Since taking over for the now retired Lou Piniella, Mike Quade has managed the Cubs with a 5-2 record. After sweeping the Nationals and winning one of the three games played in Cincinnati, Quade's Cubs actually found a way to defeat the juggernaut that is the Pittsburg Pirates.
The Cubs win last night, a 14-2 bashing for Quade's first home game as skipper, improved the Cubs record against the Pirates this year to 4-9. This truly is a proud moment for Cub fans; even if the Cubs sweet Pittsburg, they will have finished the season 6-9 against a team that will likely not reach 60 wins- currently the Pirates are 43-88.
In any case, putting the sarcasm aside, Quade's first stretch as Cub manager has been a good one. So good, in fact, that many fans and members of the media seem to be thinking that perhaps Quade's "audition" is going so well that he must be considered as a realistic candidate to manage the team next year.
I like Mike Quade: I think he shares thoughtful and reasonable comments with the media while wholeheartedly doing what he can to improve the team immediately. He is well-spoken and appears to have a vested interest in every game, even if it is the same crap team that was playing for Lou. That being said, there are still the same underproductive veterans on this team that Lou had, and some of them have been hot during this stretch of Quade's success.
Furthermore, let's not forget who the Cubs have played. Sweeping the Nationals was surprising, but it's noting to wet yourself over. Once the team reached Cincinnati, a place where winning baseball has been oddly frequent this year, the Cubs managed to salvage only one game of three. The Cubs fifth win came yesterday against the sad Pittsburg Pirates. Again, this was rather surprising considering how the Cubs have fared against Pittsburg this year, but that win was simply one the Cubs should have earned, just as they should beat the Pirates in the remaining two games of the series.
It is important to remember that the Cubs managed a few good stretches under Lou this year as well, and this likely is all that is happening now under Quade. I would not be surprised to see the Cubs play near .500 ball the rest of the way under their new manager, and that surely is an improvement from Lou's 51-74 record, but Quade is only 5-2. This is an extremely small sample size, in baseball terms, and Chicago fans, as they frequently seem to do, are clinging to extremely recent history and running wild with it in fields of daydreams in their surely intoxicated heads.
Before anyone makes any insane claims that Quade should be coaching the Cubs next year, let's at least see what his record is once the season is finished. Since Quade is 5-2 now, and there 27 are games remaining, I predict Quade will finish with a final record of 16-18. Again, this would be commendable as it improved on Lou's performance this year and would (hypothetically) have been earned with a pretty bad team of baseball players. However, does anyone want to hand over the reins of the Cubs for the next 3-4 years based on a 16-18 performance?
Even if Quade finishes with a slight winning record, does a managing performance of 34 games build enough confidence within you to say, "Here: take my team?" I don't think so. Thirty-four games is simply too short of a trial to be able to say that with confidence, barring some insane Cubbie tear and a finishing record of 24-10. If Quade finishes with a 24-10 record, considering some of the teams coming the Cubs' way in September, I would accept him back as manager next year. The fact is that 34 games is not long enough to base a final decision on, and I think Jim Hendry knows that.
Lou wanted to be done, so the Cubs let him go. This point in the season is obviously too late to bring in someone new from the outside, so either Trammell or Quade essentially had to get the call. Hendry opted to give long-time minor league coach Quade the opportunity. Many people thought Trammell would get the call, so this was reported on as a surprise move. Hendry said it was to audition for next year, but he didn't say that it was to audition for the Cubs' managing vacancy.
As a fan moving on from the Lou Piniella era, I want nothing left lingering around next year. While I have no direct dissatisfaction with Mike Quade or some of the other coaches, at the same time they simply remind me of these last two pathetic seasons, as well as the two ultimately excruciatingly painful ones prior to them. I suppose I would place bets on Larry Rothschild being grandfathered in to another regime of Cub coaches, and though I wouldn't choose for that to be the scenario, I could deal with it if the Cubs hired the right manager.
Hendry saw Lou's early retirement as the perfect opportunity to give one to a guy who had never had one. Allowing Quade to take control of the Cubs gives him a chance to audition for any team in needs of a manager next year. For a team with a ton of young talent and a solid veteran or two, and relatively low expectations, taking a gamble on Mike Quade as manager may not be a bad gamble. The Cubs, however, need to stop gambling.
Although the Cubs have some young talent, there are a lot of veterans left on this team, and Cub fans are likely to have diluted themselves with hope once again by the time the 2011 season kicks off, so expectations likely will be higher than they should be. By the time the Cubbies are in a legitimate race for the playoffs again, I think that most of these veterans will no longer be with the team (notably Big Z, and Aramis Ramirez... I would say Soriano, but my heart won't let me admit that I'll have to wait that long).
However, if exactly the right moves are made throughout the organization, the Cubs could be a contender within the next two years (this, of course, is also proof that I will be one of the deaf, dumb, and blind fans clinging to hope at the start of the next few seasons). A hot Aramis Ramirez, restructured bullpen, improvement from the youth, and a revitalized team united behind the right coach could see the Cubs compete for a playoff spot next year. Further cap-clearing, improvement from the youth, and additional timely moves could increase those chances the year after.
My point is that what the Cubs need to do in the offseason to have any immediate hope, is to begin by hiring the exact right coach; and that simply is not Mike Quade. I wouldn't be horrified if the team went with Ryne Sandberg, but my brain tells me that's not the best option either. The Cubs need someone who has a vested interest in the organization and has the experience to provide a quick turnaround, however unlikely that outcome may realistically be. In my mind, Bob Brenly is the best answer for the Cubs. Joe Girardi would be my second, and last, choice.
Either manager fits the bill for what I'm looking for, but Girardi abandoning the Yankees seems unlikely to me. On top of that, Brenly has had the misfortune of seeing the Cubs weaknesses firsthand, which, to me, makes him the more suitable option. As a Cub fan, I have little or no interest in seeing Tony LaRussa or Joe Torre in Cubbie blue, but I admit that either hire would be immensely interesting.
I, however, have had enough interesting things to watch from my baseball team the last few years; I'm ready to watch solid, well-played baseball for a change. I hope Brenly is the next man burdened with the Cubs managing job, and I'd be quite happy with Girardi as well. While I wish Mike Quade nothing but success in the near and distant future, I will (hopefully) happily see him on his way at the end of this miserable and brutal season.