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.