It’s quiet now, but tension surely awaits Ozzie Guillen, Mike Quade
RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 30, 2011 11:38PM
Cubs manager Mike Quade (left) and White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen greet each other during an exhibtion game on March 11, 2011 in Glendale, Ariz. | Getty Images
Updated: June 29, 2011 12:23AM
Do you hear that?
Neither do I.
It’s quiet. Very quiet. Unnaturally quiet. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen hasn’t taken a vow of silence — come on, let’s be realistic here — but he has declared that he and general manager Ken Williams have buried the hatchet. It probably would help if Oney Guillen buried his Twitter account, but the yapper doesn’t fall far from the tree. Oney most definitely is his father’s son.
On the North Side, all those voices that called for Lou Piniella’s head last season are muted now that Piniella goes by the title of “former Cubs manager.’’ Those voices will start clearing their throats again if Mike Quade struggles to match the success he had late last season as the interim manager.
It’s quiet, but it won’t last. This is Chicago. These are the White Sox, with a manager known to speak (the entire contents of) his mind. And these are the Cubs, who can turn the calmest, most rational manager into a screaming lunatic who is certain that the 15 percent of the population that is unemployed regularly attends games at Wrigley Field.
The dynamics have changed a bit in Chicago, but only because Quade isn’t a totally known quantity yet. We know what Guillen is. We know he’s unafraid to tell a player his version of the truth, even if the player sees a different truth. And Ozzie isn’t afraid to relay that truth to the media.
We know that, despite the best intentions of Guillen and Williams, there will be turmoil in the Sox’ clubhouse in 2011. We’re fairly sure this will turn out to be a positive. The franchise can’t seem to roll without rocking.
We knew what Piniella was. Underneath the doddering-uncle exterior was a flickering fire. The problem for many Cubs fans was the perception that there were only embers left.
Fiery start for Quade
Not so with Quade. He took the back roads to the big leagues, and it produced a man who likes getting his hands dirty and his point across. There is a fire there. He’s not Mike Quaalude. His former players in the minors felt it. And they had the distinct feeling he might be tough enough to take them all on and win.
We got a glimpse of that side of Quade earlier this week, when supersized pitcher Carlos Silva, on his way out the door, ripped new Cubs pitching coach Mark Riggins for not being upfront with him.
“First of all, he’s dead f---ing wrong about my pitching coach. And I got no f---ing time for that,” Quade said. “And second, respect is a two-way street, period. If you’re not willing to give it, you’re not getting it.
“And the third thing that everybody needs to know, this was my call. If you want to be irritated with somebody, this is on me.”
Wait a second. F-bombs? Those are supposed to be Guillen’s area of expertise, right?
This month, during his first spring training as Cubs manager, Quade carried a fungo bat on the field with him at all times. He was either ready to hit grounders to infielders at a moment’s notice or he was waiting for the Buford Pusser role in “Walking Tall’’ to open up.
Where Piniella might have been distant from his players, Quade will be shoulder to shoulder with them. He communicates with them. He lets them know who will be in the lineup the next day, something Piniella didn’t do.
So, yes, most everything has been good. But what happens when it goes bad, which it will at some point? This is baseball and — we can’t emphasize this enough — these are the Cubs. And what happens if/when (July 1 at the latest) Carlos Zambrano goes off, as he’s wont to do? It won’t be so quiet, that’s what.
Quade won’t tolerate people who fail to play the game correctly. It’s why he benched Starlin Castro for a few games last year after the rookie shortstop made a few mental errors. Castro found out that he needs to be looking to his manager, not just to third baseman Aramis Ramirez, for guidance.
The best thing Quade had going for him last season was that he wasn’t Piniella, who always seemed surprised by the scrutiny in Chicago. This wasn’t the knee-jerk Big Apple he had been raised on. This was the 100 percent, emotionally invested Windy City. Everything mattered.
During his audition last season, Quade led the Cubs to a 24-13 finish. Is it unfair to say that was the easy part? Probably, but there’s truth in it. The Cubs were out of the pennant race at the time. The pressure was a barely noticeable hiss from the boiler.
The hard part starts now. There’s a decent chance this is not going to be an easy season for the Cubs and their manager, especially with a questionable lineup.
All Quade has to deal with is the franchise’s failure to win a World Series in the last 102 years. Perhaps you’ve heard something about that streak. Cubs players will watch Quade closely to see how he deals with the weight of having one of the most high-profile jobs in sports.
Welcome to the Sox Zoo
Guillen should have an easier time of it than Quade. He has a team that should contend for the American League Central title. That’s a “should’’ in two sentences. Higher expectations have been known to increase stress levels.
Some people are suggesting that Guillen is on the hot seat, given the turmoil of last season. Most of these people have no clue about how things work inside the Sox Zoo. They see a manager and general manager at odds publicly and see the worst. Chicago sees business as usual.
Guillen can be all over the place emotionally, one minute consoling a struggling rookie, the next telling people he’ll protect his family to the death. Williams prefers his emotions buttoned-down. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf looks over the two men like a patient parent who just wants everybody to get along, knows it’s impossible and decides to enjoy the show.
Sox players have learned to ride through the turbulence that comes with flying in formation behind Guillen. They can’t imagine a season without controversy. It wouldn’t be the Sox without it. That’s what the outsiders don’t understand.
And it’s why, despite all the promises, it won’t be a quiet season. It can’t be a quiet season, or, if it is, you can count the Sox out right now. The Oney Guillen controversy that spilled over from last season into the offseason is out there somewhere, lurking. Oney resigned from the Sox’ video department last year after tweeting critical statements about the team’s front office. In December, he ripped former closer Bobby Jenks via his Twitter account. You can picture him warming up his fingers already, can’t you?
We Chicagoans are lucky, manager-wise. Both Quade and Guillen are open with their thoughts. Both are considered players’ managers, and both have their players’ support. Last season’s doomed DH-by-committee experiment aside, Guillen usually makes the right calls. He gets all sorts of credit for his dealings with players; he doesn’t get enough credit for his on-field strategizing.
In 17 years as a minor-league manager, Quade has seen everything there is to see. The difference now is that he’s looking through the eyes of a major-league manager.
Guillen loves the spotlight. The spotlight will find Quade, whether he likes it or not.
He’ll have to douse controversy, too. He already did when Ramirez and Silva had to be separated after a skirmish during a spring-training game.
But right now? Everything is just swell, the way it is for every team in the big leagues. Hope is in the air. Most teams believe they have a chance, even if most of them don’t.
The Cubs open at home Friday against the Pirates. The same day, the Sox play the Indians in Cleveland. Ryan Dempster pitches for the Cubs. Mark Buehrle takes the mound for the Sox.
Peace reigns. Enjoy it while it lasts. It eventually will go away. Loudly.