First word that came to mind when my friend texted me that Mike Quade had been named Cubs manager? Disappointed. (Word that I actually texted in response? "Dammit." My vocabulary doesn't get much of a workout in the texting arena.)
I've said before that managers/coaches are the hardest element to judge in sports. How do you separate a manger from his players? Eric Wedge won AL Manger of the Year in 2007 and was out of a job shortly thereafter. Same for Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006. Is Lovie Smith a great coach or a terrible one? Certainly both arguments have been made during his tenure in Chicago. Is Phil Jackson the greatest NBA coach ever or lucky to have had the names "Michael Jordan" and "Kobe Bryant" on his rosters?
I don't know the answers to these questions. But I do know that Ryne Sandberg put in four good years in the Cubs minor league system, that he's lauded by the players he managed, and that he's managed just 37 fewer major league games than Mike Quade.
Prior to the 2003 season, the Cubs hired Dusty Baker, fresh off a World Series appearance and two years after he won Manager of the Year with the Giants. One word for that? Impressed. Impressed that Hendry lured one of the most respected managers in the game to Chicago after a stretch of no-name managers on the North Side.
Prior to the 2007 season, the Cubs hired Lou Piniella. He had struggled with the woeful Rays but was in the top 20 all-time for wins by a manager and was easily the biggest name out there at the time. One word? Excited. A fiery manager with a winning history and a World Series ring on his finger. Can't do much better than that.
And now, prior to the 2011 season, we have Mike Quade. He has managed 37 major league games. He was a third base coach less than three months ago. And he is not a Hall of Famer and does not have his jersey number flying from the right-field foul pole.
There's my bias sneaking its way in. But that's okay. A lot of Cubs fans wanted Sandberg in part because of his legacy with the team. Of course we would understand if he got passed over for someone who clearly deserved the job more. But Mike Quade? The third base coach?
Sandberg expressed an interest in managing back in 2006. Piniella was a much, much better option. So Hendry told Sandberg to pack his bags and hit the minors if he wanted to work his way up. He did. Then he got promoted. Then he got promoted again. He was over .500 as a minor league manager. He was named PCL Manager of the Year in 2010. In the last two years, he took a Double-A team to the league championship and produced the most victories in a 16-team Triple-A league. He has worked with many Cubs who will be on the 2011 roster.
And yet ... Mike Quade. Not Dusty Baker, not Lou Piniella, not Joe Girardi, not Joe Torre, but Mike Quade. Sandberg accepted Hendry's challenge, put in four successful years in the minors, and Hendry did nothing but open the door for him to leave the organization.
Now, we do have to be fair here. Quade managed the Iowa Cubs for four years. He's managed over 2,000 minor league games in total. It's fair to say that he, too, has paid his dues.
Look, Quade might be the perfect fit. In fact, a "no-name" manager might be just what the team needs. A few of the players endorsed him down the stretch. He led the team to a 24-13 record. He showed guts by benching Starlin Castro when he made a mental mistake. I can't sit here and tell you that Quade definitely won't be a good manager. And I can't tell you that Sandberg definitely would have succeeded with the Cubs.
But ... I'm disappointed. On the Ron Santo Always Getting Rejected by the Veterans Committee Scale, this is about a 5. I am absolutely crushed every other January when Santo fails to get into the Hall of Fame. This doesn't reach that level, but I am definitely disappointed and frustrated that the Cubs have a new manager and it's not Ryno.I'm disappointed that Sandberg likely will never get a chance to manage the Cubs. I'm disappointed that he worked his ass of for the organization for the last four years and got passed over for a third base coach who did well in a 37-game stretch with no pressure and a roster with an average age of about 23.
Which, by the way, is the number on that flag flying on the right-field foul pole. Sandberg was a hero as a Cubs player, but he won't have the chance to play hero from the dugout even though he deserved the job as much as any of the other candidates on Hendry's list.
I'll get over it. I'll root for Quade to have success and frankly, I don't have much reason to believe he won't do just fine. (I mean, you know, except for the 77-win roster he inherits.) I liked Piniella enough, but I'm looking forward to a new era, a new personality, and hopefully a little less confusion and bewilderment from the manager. I'll be excited to see what Quade can do come Opening Day.
But for now, I'm disappointed.
It was another strong week for the Cubs as they finished the season by taking three of four in San Diego followed by two of three against the Astros in Houston. It was the pitching that carried them this week: they allowed just 12 runs in the seven games. The Cubs finished the season 24-13 under Quade, and the strong finish left them just one game shy of fourth place in the Central (so close!).
Did the team's sudden turnaround earn Quade the nod as 2011 Cubs manager? What about Sandberg as manager and Quade as his bench coach? With the season officially in the books, we've got lots of time to discuss Hendry's offseason plans and the future of the franchise. But for now, the final awards of 2010:
Ryno of the Week: Take a look at this line: 14.2 IP, o ER, 2 H, 25 K
That's Carlos Marmol's September. Oh, and he was 13/13 in saves during the month as well. Just to make sure you took that all in: He allowed two hits in September, struck out 25, did not allow a run, and converted 13 straight saves. That's not fair. It ain't right. National League hitters could sue on the grounds that Marmol's pitching is a form of cruel and unusual punishment. He was 4/4 in the season's final week and converted his last 17 straight to finish the season.
Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Casey Coleman, Andrew Cashner, Marlon Byrd, Blake DeWitt
Goat of the Week: It was a bad year all around and a bad final week for Xavier Nady. He went 6-for-23 last week with seven strikeouts, and batted just .256 (.306 OBP) with six home runs and 33 RBI in 317 AB this season.
Dishonorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome
- Mike Quade did not make a deal with the devil. For the first time in his five weeks as manager, the Cubs were under .500 for the week. At least when the Cardinals finally managed to take a series from the Cubs, they were too far out for it to matter.
- Randy Wells has something to build on for next year: he's 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA in his last five starts. Walks have been a major issue for him this season, but he's had just one in his last two games.
- The Zambrano Situation will be a very interesting one this offseason. He still hasn't lost since rejoining the rotation, making it either very tempting for Hendry to keep him around, or increasingly tempting for another GM to try to trade for him.
- "Carlos Marmol, you are ridiculous!" With three strikeouts against the Cardinals on Saturday, he set a Cubs record for strikeouts by a reliever, breaking Bruce Sutter's 1977 record of 129. But that's not the interesting part: Sutter threw 107 innings that year; Marmol's thrown just 73. In a related story, Marmol is going to get PAID this offseason.
- Bob Brenly will not be the next Cubs manager. I don't think he would have been a terrible option, but on the bright side, I do hope to at least get another year of he and Len in the booth (he said he would be open to other team's managerial positions).
Ryno of the Week: This might be our first back-to-back winner of the year: Randy Wells. He shut out the Giants over 7.2 innings for his eighth win of the year and has looked like last year's Randy Wells for the past month or so.
Honorable mentions: Carlos Zambrano, Carlos Marmol, Casey Coleman
Goat of the Week: "Anything you can do, I can do worse." Gorzelanny allowed seven runs in just 3.1 innings? Pffft, I can do way worse than that, says Ryan Dempster. Nine earned runs in just 1.2, raising his ERA 0.37 this late in the season. He's 14-11 and will likely have one more shot to get his 15th win.
Dishonorable mentions: Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, Koyie Hill
The Cubs are now 17-7 under Mike Quade, but here's the number I'm more impressed with: 12-3. That's the Cubs' record on the road under their new manager; they were 27-38 on the road under Piniella. They struggled away from home last season as well, and it's nice to finally see some consistency when it comes to the home/road split.
It was the Cubs' first perfect week of the season, one that included their longest winning streak of the year (six) and their first three-game sweep in St. Louis since 1988. They beat Garcia, Wainwright and Carpenter to accomplish the latter feat, which is amazing given that those three had never lost back-to-back-to-back starts this season, and the only other time two of them lost in back-to-back games was against Milwaukee last month.
The Cubs are guaranteed to have a winning record against the Cardinals for the year, which is actually nothing new: they've taken the season series with their rivals five of the last six years (55-39 overall).
I don't think Quade deserves all the credit for the September turnaround, but he certainly does deserve praise for a job well done. It's nice to see the youngsters--and the few veterans on the team--putting forth effort and showing that they'll have at least a modicum of talent to work with when the calendar turns to 2011.
Ryno of the Week: Choices, choices. Over the course of the week, the Cubs outscored their opponents 39-12 and every starter got at least one win. We even had a Shark sighting as Jeff Samardzija made his first two starts of the year and is suddenly 2-1 on the season. But Randy Wells posted one of the team's best starts of the year in his return home (he's from Belleville, near St. Louis): 8 IP, just five hits and one earned run, and no walks, the first time he's avoided any free passes since August 2.
Honorable mentions: Casey Coleman, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Xavier Nady, Geovany Soto
Goat of the Week: I hate to be mad at anyone during a six-game winning streak, but Blake DeWitt was 3-for-17 this week and is now batting .234 as a Cub.
Dishonorable mention: Marlon Byrd
The Cubs are 5-10 against Houston this season with three games remaining against them. As you might painfully recall, they are also 5-10 against the lowly Pirates. Divisional play has killed the Cubs all year--they're 28-42 against the Central, just two games better than those Pirates. The first-place Reds have dominated divisional foes, going 42-25 including a 12-4 mark against the Cubs.
Granted, the Cubs' real problem is that they suck against, you know, everyone, but you absolutely have to take care of business in your own division if you want to have a successful season. On the bright side, the Cubs are 9-6 against the Brewers.
Ryno of the Week: Carlos Zambrano, you are one confusing son of a bitch. Not only did he post another good start this week, he went 8.2 innings. My eternal quibble with Zambrano is his high pitch counts and short outings, so I was amazed to see him come one out from a complete game. But since he couldn't get that final out, Carlos Marmol mopped up for one of his three saves this week. He's saved nine straight without a blown save, is 30/35 overall on the season, and still has a ridiculous K/9 inning rate of 15.83. You think he might get a raise on his $2.125 million salary in arbitration this winter? The Cubs may want to consider inking him to a long-term deal, says the Bleacher Report.
Honorable mentions: Ryan Dempster, Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney
Goat of the Week: He hadn't pitched in over a month, so this probably isn't real fair. But taking out the shortened start in which he had to leave due to injury, Carlos Silva has had four straight starts of five innings or less, and has allowed five runs or more in three of them. Five starts ago, his ERA was 2.96; now it's 4.22. In fairness, 10-6 with a 4.22 ERA is better than most of us would have predicted before the season.
Dishonorable mentions: Blake DeWitt, Alfonso Soriano
Well this is sort of fun, no? I mean sure, the emphasis is on "sort of" since there's a pretty low ceiling on the enjoyment one can glean from a fifth-place team with an interim manager and some guy named Scott Maine in the bullpen. But fun nonetheless.
A second straight 4-2 week resulted in some rather pleasant press conferences for Mike Quade who suddenly has the Cubs looking like they care. The team is scoring runs, two different pitchers (Diamond and Russell) earned their first major league victories, and Carlos Marmol climbed into sixth place on the NL saves leaderboard.
By the way, for those who said the Cubs shouldn't bring in Sandberg mid-season because it's a toxic environment, because it would be unfair to him, etc., etc., do you still think that now? Do you think Quade is sick and tired of managing this unmanageable group of players? For those who want Sandberg at the helm next season, it would be pretty cool if he were 8-4 as manager right now, wouldn't it? He'd have a few press conferences under his belt, he'd be gaining a sense of the team's strengths and weaknesses, and he would have had a month or two to hone his major league management style. Do you think Buck Showalter wishes the Orioles would have waited until the offseason to hire him, given that the Orioles are 19-13 under him after beating the Rays yesterday? But I digress.
On a separate note, the Cardinals are tanking and that brings me joy.
Ryno of the Week: This is probably the toughest one I've had all year. In the one corner we have Starlin Castro who went 11-for-25 with eight runs scored and two RBI, and sits in third in the NL batting race. He also became the first Cubs rookie in 66 years with six straight multi-hit games. In the other corner we have Carlos Zambrano, our resident riddle wrapped in an enigma. He went 2-0 this week with a 1.46 ERA, six walks and 15 strikeouts. He made history of his own, passing Kerry Wood for third on the Cubs' all-time strikeout list. He's 4-0 since returning from the restricted list and has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his six starts. Since Big Z was still plagued by control issues and only pitched 12.1 innings over his two starts, whereas Castro did just about everything right (except for moving forward to accept a throw on a steal attempt, allowing Carlos Beltran to get in safely behind him), I'm going to go with the rook. Man, can this kid hit.
Judd Sirott made an interesting point during Saturday's post-game show, suggesting that Zambrano's numbers as a starter this season are not too shabby. Unless, that is, you look at them as if Big Z were an ace (and of course he's being paid like one, which is the problem). It reminded me of a post I wrote last year in which I explained that Big Z simply isn't an ace and never has been. What Judd said is true: Zambano isn't a bad pitcher, but he's definitely not an ace.
Honorable mentions: Koyie Hill, Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano
Goat of the Week: From the Department of Baseball Makes No Sense, Ryan Dempster got absolutely pasted twice this week after going 4-0 with a 1.31 ERA in his previous five starts. He failed to go five innings in either start this week. He still has a small chance of reaching the 15-win mark for the third time in his career.
Dishonorable mention: Blake DeWitt
To read more from this blogger, visit Wait 'til this Year.
In terms of the Cubs' search for a new manager, it's very early. There are still lots of questions without answers, such as: Will Joe Torre and/or Tony LaRussa retire? Are the Yankees going to extend Joe Girardi? Does Mike Quade actually have a shot at the job?
Then yesterday, the rumor swirled that Hendry has Fredi Gonzalez at the top of his wish list, and that he prefers someone with major league managing experience. As you'll read below, I hope this isn't true.
Nevertheless, let's handicap this thang:
Ryne Sandberg 37%
I've already shared my pro-Ryno feelings, but I'll reiterate succinctly: He's a Hall of Famer who played the game hard and understands what it takes to get the most out of your talent. When he expressed a desire to manage back in 2006, the Cubs asked him to start by riding a bus around the Midwest as a Single A manager. He did it. He paid his dues. He's worked his way up through the minors and by all accounts has grown a great deal as a leader and a communicator. In addition, it's virtually a guarantee that he would be managing a different major league team by the time the Cubs get around to hiring again. Plus, Dutchie Caray is all for it!
For another pro-Ryno view, here's Gene Wojciechowski.
Fredi Gonzalez 23%
I had to bump his percentage up at the last minute because of the rumor mill. He led the Marlins to winning seasons in '08 and '09 despite MLB's lowest payroll. He knows what he's doing and I like the way he handled the Hanley Ramirez "jogging after the ball and then throwing his teammates under the bus" situation. For a few years, he was third base coach of the Braves under Bobby Cox. This is where the problem comes in, in my mind: the Braves will have a vacancy next season too, and would Fredi rather take over the Cubs than the Braves?
Joe Girardi 12%
I still think he's at the top of Hendry's list. The only problem? He's probably at the top of the Steinbrenners' list too. Though he hasn't been extended past this season yet, the Yankees are coming off a World Series title and have the best record in the majors. Yes, Girardi grew up in Peoria, played for the Cubs, and his wife is from Chicago. Yes, leading the Cubs to a title would essentially put him on MLB's Mount Rushmore, or at least Chicago's. But would he really leave the $230 million-payroll, best-team-in-the-majors Yankees for the no-bullpen, Soriano-in-left, lead-the-majors in errors Cubs? I don't see it.
By the way, Girardi is the only hire I would accept outside of Sandberg.
Bob Brenly 10%
He's got a World Series ring. More importantly, he knows the Cubs as well as anyone after watching and analyzing them for the last six years. Managerial success + well-liked by Cubs fans = not a bad choice. Okay, I might accept Brenly too. But I'd rather have Sandberg in the dugout and Brenly in the booth.
Mike Quade 7%
He's off to a nice start, I'll give him that. And he has managed literally thousands of games at the minor league level. But still--Mike Quade as your next Cubs manager?
Joe Torre 4%
He's 70 years old--is he really looking to take on a rebuilding Cubs team?
Tony LaRussa 1%
I would murder everyone in the world.
Eric Wedge 1%
He already interviewed for the job, so he has to be on the list. He managed the Indians from 2003-2009.
Pat Listach 1%
He managed players such as Soto, Colvin and Marmol as manager of the Iowa Cubs, and currently serves as the Nationals' third base coach. Meh.
Bobby Valentine 1%
He threw his hat in the ring, but my guess is that Hendry and Ricketts wouldn't want his type of personality.
Ozzie Guillen 1%
Steve Stone said he doesn't think both Guillen and Kenny Williams will survive into next year, so it must be true. Still, I don't see him heading north. Though at least then when he comes to Wrigley he wouldn't have to use the visitors' clubhouse.
Ted Simmons 1%
The Padres bench coach has indicated that he would have interest in the job. Obviously this would be an out-of-left-field pick.
Chris Speier 1%
Another bench coach--he sits next to Dusty in the Reds' dugout. Speier spent two years as the Cubs' third base coach when Dusty was here, and Hendry has said that he's "a good man, and one of my favorite players as a kid."
Whew. I'd be shocked if I haven't listed the next Cubs manager here. What do you think? Who do you want to see and who do you think it'll be?
Right? Am I right? The new guy comes in and all of a sudden the Cubs pull off their first sweep since early July? And a winning road trip? Just give the guy a three-year deal right now.
I'm kidding, of course. I'm not sure if he'll actually get a real shot at the job next year, but he's not anywhere near the top of my list at the moment. If the Cubs were to play out of their minds for the final month, I suppose it's possible that could change.
It was a solid first week for the former third base coach, though. The Cubs got strong pitching for the most part and some timely hitting, gave the first-place Reds a run for their money but still managed to allow them to gain ground on the struggling Cardinals, which I'm totally okay with. Good stuff.
Ryno of the Week: We've actually got a few to choose from this week. Casey Coleman earned his first major league victory on Monday; Ryan Dempster had a phenomenal start against the Nationals; Xavier Nady hit his first home run since early June and had nine hits over the course of the week; and Andrew Cashner had four scoreless appearances. But even though he started just four of the six games, Kosuke Fukudome wins the award after hitting a game-winning home run and a game-tying home run in back-to-back games. He drove in five runs overall and batted .461. I had to check the calendar make sure it wasn't April.
Goat of the Week: Justin Berg would certainly argue that he had the worst week given that he now resides in Iowa. But fresh off the DL, Geovany Soto looked stale, going 4-for-16 with four strikeouts.
It's an underrated facet of baseball, something that's often overlooked when analyzing a team. But when it comes to the 2010 Cubs, it can't be ignored. As the title suggests, I'm talking about defense.
The Cubs lead the majors with 103 errors; they had 105 all of last season. They've turned 102 double plays after turning 144 last year because most of their double play chances are ruined by a bobble or a throw that sails into the outfield. The Cubs have exhibited a scary combination of lack of focus and just plain bad glovework, resulting in more unearned runs allowed than any other team, by far. It's strange that Zambrano chose to lash out at Derrek Lee after a play he probably couldn't have made anyways, given that he's probably had a lot of more legitimate opportunities to complain about one of his defenders' handiwork.
Nearly 20 percent of the team's errors have been committed by Starlin Castro (20)--only Ian Desmond (28) has more errors among shortstops. Aramis Ramirez is only four off the major league-worst pace at third base despite having played fewer than 100 games. Ryan Theriot had six before being shipped to LA, and Blake DeWitt has 11 between the Dodgers and Cubs. Even Derrek Lee has six errors this season, more than 13 other first basemen.
Soriano has five--just one away from the major league-worst in left--while Byrd and Fukudome have actually played well. Colvin has four errors in right field, none in left.
It should go without saying, but the next Cubs manager and his army of coaches will have to do a better job preparing the team defensively. The lazy throws, the missed cutoff men, the slow-to-develop double play attempts ... these are not qualities commonly seen in playoff teams.
Errors are going to happen, quite obviously, but not 103 of them. Earlier this week Blake Dewitt managed to bobble a grounder and walk lazily towards it, unaware that the runner got a slow start out of the box. The bobble's going to happen sometimes, though the Cubs have exceeded their fair share this season. The second part should never happen, but it seems like just about every Cub has done something similar this season: Castro didn't hustle over the weekend and allowed a runner to score from third; Bob Brenly just criticized Ramirez the other day for not getting in front of a grounder down the line; Soriano exerts effort like Drew Barrymore makes good movies--I don't think it's ever happened.
Most of the position players will return in 2011, which means the gloves themselves may not improve much. In fact, the Cubs' best defender--Derrek Lee--is gone. But hopefully the mental mistakes and lapses can be reduced, and clearly Castro has more potential defensively than he has exhibited in his rookie season. Defense can be one of those things you don't think about until you don't have it. Unfortunately, it's been a glaring problem with this year's team. I just hope that whomever's in charge next season realizes that defense must not be left off the list of things that need to be improved upon in 2011.
P.S. I have to commend Marlon Byrd for his superb defense this season. He's in the top ten in assists for center fielders, has just two errors on the season, and has made countless highlight reel catches. The Cubs have a number of players who have been defensive liabilities this season, but Byrd has been nothing but a strength. As Len and Bob have pointed out, he absolutely deserves Gold Glove consideration.
To read more from this blogger, visit Wait 'til this Year
A 1-0 loss to former Cubs' prospect Jon Garland. A blown save courtesy of three walks by Carlos Marmol. A rare implosion by Sean Marshall. A 16-5 loss to the Braves that mirrored their Opening Day defeat.
Nope, no form of losing is off-limits for the Cubs these days. Thank God for the God-awful Pirates, for that giant piece of baseball feces out in Steel City is the only thing keeping the Cubs from crashing to the bottom of the NL Central. It's becoming as difficult to keep track of the revolving door of a roster as it is the mounting loss total--a 100-loss season remains unlikely but within the realm of possibility.
And the Cubs managed to lose their skipper as well. Lou Piniella's mother is ailing, but he is only able to skip town to care for her because his team's season has been dead for months. Surprisingly, Mike Quade will take over beginning tonight against Washington. I can't fathom that he would have any chance of keeping the post into 2011, but hopefully some new blood can at least inject some life into this flailing franchise.
Ryno of the Week: Though it's sad to say, Aramis Ramirez's .244 batting average marks his high point for the season. He also now leads the team in home runs with 20 after an 11-for-28 week with two home runs and seven RBI. He had at least two RBI in each game of the series against the Braves.
Honorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome
Goat of the Week: When hard-throwing Andrew Cashner was called up in late May, I surmised that he probably wasn't ready to be a successful major league pitcher. Unfortunately, it looks like I was right. In four appearances this week, Cashner allowed six earned runs in just 3.1 innings. He ERA sits at 6.69. He's got decent stuff and certainly I hope he can contribute in 2011, but he's a little too raw to get the job done in the 7th or 8th inning at the age of 23.
Dishonorable mention: Koyie Hill
To read more from this blogger visit Wait 'til this Year