Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Quade fired as Cubs manager

Photo from AP/AOL News
The Mike Quade era at the Friendly Confines is over after just a little more than a year.

New Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced Wednesday that Quade was out after spending just a little more than a year as manager of the team. It was a tumultuous year for Quade, who previously had been the manager of the Cubs’ AAA farm team, the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines. After finishing strong in 2010 with a 24-13 record after taking over for Lou Pinella, the Cubs finished with a 71-91 record and a fifth-place finish in the NL Central, just ahead of the lowly Astros and 25 games behind the division champion Brewers and 19 games behind the eventual world champion Cardinals.

For Quade, it just plain didn’t work out. Having spent his entire managerial career in the minor leagues, he had developed a reputation as a good teacher of young players. However, he didn’t get that luxury with the major league team, having a squad with the sixth highest payroll in the majors with $125.5 million being spent on salaries. He also had the pleasure of dealing with meltdowns from one of his top pitchers in Carlos Zambrano, leading to his banishment from the starting rotation and eventually the team, likely for good if the Cubs can find someone to take on his massive contract that will pay him $18 million in 2012. He also dealt with plain bad play from his regulars like Alfonso Soriano (.244 batting average with 26 home runs) and the $10 million man, first baseman Carlos Pena (.225 average with 28 home runs).

Perhaps if the Cubs had had a young team with a lower payroll of around $60 million, Quade would’ve had a chance to mold them into winners like he had in previous stops. If the Cubs are smart, they will find a spot for him in their minor league system somewhere, maybe back at Iowa.

The firing of Quade continues a series of changes from the top town with the Cubs, which began with the hiring of Epstein away from the Boston Red Sox last week and continued with the hiring of new director of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and new general manager Jed Hoyer from the Padres. The hiring of Epstein was a “home run,” according to former Cubs G.M. Jim Hendry, and should provide a nice shot in the arm to the Cubs’ player acquisitions in at least the immediate future with him being a proven winner. This is assuming, of course, the Cubs don’t give up too much in compensation to the Red Sox for hiring Epstein away, which is still being negotiated.

With the top brass now in place, the next step for Epstein and Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts is to find a new manager.

Photo from
Upon the news breaking of Quade’s firing, speculation quickly went to whether the Cubs would bring in legend Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg had been considered for the Cubs’ managerial job before last season after four years of managing in the Cubs’ minor league system, but was passed over for Quade. Sandberg spent the last year with the Phillies' AAA farm team at Lehigh Valley (Penn.). However, he is almost certain not to get a second look by the Cubs, with Epstein quoted by ESPN Chicago as saying he wants someone with managerial or coaching experience at the major league level, none of which Sandberg has. This is despite word that Epstein tried to hire him to manage the Red Sox’s AAA team at Pawtucket before last season. Ironically, Sandberg could become the Cardinals’ new manager, with news breaking that the Cards asked the Phillies for permission to talk to him to possibly replace retiring skipper Tony LaRussa.

So who could the new manager be? Some have speculated Bob Brenly, currently a Cubs broadcaster but one who has won a World Series as a manager (2001 with the Diamondbacks), and I would consider him the favorite.

There also is the outside shot at former Boston skipper Terry Francona joining Epstein in Chicago. However, after the meltdown that the Red Sox suffered at the end of the 2011 season, Francona likely will take 2012 off. Other candidates that have been tossed around include former Brewers interim manager Dale Sveum (with word he’s been considered for the Red Sox job, former Cubs outfielders and current Rays coach Dave Martinez, former Indians catcher and current coach Sandy Alomar Jr.

A couple of things can be certain, however. One, the next manager likely will be named as soon as next week considering the pace that Ricketts and Epstein are moving at. Two, the new skipper will be
dealing with a different roster, with pitcher Kerry Wood and third baseman Aramis Ramirez having filed for free agency and Zambrano sold off for pennies on the dollar.

The Cubs string of 103 years without a World Series title likely will not end in 2012 with all of the changes, but it should make spring training more interesting than in years past. And stranger things have happened.

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