Being the manager of the Chicago Cubs – even in a mere interim capacity – brings with it certain indelicacies. Most notably? The microscope. Every move you make is scrutinized by a rabid pack of irrational freaks.
Today, I am but one of those freaks.
Cubs interim manager Mike Quade took the reigns yesterday, and in his first lineup, there were more than a few surprises: Alfonso Soriano had been dropped to 7th (good move), Geovany Soto was back to 8th (bad move), and Blake DeWitt was batting leadoff (more on that in a bit). But the most surprising move was a guy that didn’t move: Tyler Colvin was back in right field, not at first base, where we’d been told for days he would be playing this series.
And it wasn’t just a one-game aberration, either. Quade says he doesn’t expect to put Colvin at first any time soon.
“Nothing imminent for me there. We’ll pick a spot,” Quade said. “Maybe see him over there in a late-inning game, where maybe it makes sense to do that. It’s something that we’ll look at, but sparingly, probably.”
Colvin, who started in right field, has been working out at first since the Cubs traded three-time Gold Glove Award winner Derrek Lee to the Braves on Wednesday. The rookie hasn’t played first since his sophomore year in college at Clemson. He had his most intense workout Sunday under the tutelage of bench and infield coach Alan Trammell.
“It’ll hold off. I guess I’m not quite ready,” Colvin said. “It’s good to work over there and I’ll do the work on the side and I’ll be ready for it. It’s fine taking fungos the whole time, but game speed, that’s different. Once I get some balls hit hard at me, I’ll see what I do with those.” cubs.com.
Here we see the clear problem with having an interim manager like Mike Quade. Do I mean that Quade is, himself, a problematic manager? Of course not. I’m sure his managerial style is just fine.
The problem is: he’s up for the Cubs full-time gig in 2011. So when it comes to making choices on a game-to-game basis, Quade is going to make the choices that help the team win today – even if the choice is at the expense of the future of the organization. Quade has himself called his interim job an “audition.” Does anyone really believe he’s going to do anything that lessens the chance he’ll win during his audition?
Perhaps Tyler Colvin really isn’t ready to play first base at the big league level. But we already know that! The point is to give him a look – even at the risk of him being a disaster – to see if he can be the Chicago Cubs’ first baseman in 2011. Quade, on the other hand, has a strong incentive not to take that risk.
Quade’s incentive to win right now is also the reason we saw Blake DeWitt batting leadoff for the first time. It isn’t a coincidence – DeWitt batting leadoff and Colvin batting in a production spot makes a whole lot more sense than where they’d been batting previously… if you want to win today, that is.
Was Lou leaving Colvin in the one-hole because he liked having a .310 OBP at the top of the order? Of course not. Lou was doing it because he knew that Colvin could have a long future in the bigs, and felt it was in the best interest of the organization for Colvin to get as many meaningful at bats as possible.
I’m not criticizing Quade, mind you. He’s just doing what anyone would do when given a golden opportunity such as this. And after all, it’s incredibly defensible: what’s he supposed to do, not try to win?
But the Cubs have put the organization in a difficult position with their decision to install an interim manager, and then tell him that he’s trying out to be the guy next year. How many meaningful innings and/or at bats is he going to give all of those soon-to-be September call-ups? How many innings is he going to let Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol throw? How many pitches? If Geovany Soto’s achy shoulder needs an extra day off, how eager will Quade be to give Koyie Hill a start? If you’re an online sports betting type of person, I’d put my money on Quade doing what’s best for Quade.