By Dan Bernstein–
It should not be a luxury to have an actual person in charge of your baseball team.
After four years of Dusty Baker and more than three of Lou Piniella, though, a Cubs fan is allowed to celebrate the small victory of hearing each day from something other than a cartoon character.
This is not to say that Mike Quade is some kind of revelation, baseball genius, or chosen deliverer of freedom from the bonds of failure. He may be a good manager, maybe not. Most likely, he’s like all of them, somewhere in between.
But it’s nice to know, at least, that the voice we will hear most from the Cubs this spring and summer sounds like that of a regular human being.
The manager is the first and busiest point of interaction with the media, and, therefore, the fans. His is the team’s voice. For those of us who actively consume two franchises worth of Chicago baseball, the respective managers’ words join the soundtrack of our season.
The dugout on one side of town provides a stream of abrupt, unfiltered Spanglish about anything and everything. The other now brings us Quade’s amiable chatter.
Baker wore thin faster than we imagined. The toothpick-flipping was cute, until it just looked affected and weird. As it became clearer over time that his only managerial skills were tacitly endorsing steroid use and making sure his players were jerks, he ended up in a state of constant defensiveness, using the same playbook every time, every issue: say “dude” a few times, globalize the concern (“It ain’t just us, it’s everybody”), then attack the questioner.
For some of us, it was over the moment he literally hid behind his toddler to deflect questions after the epic collapse in the NLCS — one of the most naked acts of cowardice ever perpetrated by a coach or manager.
His tenure ended with shameful, predictable race-baiting, complete with hack reports from compromised national writers describing hate mail nobody ever actually saw. An ugly conclusion to a tenure that turned sour early.
Then another expensive rainmaker blew into town, bringing a World Series ring that was proof he’d get another. The stammering, potbellied Piniella came in chuckling about “Cubbie swagger,” and left weeping, slouched on a folding chair in a dank storage room.
The lovable gramps morphed into the angry old coot as he seemed to be blindsided by the intensity of attention. He’d entertain us by erupting every once in a while, but eventually withdrew into the same fatalism evinced by Baker – powerless against the forces swirling around him, all too often shrugging, asking “Whaddaya want me to do?”
Perhaps the lesson, then, is right in front of me. We should enjoy Quade while we can.
For the moment, I’ll appreciate a manager who seems to have an ability to relate confidently and comfortably, unafraid of saying the wrong thing. No jive act, no hand-holding by a nervous, hostile PR flack.
Here’s hoping he avoids the fate of his predecessors, lest he end up straitjacketed and gibbering, taking the padded-ambulance ride to the special home on the hill.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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