championship and produced the most victories in a 16-team Triple-A league. He has worked with many Cubs who will be on the 2011 roster.

And yet ... Mike Quade. Not Dusty Baker, not Lou Piniella, not Joe Girardi, not Joe Torre, but Mike Quade. Sandberg accepted Hendry's challenge, put in four successful years in the minors, and Hendry did nothing but open the door for him to leave the organization.

Now, we do have to be fair here. Quade managed the Iowa Cubs for four years. He's managed over 2,000 minor league games in total. It's fair to say that he, too, has paid his dues.

Look, Quade might be the perfect fit. In fact, a "no-name" manager might be just what the team needs. A few of the players endorsed him down the stretch. He led the team to a 24-13 record. He showed guts by benching Starlin Castro when he made a mental mistake. I can't sit here and tell you that Quade definitely won't be a good manager. And I can't tell you that Sandberg definitely would have succeeded with the Cubs.

But ... I'm disappointed. On the Ron Santo Always Getting Rejected by the Veterans Committee Scale, this is about a 5. I am absolutely crushed every other January when Santo fails to get into the Hall of Fame. This doesn't reach that level, but I am definitely disappointed and frustrated that the Cubs have a new manager and it's not Ryno.I'm disappointed that Sandberg likely will never get a chance to manage the Cubs. I'm disappointed that he worked his ass of for the organization for the last four years and got passed over for a third base coach who did well in a 37-game stretch with no pressure and a roster with an average age of about 23.

Which, by the way, is the number on that flag flying on the right-field foul pole. Sandberg was a hero as a Cubs player, but he won't have the chance to play hero from the dugout even though he deserved the job as much as any of the other candidates on Hendry's list.

I'll get over it. I'll root for Quade to have success and frankly, I don't have much reason to believe he won't do just fine. (I mean, you know, except for the 77-win roster he inherits.) I liked Piniella enough, but I'm looking forward to a new era, a new personality, and hopefully a little less confusion and bewilderment from the manager. I'll be excited to see what Quade can do come Opening Day.

But for now, I'm disappointed.

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