Why isn't anyone stepping in to make sure young players get playing time?

After watching rookie Bryan LaHair launch a rocket against a strong wind to temporary salvage a game where the veterans managed 1 hit though 8 innings -- only to see John Grabow, another veteran, come in later and give the lead back, my frustration boiled over a little bit.  My mind then went back to a great question I got from a reader, "Break the Curse".  It was this:

Just a thought: if (Tom Ricketts) is so concerned with player development, why not force Quade's hand? I wonder what message, if any, is being given to Quade outside of what's being said briefly in the media. Is it smart to let Quade decide if his days are already numbered? Someone should intervene and get these kids out there.

I have to admit there's no real good answer.  Does Ricketts not want to appear as a meddler?  Is he trying to respect the accepted baseball hierarchy where owners do their things and managers do theirs?   Where's Randy Bush, the interim GM?   Would this be overstepping his bounds as a temporary fill-in who's basically just there to work the administrative part of the job?

Bulls fans will remember what happened when President John Paxson tried to tell Vinny Del Negro what to do with his lineup:   words were exchanged, ties were grabbed, Vinny's hairdo was slightly ruffled.   That kind of advice isn't always appreciated and the Bulls made national news for all the wrong reasons.

The more rookies the Cubs call up, the more Quade digs his heels in and declares he's going to play the veterans.    By telling the media that Colvin and other players "have to earn their playing time" while calling out other young players like Castro and Barney in public, is he trying to impress the old guard?  Does Quade think he's going to earn their respect so that they'll vouch for him when the Cubs have to make a decision on their manager?

There's one problem I have with all of this.  Wasn't Quade the guy brought in to be the good soldier?  He's the guy who's supposed to to toe the line.   So why the apparent defiance and selfishness all of the sudden?  Do desperate times for Quade call for desperate measures?

Maybe we've been looking at this the wrong way.  If Quade really wants to save his job why would he go against his bosses wishes?  No amount of recommendation letters from Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano is going to save his job if he is doing anything that would upset the people above him.  His longevity in baseball depends on what they think, not his players.

The answer we haven't considered here is that perhaps he's supposed to play the veterans.

The rookies will be there.  Rarely are careers made in September.  There is plenty of time to evaluate them in the spring...and even this fall and winter for those players assigned to those leagues.   There isn't much more time to evaluate the veterans.  The Cubs are bringing in a new GM and decisions have to be made on players like Aramis Ramirez.  Do they pick up his option or decline it?  Do they decline it and then try to re-sign him to a 2 or 3 year friendlier contract?  Do they want to keep Carlos Pena?   Then there's Alfonso Soriano.  Maybe a strong finish will convince some team that there's enough bat left that they'll take him on if the Cubs pay most of his salary.

That could be part of the answer, but it still doesn't explain why LaHair isn't playing more.  The Cubs have to make a decision this winter on whether to keep him on the 40 man roster so that he can compete for a job next season.  And it doesn't explain why you'd continue to trot John Grabow out there.  He has almost no chance of returning  even if he agrees to a large pay cut.

I'll admit there is no easy answer here.

What do you guys think?

 

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  • Unless they fire Quade, there's not much they can do. Quade is still clinging to the belief that if the Cubs play well the rest of the year, he has a shot to keep his job. He needs to be told now that he will not be back and if he doesn't like it, there's the door. Unless that happens , Quade has no incentive to play the young kids.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    I would think that he could build himself a niche as a manager who's good at developing kids. He seemed to be heading in that direction early in his career...then it all changed. Now he thinks he can win and impress veterans at the same time. If you ask me, he'd have an easier time finding a job as a guy who can develop players than as a guy who tries to win every game and still loses most of them.

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    Any team that might be interested in any of the Cubs sorry veterans have had more than enough time to evalulate them. This is just teh Cubs continued insistence on kissing the ass of every veteran they have. This is no different than Dusty playing Neifi Perez, or Lou sticking with the same line up day in and day out. Quade believes that someway, somehow, the vets will storm the new GM's office and demand that he be retained, like the idiots did last year. I think that Quade is easily the worst Cubs manager ever, and the fact that the Ricketts even allowed him to stay on after the Hendry firing is mind numbing. This organization is truly the worst in professional sports

  • In reply to Double D:

    I don't think it's about trading them as much as it's getting one final evaluation in to see which of these players they want to keep and which they want to let go.

    But I have to admit I'm confused at why the Cubs are handling things this way. It could well be just Quade and a desperate attempt to save this job. The veterans aren't going to save him this time, though. The new GM is going to want to bring his own guy in.

  • John:
    I think your theory is probably on the money. My feeling is that there hasn't been a lot of guidance (unfortunately) from either Randy Bush or Ricketts on this issue. With only 20 games to go management is content to let Quade trot out A-Ram, Pena, others in the hope of getting a rival club to bite on one in the off-season. In game Quade (who nobody has ever accused of being a master strategist) falls back on old habits like trotting Grabow out to blow leads.

    I just don't think Ricketts sees the urgency of using these last 20 games for the kids as much as he does making sure he lands the right GM who will no doubt pink-slip Quade in the offseason.

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    That's a simple and elegant way to answer that question, Ryno2Grace. It could just be a matter of priorities. Ricketts is involved in bigger things, decisions that will affect the long term future of the Cubs, he's got bigger fish to fry than the day to day decisions of the ballclub. The GM search is much more important right now than a few extra September ABs for Bryan Lahair.

  • Well, Ricketts calling for certain players to play and controlling Quade would just get the outsiders even more upset with him and the Cubs situation. He's just letting the 'bag of poop'-fire burn itself out instead of stomping on it. It would be a PR nightmare. But you know something is really wrong when Pena tells the media he would like LaHair to get more playing time.

  • In reply to Cameron Macpherson:

    This is another good point. Who's going to want to come here if they know there's an owner making suggestions for the everyday lineup? People worry about him extending Fleita, but I can't think of many good GMs who want to come here if the owner is getting involved in such little things as who plays 1st base or comes out of the bullpen. That has Daniel Snyder written all over it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe the Fleita/Wilkins thing is because TR is looking to a younger who will be willing to come in and work with who is already here, and just let this be their legacy.

    I would hope that a prospective GM would look at the overall job that tandem has done, and be willing to work with them. But I suppose ego's do get in the way.

    Personally, I'm tired of all the misinformation and speculation. I just want the new GM and new Manager to be hired and have the frontoffice/staff set for next season, and get back to speculating and giving opinions on the on-the-field product.

  • In reply to Cameron Macpherson:

    I hear you on all the misinformation, wild rumors...I'm taking a slight break from the GM search until there's a solid leak. I've had my say on some of my favorite candiates...Cherington, the Beane/Forst combo platter, and John Coppolella as well as a few I'm not crazy about, i.e. Ned Colletti.

    There was some speculation today because Chuck LaMar resigned from the Phillies...hope he's not the guy either.

    Anyway, the young GM theory is a solid one. If you're going to pluck a young guy from a winning organization like Boston, Texas, or Atlanta, it's unlikely they can get the big veterans to follow them to Chicago, so you would think that having a built in veteran support system like Wilken and Fleita, who already know the organization from top to bottom, would be a positive thing.

  • John,
    Thanks for the kind words.

    All this has got me thinking about what it would really be like if I were the manager. Would Sandberg do the same thing as Quade?

    Here's a potential line up with the potential ramifications if Quade went with the youth movement:

    1b - Bryan Lahair (Benching a clubhouse guy with a bad average and some pop who doesn't have to be on the roster next year).
    2b - Barney
    SS - Castro
    3b - DJ Lemahieu (Benching Aramis Bad Start Strong Finish, I'm testing the free agent market Ramirez couldn't hurt, right? Another team already knows what they're getting. If the mets benched David Wright, would that stop the Cubs from going after him in the off season? He still is our most lethal bat, but does it matter if we lose four more games by playing DJ? And this may not be the case if we get a significant defensive upgrade.)
    C - Welington Castillo (Just a hypothetical at this point. However, Soto's homers are down, average down, he seems to handle the pitchers okay, but what has he done beyond his in the park homer rookie of the year season to prove that he deserves the starting job? At this point, it should be a three horse race for 2012.)

    We'll leave the pitching staff alone for now. Obviously Grabow shouldn't have been out there for two innings when Gaub is up there to gain experience. Seriously Quade! 13 innings without giving them a chance?

    The only reason I can come up with to play the veterans is that a potential free agent may be turned off coming to a team that gives up on veterans just because a season is lost.

    Veterans want to pad their stats in September if they are having a down year to entice another team to pick them up as "Ryno2Grace" alluded.

    Let's say you're Pujols or Fielder, and giving thought to coming to the Cubs. Would you come to a team strapped with the knowledge that they may bench you for a kid who has proved nothing just because you are having a down year? If this is what upper management thinks, I still don't think it is sound reasoning...

    Even though ownership is not saying it, we are rebuilding. And you don't rebuild with old bricks.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    No problem...you're the one that inspired the article! In fact, I feel I've got some of the most knowledgeable Cub fans out there as readers...you guys always make me think.

    I really like the point about turning off veterans who may want to come here. Knowing that they might be benched if the Cubs don't contend is not exactly an incentive to come here -- not just for Pujols/Fielder but also for the undervalued guy who's looking for an opportunity to get ABs or innings. For example, I'm not sure Pena would have come here if he had an inkling the Cubs would bench him if they didn't contend. He did have other offers. He came here on a make good contract.

  • I have to agree with both John and Ryno2Grace. Apart from LaHair, there is no pressing need to give any of the other call-ups (i.e. LaMahieu and Gaub) more than a flavor of the bigs. (Montanez is irrelevant.) Both are going to be around next spring. The new management and coaching staff will be reevaluating everybody anyway, hopefully with an open mind and a clean slate. Thus, it is just a matter of playing out the season with as little fuss as possible and making sure everything is in place for the new GM to hit the ground running.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    There really is no pressing need. It's a bit overblown sometimes...even by myself. I think LeMahieu could use another year in AAA anyway. I would like the Cubs to try Gaub in the Grabow situations, though. When Dolis comes up, I'd like to see him come in instead of Ramon Ortiz.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Ya, I was disappointed when I say the box score this morning and saw "Grabow" and not "Gaub". Both start with "G" though. Maybe Quade got confused?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Quade confused? From the man who thought he could leap frog 4 teams by winning 10 of 12 games who were all at least 8 games ahead of him at the time?

    Yeah, I think you may have a point!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John ... This is only slightly related to the topic. I'm writing out CIN lineups last night ... and thinking, "Who ARE these guys?"

    P - Lecure 2005/4th Games 52 Starts 10
    C - Mesoraco 2007/1st Games 3
    IF - Valaika 2006/3rd 2010 Games 19 AB 38 2011 11 Games AB 20
    IF - Frazier 2007/Supp 2011 Games 31 AB 89
    OF - Heisley 2006/17th extensive experience 2010/2011
    OF - Sappelt 2008/19th 2011 Games 24 AB 74

    And this from Baker, who was notorious for not playing rookies.

    I have no problem with maybes and likely nots (LeMahieu, Montanez) not getting much time ... but geez !!!!

    Fellow posters ... It's people like you who keep me comin' back ... and of course, our scribe. Great stuff!!!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Crazy when it's Baker playing the kids and a career minor league manager who plays the veterans! What the heck is going on here? Somebody needs to send Neifi Perez to the Reds for a true test of Baker's commitment to the rookies.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    LaHair is the obvious, glaring exception though, for the following reasons:
    -1B open next year
    -Carrying huge momentum from his AAA MVP season, and his already hot start (albeit small sample size)
    -Replacing players like Soriano & Pena in the lineup who are not playing well
    -MLB experience
    -and based on Quade's stance, he has already earned playing time

    Too many factors at play to let the kid just waste away on the bench. If there was a time to meddle, its with LaHair.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    And Colvin to a slightly lesser degree. I think I've blacked that one out as dgedz27 has as well. You know I like that kid, but its beyond frustrating at this point.

    Quade should have been fired along with Hendry. That's really where the problem lies. Not only is he completely incompetent, but everyone knows he is gone at the end of the year, and there is an obvious conflict of interest with him trying to save his job. There is also some defiance there it seems, like you have pointed out John.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Agreed...they should have put in an interim manager like Pat Listach with the clear understanding that he should play the kids and is not competing for a job.

    Colvin has been frustrating. He can look good in certain ABs and absolutely clueless in others.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I remember last year this was the big thing with Colvin. And once he started playing, things worked out. Note that this also occurred after Steve Stone questioned Colvin's lack of playing time. Maybe Bobby Valentine could get back on the air and wonder why the Lahair and Colvin aren't in more. Quade seems to listen to him...

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Good point. And this very well might be TR's plan. One thing is for sure, I'd hate to sit down at a poker table with that man.

    On a side note, I started reading this blog a few weeks ago and it is a refreshing change of pace from the drivel that floods the mainstream.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Thanks!

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    I also started a few weeks ago, and I concur wholeheartedly with "Break the Curse." Kudos to John and my fellow posters. Thanks for the thoughtful discourse.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Thanks for reading!

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Truly one of the best sports blogs out there

    Keep voting for Cubs Den, 3 days left!

    http://chicago.blogger.cbslocal.com/most-valuable-blogger/blog/106-cubs-den/

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Thanks for the plug, ChiRy...we can make one last push...remember you can vote everyday! You can also click the badge on the right hand rail and it will take you straight there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks for having such a great blog that I can read every day!

  • No one's even mentioned Tyler Colvin, who has three starts in September. He needs to be an every day player from here on out. Reed Johnson may be playing better, but that's irrelevant to what matters: the 2012 and 2013 Cubs.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Good point. This is so ridiculous, I've actually tried to just black it out, because I get that mad when I think about it. He squared it up real nice 3 times last night...only had the 1 hit to show for it. Nice toss to the plate as well! I really hope he gets the RF job from day 1.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Colvin is a guy on the list who absolutely should be playing. There's no veteran starter in the way like Pena or Ramirez. There's really no excuse not to play him.

    Of all of Quade's errors that's one of the biggest. It looked like we may have had a promising young player but we never got the chance to find out this season. It's been a lost season for Colvin.

  • Put me in the group of thinking there's not pressing need here. We all want to see the kids play, that's a given. It isn't going to change the evaluation that the new GM does.

    Even though I had pretty low expectations for LaHair, I must say I have been impressed thus far. It's a tiny sample size, but I like his approach, and the ease of his swing. He's driven the ball to left center and turned around a 100MPH heater from a lefty. In the 10 AB's I've seen, I'm comfortable saying he's better than Pena, that's for sure. Hopefully he'll get a real shot at the 1B job for next year.

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    Although it's a small sample size in terms of numbers, LaHair definitely looks like he has the bat speed and power to hit in the majors. He's starting to win me over a bit too. I think he at least deserves a shot to win the job next spring.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's a lot quicker to the ball than I thought he would be. If he could give us 2-3 years of nice productivity, that would be huge in terms of saving $$. I agree with what others have said on this site. We should spend on pitching, especially with the 2013 class. Also with Garza type trades, then we can use the money to extend these guys.

    Can't wait until the new GM is in place. Really curious as to what direction the club will head in. LF,RF,3B,1B, two SP spots all in flux...it's gonna be a busy one, that's for sure.

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    We'll be doing some previews over the next couple of weeks position by position. I'll be doing a round table with some other bloggers. Looking forward to hearing reader input as well. First position up will be catcher...hopefully at some point today.

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