General

Are the Cubs right on ‘Q’?

Today’s column from the Kankakee Daily Journal and The (Ottawa, Ill.) Times

Are the Cubs right on ‘Q’?

The WISCH LIST

Oct. 16, 2010

So, here are three words I never imagined I’d type:

Mike Quade Hype.

But, after the Cubs’ no-name interim manager made a name for himself by unexpectedly transforming a lackluster Cubs squad into a blockbuster one down the stretch this season, the hype is indeed real.

I’m just not sure I’m comfortable believing it.

This week, media reports in Chicago went as far as to call Quade – who, following Lou Piniella’s retirement, guided the Cubs to a 24-13 record after they had lost 20 of the previous 25 games – the “odds-on favorite” to score the coveted North Side managing gig.

The unassuming Evanston native has the backing of the current Cubs players. He has extensive managing experience in the minor leagues. And, after eight years with the organization, he’s plenty familiar with the choppy seas inherent with being captain of the S.S. Wrigleyville.

Yet, I’m still not sold that Quade is the right guy for the job.

Or that Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg is not.

According to published reports, the finalists in the Cubs’ managerial search appear to be down to Quade, Sandberg and former big league managers Eric Wedge and Bob Melvin, with Yankees skipper Joe Girardi possibly looming on the fringe if the Cubs decide to wait until New York’s playoff run is done.

With no ties to the Cubs organization, I think Wedge and Melvin likely are longshots at best. And I doubt that at this point in his career Girardi will leave annual World Series contention in the Bronx to rebuild in Wrigleyville (nor, probably, should he).

As for Quade, while I admire how well the Cubs fared under his guidance, I’m also quite leery of putting much stock in any team’s performance in meaningless games without the pressure of playoff contention. After all, who’s to say that the Cubs wouldn’t have done just as well if Sandberg – or even bench coach Alan Trammel – had been given the reins for the remainder of the 2010 season?

Perhaps a burned-out Lou Piniella was the Cubs’ problem, more than Mike Quade is the answer.

We really don’t know.

But, what I do know is that if Quade is hired strictly based on the Cubs’ performance late this season, then Ryne Sandberg will have gotten a raw deal. It’s hardly Sandberg’s fault that he didn’t get the opportunity to “audition” as the Cubs manager this season. And, I think he has proven himself well enough the past three years as a manager in the Cubs minor leagues to merit the nod over Quade.

That’s not to say I’m not convinced that Sandberg will succeed – heck, with the Cubs, I’m not convinced anyone will – but I do believe he’s earned his chance.

If Cubs general manager Jim Hendry does instead opt for Quade, though, I hope he has excellent reasons. Because selling a skeptical fan base that accounted for a whopping 39.5 percent dip in Cubs TV ratings this season – the biggest drop-off in the majors, according to the Sports Business Journal – on Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg won’t be easy.

The fact is, the clock will begin ticking much louder for Quade in 2011 than it would for Sandberg, who would buy the Cubs more time and patience to develop the team’s young talent and reconstruct its lineup.

My preference would be for the Cubs to hire 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.