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Quade has a few regrets but glad for chance with Cubs

Updated: August 28, 2013 10:22AM



LOS ANGELES — It took a toothache to get Mike Quade to go back.

A toothache that got so bad he finally gave in, despite his loathing of the dentist chair, and called the only dentist he trusted, then got on a plane in Florida to keep the hastily arranged appointment.

“That was my first trip back to Chicago,” he said. “It was like the way the [2011] season finished. I’m going in for a root canal.”

Quade laughs when he tells the story. But the truth lingers in the air as he talks about the ends of the emotional spectrum he experienced as the last Cubs manager expected to win — and the two-year drilling Cubs fans have taken since Quade was fired by the incoming regime.

He says he doesn’t dwell on the way things ended, nor the chain of events that his doomed-from-the-start ’11 season set in motion, beginning with the firing of general manager Jim Hendry that summer and the organizational sea change that has had the big-league baseball at Clark and Addison underwater ever since.

In fact, he spent Friday’s anniversary of his managerial debut — a victory in Washington that launched a successful 37-game audition — fishing for snapper near a favorite spot in the Florida gulf waters near his home in Bradenton.

“Just trying to make the most of my downtime,” says Quade, who hopes to return to baseball by next season after two seasons moving past a parting he was “not thrilled” about.

For now, he might represent one of the biggest what-if scenarios in the two-year sequence that brought the Cubs to the most massive organizational overhaul in franchise history, under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

What if two starting pitchers had not gone down with long-term injuries the first time through the rotation that season? What if Quade had been better able to navigate the veteran clubhouse through the early adversity and had the kind of 2011 season that his 24-13 finish to 2010 suggested?

Or this: What if Ryne Sandberg had gotten the job instead of Quade?

In reality, the handwriting was on the wall for regime change before Quade took over.

“Deep down, you can be upset and wish things had gone differently,” said Quade, who was fired with a year left on his contract after a 71-91 season, “but when you sign on in this game, you know what you’re signing up for. . . . 

“You don’t make excuses. You don’t blame other people.”

He has a few regrets, he said, but he’s keeping them to himself.

And he takes no joy in the Cubs’ misery since he left.

“Even if you’re irritated with the way things turned out,” he said, “you don’t want to see anybody go through that — yourself or Dale [Sveum] or anyone else.”

Or Sandberg, the Cubs legend Quade beat out for the job, leading to Sandberg joining the Philadelphia organization, where this month he took over as a first-time big-league manager. Sandberg returns to Wrigley in another big-league team’s uniform Friday for the first time since his Hall of Fame playing career.

“I hate the term, ‘timing’s everything,’ but I hope for him it’s the right time,” said Quade, who felt especially privileged to get his own opportunity knowing Sandberg was knocking on the door. “They’ve got some issues over there. I hope they’ve got a decent nucleus to give him a good shot to win. I just wish him the best.”

Quade hopes to get another big-league managing shot at some point.

“It wasn’t the experience I had hoped for, wins-wise obviously and longevity-wise,” he said, “but it was wonderful for me, and I was real happy to get the opportunity. . . . Now I need to try to build on that going forward.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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