Yesterday, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein announced the Chicago Cubs and manager Mike Quade have parted ways. Kudos to Theo Epstein for not doing what we all expected him to: Fire Quade immediately.
It appears Epstein — like he has approached most everything in his young Cubs reign — decided to withhold judgement until he had fully investigated the matter himself. Like Joe Maddon is wont to say, “Tell me what you think, not what you heard.”
Quade’s managerial time with the Cubs was both short and possibly undeserved. Taking the helm when Lou Piniella suddenly retired in 2010, Quade inherited a team that was predisposed towards failure. But, despite that, the team went 24-13 to close out the season. That was enough proof for Jim Hendry to vault Quade not only into the manager discussion, but the manager’s chair:
If the Cubs didn’t get hot in late 2010, does Mike Quade
even get an interview for manager? Probably not.
The undeserved element comes from the Cubs 1-run-game record in the 2010 season. Up to Piniella’s departure, the Cubs had the worst 1-run-game record in recorded history at .333. They finished the 7-2 in 1-run games and a .475 record — a sudden boost that artificially made Quade look like a genius.
A World Series commentator would probably say Quade was “pushing all the right buttons” — and who knows? Maybe he was? But the Cubs’ 2011 1-run-game record of .491 suggests this is not some secret Quade skill, but rather the 2010 Cubs finished strong because the team just normalized luck-wise (and Aramis Ramirez getting healthy and hot did not hurt either).
In the FanGraphs Audio podcast yesterday, I discussed at length the Chicago Cubs and the new era Theo Epstein brings with him. And frankly, Mike Quade does not fit. Of course, this topic has recently had strangers inform me my baseball IQ is below replacement level, so maybe I am assuming too much.
From what we can tell, though, Mike Quade managed on feeling, gut, old school statistics, and nicknamification. Only one of those processes — the time-honored tradition of adding a y to every one-syllable name — has a chance of remaining in the Theo Era.
The latest rumors suggest Theo will likely go with a sabermetrically-minded major league coach or bench manager. The short list appears to include:
Dale Sveum — Hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers and a former player. He just interviewed for the Red Sox opening and could do the same for the Cubs any day now. Sveum spent some time in Boston and is supposed to be numbers-friendly.
Mike Maddux — Pitching coach for the Texas Rangers, brother to legend Greg Maddux, and legend in his own right. The Cubs have also been connected to rumblings concerning Mike Maddux, who has been universally considered one of the best pitching coaches in the majors for like a decade now. Not sure if he’s ever owned a TI-83, though.
Dave Martinez — Current bench coach for Tampa Bay Rays and former Cub. Martinez gets my star of approval, as I have closely followed the Rays since before he started working for them. Martinez appears to have the progressive stats in hand (he works for Joe Maddon, so he must) as well as a strong rapport with players.
Sandy Alomar Jr. — Recently-anointed bench coach for the Cleveland Indians and freshly-retired player. I hear Alomar’s name bandied about like crazy, but I know so little about him. Which brings me to…
What do we really know about any of these guys?!
Honestly, I know about Martinez the most, but even then, I have no idea if he will start Koyie Hill every other day, send John Grabow face righties in high-leverage situations, or ask Carlos Zambrano to go to the bullpen, oh wait, I mean the rotation, er, just go home — all mistakes the previous managers stumbled into so easily.
Seemingly not on the list for the opening:
Terry Francona — Former Red Sox manager and two-time World Series winner. The Cubs leadership, having only weeks early released Francona, seem unlikely to re-sign him. Maybe they give him a look after they have done their due diligence, but it seems unlikely. Personally, I’m okay with this.
Ryne Sandberg — Triple-A manager and former Cubs star. Ryno does not have the major league managerial experience, the proven pedigree of statistical fortitude, or any chance at getting the job. In an ultra-classy gesture, Theo has already told Sandberg the Cubs will look elsewhere. Which is a shame, because Cubs fans think Ryno is handsome and they used to watch him play the baseball, so, I mean, he’s gotta be like the best manager ever, right?
Bob Brenly — Cubs color analyst and World Series-winning former manager. Another fan favorite, Brenly endeared himself to Cubs fans by throwing the Cubs under the bus every time they did poorly. So, often, in other words. Brenly is tried-and-true old school, often saying fingernails-on-the-chalkboard-wrong kind of stuff during Cubs games — which makes for great fun to listen to play-by-play man Len Kasper cringe and gently attempt to correct his advanced-analysis-less partner.
Of course, given the way these searches go, the Cubs may very well hire someone we have never before heard of — much like how the names Jason McLoed and Jed Hoyer meant next to nothing to Cubs fans until just days ago; now every Cubs fan has a #SABRbeatles poster in their bedroom featuring the Fab Three (soon to be Four).
In the meantime, Cubs fans should harbor no ill-will towards Mike Quade or even Jim Hendry. Though their time with the Cubs brought much suffering, they also were with the Cubs during great times — and frankly, they put all of themselves into their work and did their jobs to the best of their abilities.
But now the new wave is in town, and Cubs fans are watching the most amazing makeover in the team’s history. Feel free to get excited now.
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