Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 9:21 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
DENVER Others in the organization have more power and make more money. But no one who works for the Cubs will talk to the media as much as Mike Quade, and its not even close.
The manager understands that he has to manage the narrative what he says publicly matters in the clubhouse, fans want to know what he thinks and words have consequences.
From high up in the Minute Maid Park press box on Wednesday night, this looked like a serious breach of baseball protocol: Carlos Zambrano walking off the mound before Quade could even get there, then handing off the ball on the infield grass, about halfway toward the third-base line.
Less than 48 hours later, Quade stuck to his story and downplayed the incident, even though Zambrano was compelled to go to the managers office and say sorry immediately after a 9-5 win over the Houston Astros.
If that act offended Quades sensibilities as an old-school baseball guy, he didnt let it show.
I dont really think my ego is so big, Quade said Friday at Coors Field. If hes upset, just dont drop the thing, and I meant (that). I appreciate the apology, but I just didnt think it was that big a deal.
Thats it. I didnt need an apology to make this thing right.
The Cubs knew that Kerry Wood would pay dividends beyond the eighth inning. In this situation the veteran reliever should be credited with a hold or a save. Zambrano had hit his 22nd career homer in the sixth and then watched his five shutout innings evaporate.
When I came in, Woody told me to talk to Quade, Zambrano said. If Woody didnt say anything to me
Zambrano is almost 30 years old and has pitched in nearly 300 major-leagues games. But he sounded genuine when he admitted his mistake and said he didnt realize how far he had wandered off the mound.
There was no hint of Zambrano being defensive, making excuses or pointing fingers.
As a veteran pitcher, I have to be able to command more of myself and command the pitches, Zambrano said. I started the inning aggressive. Thats unacceptable.
To create that culture of accountability, you need guys like Wood, a beat cop patrolling the clubhouse.
Good for them, Quade said. I think those guys can police that kind of stuff more than I have to. Im not going to stomp around. Thats just not what I do.
Heres what Quade has to do: Before every game, there is a media briefing and a separate one-on-one interview with the teams flagship radio station. Postgame, 162 times a year, the manager has to sit there and answer questions and explain what just happened.
Factor in seven weeks of spring training and appearances on local and national radio and television outlets, Quades approaching 1,000 encounters with a microphone in his face.
The reporters come at Quade from all angles. They ask for updates on Kosuke Fukudomes strained hamstring, reactions to the Barry Bonds trial and opinions on instant replay.
Baseball culture doesnt allow Quade to dismiss it as a lower-body injury like Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. Quade has to account for essentially double the number of players and games as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Quade cant help himself hell never be as boring as Lovie Smith at the Halas Hall podium.
Quade genuinely enjoys the give-and-take with reporters. He watches college basketball and wonders what the hell the coach is thinking, so he figures he cant be exempt from that second-guessing.
But there are limits. Picking a fight with Zambrano in the second week of the season probably isnt worth it. There will no doubt be other fires to put out.
In 17 years as a minor-league manager, and seven more as a big-league coach, Quade developed a thick skin. In this job, hes going to need it.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.