By Dave Wischnowsky–
(CBS) Well, the All-Star Game is done. And, in case you stopped paying attention around Mother’s Day…or Tax Day, the Chicago Cubs are, too.
Even if, mercilessly, their season is not.
By a long shot.
Yes, with 70 games still left to play in 2011, beginning Thursday night against the Marlins at Wrigley Field, Chicagoans are stuck watching (or, perhaps, not watching) these Less Than Lovable Losers for quite some time.
But one thing still worth observing during the season’s second half is Mike Quade and the question of how much longer he’ll be managing the Cubs.
My guess is for 70 more games.
Although, I think – and have always thought – that’s 70 more than we should have seen Quade manage the team in the first place.
As North Side fans know, in 2010, after Lou Piniella opted to amble off into the sunset with 37 games left to play, good-guy Quade was handed the interim manager reins and guided the Cubs to a 24-13 record down the stretch after they had lost 20 of their previous 25.
He did a nice job. But, with those 37 games being footloose and pressure-free, Quade didn’t deserve to become the Cubs manager because of it.
Rather, as I wrote in my Wisch List newspaper column last October, “My preference would be for the Cubs to hire [Ryne] Sandberg as manager and hire Quade as his bench coach. Because, I do think Mike Quade earned himself a job with his performance this season.
“I just don’t think he earned himself the top one.”
Now, that isn’t to say that the Cubs would be significantly better than their current 37-55 record with Sandberg at the helm. The roster would still be woefully flawed. However, considering Sandberg’s Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs are a division-leading 53-37 right now, I’m quite certain that the Cubs wouldn’t be any worse.
He’s again proven himself to be a highly successful minor league manager. And Sandberg’s hire would have allowed the Cubs to actually start writing their next chapter, rather than simply procrastinating about it for a year. Because, I feel that Jim Hendry’s decision to hire Quade over Sandberg was a senseless one, and it resulted in nothing but a wasted 2011 campaign.
Fact is, with all their shortcomings, the Cubs were going to stink this year, no matter what. But Sandberg – who I still believe to be the future manager of the Cubs – could have gained valuable experience in the Major Leagues as the team prepped for what should (and better) be a big offseason of trades and free agent activity.
And if the Cubs organization had handled things correctly, I also believe that Sandberg and Quade could even be weathering this storm – and working toward the future – together.
Last fall, I never understood why the debate about Sandberg and Quade was a debate at all, or had to become an either-or proposition. It didn’t need to be. And if Piniella hadn’t retired early, it never would have been.
Had he never gotten that 37-game audition (that was really just an illusion), it’s highly unlikely that Quade ever would have been considered for the top job. And my thinking was that Sandberg – if he had gotten the chance – just as easily could have led the Cubs to that 24-13 record, because the team’s late surge was most likely a symptom of recovery from Lou Piniella burnout than it was indicative of Quade’s managerial magic.
Those games were absolutely meaningless.
That said, I thought Quade did a fine job of keeping the Cubs’ seat warm for Sandberg – who had done everything asked of him by the organization in the minor leagues and deserved the big league gig. But I also thought that Quade’s interim tag should have been made clear by the ballclub from the get-go, clearing the way for Ryno and avoiding any controversy.
Had that been the case, there shouldn’t have been any hard feelings if Quade was offered the Cubs’ bench coach position for 2011. In fact, if the situation had been clear from the outset, he likely would have appreciated the promotion.
Meanwhile, it’s doubtful that Sandberg would have objected if the rookie manager was told by Hendry to retain Quade to ensure some continuity and keep an experienced advisor on his roster.
Instead, though, the Cubs have an incredibly inexperienced coaching staff across the board, with Hendry allowing Quade to questionably hire a first base coach (Bob Dernier) and a third base coach (Ivan DeJesus) who also have never before held those jobs at the big league level.
Additionally, Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins has handled a Major League staff just once – way back in 1995 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Who would have Sandberg hired as his coaches? We don’t know. But there are burgers at Murphy’s that have more seasoning than the Cubs’ current coaching staff.
And Ryne Sandberg is instead getting more of his in the minor leagues – for a rival organization – when he should instead be doing so for the Cubs at the Major League level.
And perhaps even doing so with Mike Quade sitting there alongside him as his right-hand man.
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.