It was a long journey for Mike Quade to finally become a major league manager, and it’s become apparent why this was the case. At the All-Star break, Quade’s 2011 record with the Cubs stands at an abysmal 37-55, which is the second worst record in all of baseball. This still comes as a shock even though many Cubs fans already had diminished expectations coming into the 2011 season due to the team’s perceived lack of talent. Needless to say, Quade’s ineffectiveness comes as a huge disappointment after he led the Cubs to a 24-13 mark in 2010, when he took over for Lou Piniella after his sudden retirement.
Is there something misleading about the 2011 team? The Cubs did not really gain or lose many important pieces during the off-season, and they arguably improved by adding Carlos Pena’s left-handed bat to the middle of their lineup. So why the abrupt turnaround? The truth: Mike Quade’s 2010 reign as interim manager are where the real misleading numbers can be derived.
When Quade took over in 2010, the team was ready for a change, a breath of fresh air so to speak. Piniella’s tenure had run it’s course and the team was ready to put that era behind them. The Cubs were 21.5 games back in the NL Central when Quade took over and they had nothing to play for, aside from proving their new skipper’s worth.
The team played well after Quade took over, which is often the case immediately after an in-season managerial switch. For example, Buck Showalter has had a similar run since taking the helm of the Baltimore Orioles in 2010. He led them to a 34-23 record to end the 2010 campaign strongly, but the team has come back to reality in 2011 by going 36-52 thus far. Both cases lead me to believe that the previous managers needed to go, moreso than either team required Quade or Showalter as a solution.
On multiple occassions this season, Quade has shown that his decision-making skills as a manager have not been developed. These are skills that after 17 years of managing at different levels like Quade has, should be fine-tuned by now. He’s even admitted to making the wrong decision at times, such as leaving Randy Wells in the game too long against the White Sox, when Juan Pierre finished a comeback with a two-run triple off of the Cubs right-handed pitcher at Wrigley Field on July 2nd.
‘‘I thought it was something I’d try to push through and shouldn’t have, and I over-thought the thing,’’ Quade said.
I’m glad to hear that Quade owned up to his mistake, but it’s not enough. This is the kind of mistake that top major league managers don’t make. Instead of merely admitting to his mistakes, Quade should work towards not making them. He has managed only a short time in the major leagues, but he’s had experience managing at all levels before this and should know better by now. So why hasn’t he learned?
I’ve come to realize that the reason Quade makes these mistakes is that he is not, in fact, a major league manager. He is a third base coach or a bench coach at best. He is the “ra-ra” guy that every team has behind the scenes to support the players, give hints for improvement, and educate about the ins and outs of baseball. He is not a decision-maker. His ideal job, frankly, is to be friends with the players.
It seems that Quade has had a hard time filtering out that last quality. All season long he has taken a backseat to the star power of many of his highly paid players. There have been many instances involving Carlos Zambrano this season where this was the case. Back in April, Kerry Wood had to talk to Zambrano about proper mound etiquette when Quade went to take him out of the game and Zambrano did not wait until the manager was all the way to the mound before giving him the ball. Furthermore, when Zambrano was asked about breaking a bat over his leg and what his manager thought of it he replied “What manager?” Quade shrugged these incidents off and said he tries to look the other way when these situations arise.
Now that Quade has come under fire and been criticized for his lackadaisical managing style, it may be too late for him to instill a different managing attitude. It seems that the “buddy-buddy” method may have cost him the ability to demand his player’s respect. The biggest red flag was Ryan Dempster’s uncharacteristic outburst against the manager in his most recent start. Dempster, who had just come off some stomach and back problems, was told by Quade that he would be lifted for a pinch-hitter after just 87 pitches and 5 innings of work. Dempster immediately became vocal and barked back at his manager in front of the entire team as well as the dugout cameras.
I believe that this incident was downplayed after the fact and that Dempster’s actions speak volumes to how he and many of his teammates feel about Quade. When the unquestioned, veteran leader of your ballclub cannot keep his cool in public, you have to wonder how all of the other players feel and feed off of that type of response. As the Cubs continue to play worse this season, it is likely that you’ll see a few more players questioning the manager’s moves along the way.
It’s rather sad because Quade is a very likable individual. He’s paid his dues in baseball for years and finally got to reach his ultimate goal by becoming a manager. In the end, he was never destined to win with the team that general manager Jim Hendry put on the field in 2011. His reign will be short-lived, and likely his only shot at the big stage. I’m happy for him because he worked hard to get where he is today and I hope he enjoys it while it lasts. He should be proud because it seems the players really do like Mike Quade, just not as their leader. To them, he’ll always be their friend…and third base coach