Wisch: What The Cubs Should Have Done With Quade

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.

wisch small Wisch: What The Cubs Should Have Done With Quade

Dave Wischnowsky

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.


    Three “mysteries” to this season, Dave that may have been answered:

    Why was Dempster so slow to start?
    Who pushed Cashner?
    Who opened the curtains in Michael’s bedroom? (oh, wait)
    Who pushed for Pena?

    Last year’s bench didn’t fit together, but Alan Trammel had major league managing experience. Granted, it was the 52-win tigers. Most fans were conceding this season. Quade needed the two years to feel confident with his decisions for this year. Which comes to, yet another mystery: What were his marching orders for this year? It seems to me, Quade was supposed to win the division. That’s why they got Garza and Pena, and demoted Colvin.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Heya SPAULDING,

      There are many, many mysteries surrounding the Cubs these days, the biggest of which I find to be what their actual plan for the organization is. I’m not sure that the Rickettses really even have one. If so, it isn’t apparent. But they had better figure things out quickly, because this offseason is going to be a referendum on their ownership.

      • SPAULDING!

        Yep. It’s almost as if they tried to create “reality TV” drama. Putting a bee hive down someone’s pants and filming the results.
        Drama in sports is watching guys trying to beat throws or slide under the tag at home plate. It’s the penalty shot of baseball.

  • tom Sharp

    while agree with you on the Quade vs. Sandberg decision, that isn’t the key variable here. Year after year i watch the Cubs send up players who don’t seem to have a clue on how to play strategic baseball. How to run bases, handle a run-down, hit behind the runner, even bunting and taking a pitch in a key situation are enigmas to them. Then, they compound the problem by bringing in the absolutely dumbest players in the league via trades and free agency who can’t play well themselves or won’t take a leadership role. The IQ of this Cubs team has to be the lowest of any team in baseball. They have lost so many close games due to shear stupidity. To fix it the entire organization needs to be overhauled from the lowest minor league teams to the “pros.”

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      I thought one of the selling points on Quade last summer was that he was so strong on teaching fundamentals, but unfortunately, as with seemingly everything else his supporters were pitching, that hasn’t turned out to be the case. The Cubs indeed do lack a lot of basic skills — both mentally and physically — and they’ve spent a lot of money on flawed players, too. It’s certainly a mess.

  • South Loop Dave

    I agree, Dave, that the Rickettses have not given Cubs fans an reason to have confidence in their organizational vision. If Tom Ricketts is simply weathering the storm and concocting a specific off-season plan behind the scenes, he’s doing himself a disservice by not communicating that to the fan base. At this point, we still need to give Ricketts time (that is, this offseason) to execute his plan (if any), but, once again, the Cubs organization has no identity and has failed miserably at public relations. Transparency and accountability are the two things that continue to elude this franchise. We all wanted a new owner. Well, we got one. Just not sure it was the right one. In short, meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Couldn’t agree more with you on all points, Dave. While I’m fearing more and more that Tom Ricketts appears to be in over his head as Cubs chairman, I’m still withholding full judgment until we see what happens this offseason with all the money coming off the Cubs’ books.

      Thus far, I’ve been disappointed as the only things Ricketts has really achieved are erecting a Toyota sign and organizing block parties outside the ballpark. Right now, that’s about it. And that ain’t going to cut it. The days of just trotting out Wrigley Field, sunshine and beer — along with expensive ticket prices — are gone. The Cubs need to win. And Ricketts needs to make some Major League moves, with Major League savvy. We’ll see if he has it. Or not.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    Better for Ryno to be elsewhere than to have been made Captain of the Titanic under Ricketts.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Ryno very well might be thinking the same thing this season. But I bet he still wants to manage the Cubs — as long as Jim Hendry is gone (which I have to imagine will happen soon enough. Hendry’s had his time, and it’s time for a change).

  • Joe Heath

    here is the problem I have with this article: you mention that the cubs may not be significantly better because of the flawed roster but you are certain they wouldnt be any worse. well, im also quite certain they wouldnt be any worse BUT if the cubs had a similar record and sandberg was the manager, i think we’d all be talking about how ryno still needed more managing experience in the minors and that the right move would’ve been to go with quade. obviously quade deserves some of the blame but the fact remains the cubs just dont have very good players and with injuries piling up all year long, it made a bad team look even worse. not much any manager could do in that situation, right?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Hey, Joe, thanks for weighing in.

      First off, I think the fans would have been willing to give Sandberg more rope.

      Secondly, I don’t think the problem so much is that the Cubs have a bad record under Quade — anyone who expected them to be leading the division with this roster is nuts. But rather I think many fans (including myself) are disenchanted with the myriad questionable (at-best) decisions that Quade has made, such as pulling pitchers too late or too early, the batting orders he uses and, well, when to pitch to Albert Pujols, or when to walk him.

      I’ve also found Quade’s demeanor in postgame interviews to be curious. It seems as if he’s the same after every game, no matter if it’s a win or loss. And I feel like he jokes around too much after defeats and makes light of a lot of things. Perhaps, he’s nervous, I don’t know. I do think he’s in over his head in this job, though. And, again, I think Sandberg deserved the shot over Quade. Still do. And still hope to see Ryno get his chance.

  • Rowan Campbell

    Iam dissapointed with the way the cubs have played this year the team hav enot played consistent baseball.
    Tom Ricketts must watch how the Steinbrenners run a team the alwayss hire the right gm and manager.
    They build with youth and hire good players who will help the team win.
    Mike Quade is alot like his mentor JOhnny Lipon a good minor league manager who struggled as a major league manager.
    The cubs need a new gm and manager next year Ii have had enough of this poor baseball.
    The cubs must hire Ryne Sandberg as manager for 2012 he has the baseball smarts to be a very good major league manager he played for 2 moy in 1984 and 1989 .
    Ryne Sandberg is a hall of fame player and the young guys can learn alot from him and play soild winning baseball.
    The cubs need a new pitching coach as well next year Greg Maddux with his experince who be a good choice or Rick Sutcliffe.
    The cubs must put together a strong all round team for next year.

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