Sometimes Nice Guys Finish Second-to-Last

Mike Quade, like his former boss, is a nice guy. Everyone who meets him says as much.

And, despite the cliche, nice guys don’t always finish last. It’s just that they don’t always get to keep their jobs.

After a dismal 2011 season, his first as the full-time manager of the Chicago Cubs, Mike Quade was fired yesterday. A nice guy who finished, well, second-to-last in the NL Central this year.

To be sure, the 2011 Chicago Cubs were going to struggle no matter who was at the helm. Injuries, poor roster construction, players too old and too young, and lousy weather conspired to sap the Cubs of whatever small hope they had of playoff glory when the season started. Quade is now paying the price by losing what will probably be the first, last, and only Major League managerial job he ever has.

Quade was crushingly frank when asked how he took the news.

“You’re disappointed, you’re bitter, you’re mad. A million things,” Quade said yesterday. “I woke up this morning, grabbed a fishing rod, had a cup of coffee and was managing the Cubs. Now you’re not. It’s a tough game. I’m not Lou Piniella or Tony La Russa or Tommy Lasorda or Bobby Cox. Time will tell.”

Ultimately, Quade was undone by a confluence of things – some out of his control, but, for many of which, he bears responsibility. Before the wistfulness of short memory leads you, some years later, to wondering just why Mike Quade wasn’t given more of a chance, let me lay out an incomplete list of his failings (in no particular order):

  • Believing that James Russell was a starting pitcher.
  • Continuing to believe James Russell was a starting pitcher after FOUR demonstrations that he was clearly not.
  • Refusing to move Aramis Ramirez up in the batting order.
  • Leaving Starlin Castro in the 3-hole too long, after it became clear that, for whatever reason, the kid was only going to succeed batting one or two this year.
  • Leaving Marlon Byrd in the 3-hole too long, after it became clear that, for whatever reason, Byrd was allergic to hitting with runners on base.
  • Failing to recognize and ameliorate Darwin Barney’s struggles at second base.
  • Throwing Starlin Castro under the bus publicly, repeatedly.
  • Setting Tyler Colvin up to fail early on by batting him largely against lefties, and largely 8th.
  • Refusing to sit Carlos Pena with any regularity against lefties, despite his struggles against lefties, and Jeff Baker’s destruction of lefties.
  • Refusing to play “the kids” with regularity when the Cubs were out of the race, and playing vets so that they could reach “milestones” instead.
  • Participating in Carlos Marmol’s disastrous year.
  • Y U NO TAKE OUT STARTING PITCHERS?
  • Failing to improve the Cubs’ fundamentals – how many boneheaded mistakes did the Cubs repeatedly make? And even the physical errors, it just looked like they never practiced.
  • Allowing the Carlos Zambrano disaster to devolve into what it became.
  • Refusing to play DJ LeMahieu when he was called up mid-season, seemingly, for nothing.
  • Having the Cubs start stealing bases only after they were long out of the race (and did so very effectively).
  • Telling Matt Garza to strike out on purpose so that Starlin Castro could have another crack at his 200th hit.
  • Getting into a public spate with Ryan Dempster.
  • Offering clueless quote after clueless quote.
  • Breaking my brain with the most inane set of nicknames ever.
  • And, of course, pitching to Pujols. Twice. On back-to-back days.

I’m sure I’m missing many.

The truth is, I struggle to think of things Quade did right – buttons he pushed that worked out. Maybe that’s the malleability of memory at work, but Quade seemed, at every turn, to be in over his head.

Too often, Mike Quade went “against the book” and it didn’t work out. When you go with the book and it doesn’t work out, you’ve got a defense. If you go against the book and it doesn’t work out, you get fired. Just ask Jim Hendry about his last managerial hire as GM.

Hendry and Quade were a sensible match in that regard: nice guys, went with their gut, didn’t win. Both will land on their feet, even if they don’t end up a GM or manager, respectively, again. As I said, there’s a place for nice guys, and it isn’t always last place.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

24 responses to “Sometimes Nice Guys Finish Second-to-Last”

  1. SweetJamesJones

    Do no feel bad for “The Quade,” he still has a future in horror films.

  2. Fishin Phil

    I wanted so much to like him at the start of the year.  By May 1st I wanted his head on a platter.  That list is fairly comprehensive, and very accurate.

  3. Rob Samuelson

    I’m confused by the “telling Garza to strike out on purpose” thing. I didn’t see that game. What was the situation? Obviously, every out made is closer to the end of the game, so wouldn’t purposely making an out make it less likely for Castro to come to bat, depending on the point of the game?

    1. hansman1982

      It was the final half inning for the Cubs bats in the final home game of the season and Castro had 199 hits.  Q wanted Cassie to get an extra AB to go for 200 hits at home.  Runner on 1st with one out – Q didnt want Garza GIDP.

  4. Glenallen's One Homer

    A really good, well put reflection on his time as manager. Now that he has definitively been fired, I can say that I liked him as a person. Though usually no good baseball-wise, his press conferences usually showed that he was a kind guy. I really, really didn’t want him as the Cubs’ manager any more, but I hope he gets a job somewhere else soon. Great job as always, Brett.

  5. SweetJamesJones

  6. packman711

    Simply put, he was given very little and did nothing with it. The mistakes were tolerable, his refusal/inability to learn from them was not.

  7. ottoCub

    This is a very complete, thorough, and accurate list. And when you look at the totality, it is possible that a few better decisions through the year may have made the Cubs an 80-win team. And a .500 season may have kept Quade in the manager’s job. So, it is logical to say that Quade made the new front office’s decision easy.

  8. Luke

    Worst manager I can remember watching since I started following major league baseball after the ’94 strike. Nice guy, but an absolutely hideous manager.

    That said, I suspect he’s going to be a darn good third base coach for someone in the next season or so, and will probably make a pretty good bench coach one day. He’d be a valuable guy for someone who is able to learn from Quade’s mistakes.

    1. JulioZuleta

      Yeah, you bring him in as a bench coach, ask him how he would handle the situation, and then do the exact opposite. It’s a recipe sure to lead to success.

      1. Luke

        I’d also sign Colvin to that team and make Quade write his name (and just his name) into the lineup every single day.

        But then, I’m sadistic like that.

  9. oswego chris

    I almost think Hendry must have known he was doomed, because I just can’t believe he picked this guy..

    Brett’s list is very accurate, and there were even more things he did wrong…

    I can’t think of one time I was watching or observing where I thought Mike Quade made a good move…

    this was the worst team I have seen in my lifetime as far as excitement, energy, effort…even in bad years, and I have seen many of them since I started watching in 1976, they always showed flashes, had good streaks…played above their heads for awhile…this team did NONE of that….so he had to be just awful

    1. JulioZuleta

      For Ryan Dempster to make it clear to the public what he thought of Quade was very telling.

  10. Go Cubs

    Quade should have been fired during the season. The first game of the season he left Dempster in to long and gave up a grand slam to Neil Walker and then to Andrew McCutchen this was the very first game he started making crappy decisions!

  11. CubFan Paul

    i dont think we can blame Quade for James Russell or continuing to run Russell out to the mound. Ricketts cut the payroll and gave Hendry no payroll flexibility once the season started. beyond sending Samardjiza down to AAA to stretch out Quade had no other options.

  12. Edwin

    Brett,

    Very nice job with the Airing of Grievances. I eagerly look forward to the Feats of Strength. I wish more people would celebrate Festivus as early as you.

    -Edwin

    1. Internet Random

      I wish more people would celebrate Festivus as early as you.

      You mean the rest of us?

  13. Edwin

    other things Quade did wrong:

    He sped. He followed too closely. He ran a stop sign. He almost hit a Chevy. He sped some more. He failed to yield at a crosswalk. He changed lanes at the intersection. He changed lanes without signaling while running a red light and *speeding*!

  14. Bric

    But he was 23 and 14 as the interim manager at the end of last year and got glowing reviews from guys like Soriano and Hendry!
    Oh wait- those games were meaningless, Soriano also raved about the Cubs’ hiring batting coach Jarimillo because “He speaks Spanish” (that worked out well), and Hendry’s record in the playoffs is 3-10 over 10 years despite one of the largest payrolls and fan bases in either league.
    There’s a reason the other 29 teams never even gave this guy a thought- his nicknames.

  15. rocky8263

    I can think of two games where marmol was headed for disaster and marshall and wood were left standing or sitting while we lost. Freaking moron. I work near Mt Prospect and I hear there’s a move for” Mike Quade Way” to replace a section of Rand Rd.

  16. Tony

    Nice list Brett. The only thing I might have added that had me regularly swearing was Mr Quade’s refusal to even try a squeeze bunt in a close game to score the tying or go-ahead run. Given how ordinary the team was with RISP and how many runners were left on base I would liked to have seen him try to manufacture more runs. It gives me hope for next season that a philosophy change might lead to more runs scored even if we have largely the same roster.

  17. Joe N

    The thing that made everything come into focus about Quade was when he made a comment ( and forgive me, I don’t remember exactly what he said ) about the fans not realizing how quick things happen during the game.. like HE thought things were happening too fast during the game. For the guy that supposedly running things to think that everything is happening too fast is very scary. Maybe he’d be better managing a little league team.