Reporting Dan Bernstein
I enjoy the work of SI.com’s Will Carroll, but I really hope he’s wrong.
The former Baseball Prospectus Senior Writer and current BWAA member reported via Twitter yesterday afternoon that the Cubs were planning to announce the hiring of Mike Quade as manager and Ryne Sandberg as bench coach, perhaps as soon as next week.
It was not presented as a rock-solid scoop — more like passing along what a source indicated (the use of Twitter to soft-sell stories is a discussion for a different day). Regardless, the Cubs had better be smarter than that.
Quade as manager is fine. The genial baseball lifer made the most of the opportunity afforded him when Lou Piniella waddled pathetically into the cornstalks and evaporated. A moribund team woke up to finish 24-13 in 2010 garbage time, and veteran players spoke glowingly (and, yes, predictably) of Quade’s ability to communicate and connect.
He is qualified for the job, and may have just the right touch for a team in gear-grinding transition: the roster is made up of aging, expensive veterans, replacement-level drones and a couple decent prospects, and they want to cut payroll while contending in a bad division.
But putting Sandberg on the bench next to him is begging for trouble.
The inevitable rough patches will bring “Let Ryno manage!” yelps from overly-nostalgic, misguided fans who think that Sandberg is a good manager simply because he was a good player, and because they like him.
Quade would be undermined at the outset in both the public eye and the locker room, regardless of anything Sandberg could say or do. Hall-of-Famers bring gravity that way.
In truth, it would make far more baseball sense to invert the reported tandem, if you wanted both involved. Mollify hearts and minds of fans and the marketing department by intstalling Sandberg and let Quade be both his auxilliary brain and clubhouse good cop.
Quade even may fit the second-banana archetype better, actually, as the no-name longtimer with thousands of games coached and managed through all strata of professional baseball, quietly advising without ego or blinding ambition.
It would be a shame if Quade’s well-earned chance was eclipsed at this point by someone getting the job just because he’s supposed to. Sandberg should be complimented for working his way up through the system, but he was never promised a graduation to the organization’s top spot, nor should he have been.
He might be a very good manager.
The way this is all setting up, then, is that Sandberg needs to either manage the Cubs or work somewhere else, for the benefit of all involved.