Quade may change Cubs, but not his ways
By GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org February 13, 2011 11:14PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
MESA, Ariz. — Even on the first official day of the Mike Quade Era with the Cubs, the differences were apparent.
Every player’s name the new manager mentioned Sunday was pronounced correctly, every comment was delivered without so much as a 10-second pause and not one sentence during an entire media session was begun with the word ‘‘look’’ or ‘‘invariably.’’
The more significant differences between the minor-league managing veteran and his famous predecessor, Lou Piniella, should reveal themselves more clearly during the next six weeks of spring training and certainly the six months to follow.
Until then, Quade seems determined to be nothing different than he’s always been, clinging to a grounded identity and approach even as he acknowledges how much higher-profile that identity has become since his successful 24-13 trial run last season that landed him his new gig.
‘‘When I went home to Florida and the wonderful little neighborhood I live in [after last season], the lady next door brought me some chicken soup,’’ he said. ‘‘And a dozen baseballs to be signed.’’
As unappetizing as the newfound notoriety is to Quade, that’s nothing compared to what comes next.
Next up is the scrutiny of the fishbowl media market — the inevitable comparisons, second-guessing and demands for results that are so high-pitched and unforgiving on the North Side.
‘‘I understand the magnitude, believe me,’’ Quade said, ‘‘but it doesn’t do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in the magnitude. I’m more of a grinding, day-in, day-out guy. If we’re going to be successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of myself and do what I need to do.’’
Maybe that’s part of what clubhouse veterans liked about him during that trial run at the end of last season that led to the chorus of unsolicited ‘‘We want Quade!’’ refrains.
‘‘Obviously, he’s changed a little bit because he’s the man in charge now,’’ pitcher Ryan Dempster said. ‘‘But his personality didn’t change. His relationship with us as players didn’t change.
‘‘And what you see is what you get, and what he says is what you get.’’
What will the Cubs get in the manager’s seat this season?
If his 37-game audition, which included a leadoff-man rotation involving Jeff Baker, didn’t offer a glimpse, his talk Sunday of stressing small-ball fundamentals this spring — and how that plays into an all-important strong start — offered another.
‘‘Whether you’re talking about bunt defenses, whether you’re talking about cutoffs and relays, going first to third — all those things that are not in the forefront of guys’ minds — they’re the tough jobs,’’ he said.
“And you can pretty much book it: The first week in April, it’s going to be 3-2, 2-1 [scores], unless this weather that hit Chicago is going away. You know how tough it is early, you know how low-scoring. Well, it’s great to say we’re working on fundamentals, we’ll be ready in June or July, [but] that’s probably too late.’’
The situation is fluid as far as what that means for the day-to-day spring schedule, how it shapes the team that will break camp for the April 1 opener at Wrigley Field and how the potentially more important issues of player relations and people-managing skills come into play.
‘‘From a scheduling standpoint, [spring training] will be very similar. But I think that anybody that thinks Mike Quade can go about managing a ballclub like Dusty [Baker] or Lou is missing the whole point,’’ Quade said. “From a personality standpoint, from a respect standpoint, all the things that I think I need to do, those guys had built in with all the success they had. So my [increased level of] involvement will probably be the one thing that I think will be different.’’
The rest of it — the biggest part of the whole thing — is up to the players who lobbied for him.
“He did a really good job of communicating with us, and we all enjoyed playing for him,’’ Dempster said. ‘‘We were all big advocators of him and pushing for him, and that’s our job now as players — to go out there and show him . . . and play hard for him every day.’’