Theo Epstein handling Cubs’ transition with care, courtesy
By Rick Telander email@example.com November 2, 2011 10:30PM
New Cubs honcho Theo Epstein extended courtesy to former manager Mike Quade (above) while giving him his walking papers. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times
Updated: December 4, 2011 11:16AM
There’s no turning back for the Cubs.
Everything’s new, fresh, full-tilt, no rear view mirrors allowed.
Manager Mike Quade was never going to survive the Theo Epstein movement. We knew that.
And when new Cubs president Epstein went through the formality of interviewing Quade last week it was a nice gesture, a show of respect for a decent man and the delicate psyche of Cubdom.
When Epstein flew to Florida on Wednesday just to tell Quade what he already had to know — that he had been fired with a year remaining on his contract — it was a further sign of courtesy.
Quade took the fall for the absent-mindedness of Starlin Castro and the craziness of Carlos Zambrano, among other 2011 season failings, but mostly because he was the white bread filler between Lou Piniella and the future.
Epstein and his fresh-faced management crew clearly have education and manners. And they have direction. And high-as-the-Hancock standards.
Epstein said he is looking for a new manager who must have “leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level.’’
What, no cape or halo?
And the manager will not be fan favorite, the highly mythologized Ryne Sandberg.
Ryno has no big-league managing experience, which means he’s out. And if the St. Louis Cardinals take him as the replacement for Tony La Russa, so be it.
Theo is not going back.
Unfamiliar with culture
Indeed, how much can Cubbie nostalgia mean to a young guy from New England?
Still, he is showing that he is fully aware that the handling of the most-cursed team in baseball requires a kind of management delicacy that transcends mere wheeling-and-dealing and talent selection.
When asked upon being hired if he understood how different Chicago Cub culture is from Boston’s, or anywhere, he replied:
“I don’t pretend to understand it all yet. Having grown up in Boston, I had obviously a better feel for that market. But I’m a baseball fan, and when I was with the Padres, I’d come through Chicago and go to Wrigley Field when we’d play the Cubs. With the Red Sox, we’d come in to play the White Sox, and we actually came in and played the Cubs at Wrigley in ’05. I paid a lot of attention at that time to how things were here.’’
So he already was learning about Bartman and Ernie and Fergie. Maybe he even knows that the 70th birthday celebration for Ronnie “Woo Woo’’ is being held at a bar across from Wrigley Field on Saturday. Nowhere else would that stuff matter as it does for the Cub Nation.
Lots of holes to fill
Handle with care doesn’t begin to describe this quest.
Right now the Cubs are a team without (likely) its star third baseman, Aramis Ramirez, and its purported pitching ace, Zambrano, and (for sure) a manager.
Some season-ticket prices have quietly gone up, and you can bet chairman Tom Ricketts is working Mayor Rahm Emanuel to get Wrigley Field improvement bonds floated on the backs of the citizenry.
It’s amusing that the tiny Wrigley offices are so jammed that adding more Epstein underlings is nearly impossible unless more trailers are stacked on the old Yum-Yum Donuts site.
“Over time, I think I’ll develop a better understanding for the heartbeat of the city, for the culture here, the way you guys operate . . . ’’ Epstein said on hiring day.
Whether it’s Mike Maddux or Dave Duncan or old chum Terry Francona who becomes the new Cubs skipper, it will be Epstein’s guy. No looking back.
Full speed (courteously) ahead.