Cubs

Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

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Mooney: The fundamental nature of Mike Quade

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 9:12 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. There will be times where Alfonso Soriano stands at home plate and admires the flight of his double off the wall, or a ball skips past Aramis Ramirez at third base. And you will want to see the manager flip out.

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As a younger man, in places like Rockford and Scranton, Pa., Mike Quade might have given you the satisfaction. But after managing 2,378 games in the minors and seven more seasons as a major-league coach he has a sense of perspective.

Of course Quade wont treat Soriano the same as Blake DeWitt. They are different people. Its not like hes managing 25 robots.

And just because Quade doesnt jam his finger in a players chest while the dugout camera is rolling doesnt mean the issue wont be addressed behind closed doors.

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The moments that will test Quade are coming, but there was a relaxed vibe around Fitch Park on Sunday as pitchers and catchers reported. Quade learned so much from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but knows that he will have to shape the Cubs in his own image.

Anybody that thinks Mike Quade can go about managing a ballclub like Dusty or Lou is missing the whole point, he said. From a personality standpoint, from a respect standpoint, all the things that I think I need to do those guys had built in with all the success they had.

Everybody wants to go hit in the cage. Quade will stress the details: bunt defense, relay throws, going first to third, what he calls the jobs that nobody else wants. As assistant general manager Randy Bush said: Hes going to drive home fundamental play.

Quade, who will turn 54 next month, will be involved, but most of the Cubs already knew that. A team that looked dead in August won 24 of its final 37 games and Quades life would never be the same.

Hes the man in charge now, pitcher Ryan Dempster said. But his personality (or) his relationship with us as players didnt change. What you see is what you get. And what he says is what you get.

A few weeks ago, Dempster and about 25 teammates woke up before dawn and piled into a few vans, like they were high-school kids. They went out in sub-freezing temperatures and climbed Camelback Mountain in Phoenix.

It was a team-building exercise for a group that isnt generating much hype. There was no national media present at the Cubs complex on Sunday, and only a small group of Chicago reporters.

What people write or what people perceive thats their own opinion, Dempster said. Having no expectations is a good thing. I think we put enough pressure on ourselves as it is.

This may or may not work 37 games only gets you to the second week of May but its doubtful that Quade will find the pressure suffocating. He is passionate about but not consumed by the game.

Quade has outside interests, from cooking to fishing to politics. Once the cameras were turned off and the news conference ended, the Prospect High School graduate asked beat writers about Jay Cutler and Derrick Rose. He even answered a question about Carlos Zambrano by quoting a Rush song: Freeze that moment.
Mike Quade is a far different manager than Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, but that could be good. One thing is for certain, he already has the respect of his players and even the most basic fundamentals won't be overlooked on his watch. (AP)
Hes easy to talk to, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. You can walk into his office anytime.

More and more people want a piece of Quade. When he returned home to Florida at the end of last season, a neighbor brought over some chicken soup and a dozen baseballs to be signed.

For someone who occasionally slips into the third person, Quade is remarkably grounded. It will be fascinating to see if he remains that way, and how he gives in to the demands of fans, media and players in this very public job.

I understand the magnitude, believe me, but it doesnt do Mike Quade any good to get wrapped up in (it), he said. Im more of a grinding, day-in, day-out guy. If were going to be successful here with me in charge, I have to stay in charge of myself and do what I need to do.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

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USA TODAY

MLB.com's Cubs' 2018 Top Prospects list full of potential impact pitchers

Could 2018 be the year that the Cubs finally see a top pitching prospect debut with the team? 

Thursday, MLB.com released its list of the Cubs' 2018 Top 30 Prospects, a group that includes six pitchers in the Top 10. The list ranks right-hander Adbert Alzolay as the Cubs' No 1. prospect, projecting him to debut with the team this season. 

Alzolay, 22, went 7-4 with a 2.99 ERA in 22 starts between Single-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Tennessee last season. He also struck out 108 batters in 114 1/3 innings, using a repertoire that includes a fastball that tops out around 98 MPH (according to MLB.com).

Following Alzolay as the Cubs' No. 2 overall prospect is 19-year-old shortstop Aramis Ademan. Ademan hit .267 in just 68 games between Single-A Eugene and Single-A South Bend, though it should be noted that he has soared from No. 11 in MLB.com's 2017 ranks to his current No. 2 ranking. He is not projected to make his MLB debut until 2020, however.

Following Alzolay and Ademan on the list are five consecutive pitchers ranked 3-7, respectively. Oscar De La Cruz, No. 3 on the list, slides down from his 2017 ranking in which MLB.com listed him as the Cubs' top overall prospect. De La Cruz, 22, finished 2017 with a 3.34 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) between the Arizona League and Single-A Myrtle Beach.

De La Cruz is projected to make his MLB debut in 2019, while Jose Albertos (No. 4), Alex Lange (No. 5), Brendon Little (No. 6) and Thomas Hatch (No. 7) are projected to make their big league debuts in 2019 or 2020. All are right-handed (with the exception of Little) and starting pitchers.

Hatch (third round, 2016) and Lange (30th overall, 2017) and Little (27th overall, 2017) were all top draft picks by the Cubs in recent seasons.

Having numerous starting pitchers on the cusp of the big leagues represents a significant change of pace for the Cubs. 

Since Theo Epstein took over as team president in Oct. 2011, a plethora of top prospects have debuted and enjoyed success with the Cubs. Majority have been position players, though.

The likes of Albert Almora, Javier Báez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell all contributed to the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016. Similarly, Ian Happ enjoyed a fair amount of success after making his MLB debut last season, hitting 24 home runs in just 115 games.

Ultimately, Alzolay would be the Cubs' first true top pitching prospect to make it to the big leagues in the Theo Epstein era. While him making it to the big leagues in 2018 is no guarantee, one would think a need for pitching will arise for the Cubs at some point, whether it be due to injury or simply for September roster expansion.

The Cubs have enjoyed tremendous success in recent years in terms of their top prospects succeeding in the MLB. If the trend continues, Alzolay should be a force to reckon with on the North Side for years to come.