Cubs

Feeding the beast: Managing at Wrigley Field

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Feeding the beast: Managing at Wrigley Field

Thursday, Oct. 14, 2010
6:20 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Mike Quade has acknowledged that his life could be in a completely different place if Lou Piniella hadnt agreed to make him part of the Cubs coaching staff almost four years ago.

Quade had spent the past four seasons managing at Triple-A Iowa and 15 of the previous 18 working in the minor leagues. He couldnt know when hed get another chance to get back to the majors.

Quade remained grateful for that, even as other opportunities opened up around him. He sat in the Wrigley Field dugout one morning in late September and remembered the last thing Piniella told him before he took over as Cubs manager.

He said just be prepared to deal with (the media), Quade recalled. It wasnt negative. It was just like this is a huge part of this job. When you do this at the minor-league level, ok, you might see one (reporter).

So thats (new). The managing of the game, the managing of people is something youve done (already) and (will keep) working at. But this onslaught every day is something that you need to get through.

That is something to think about as the Cubs patiently approach three months since Piniella first announced his retirement. General manager Jim Hendry is under no obligation to wait until Joe Girardis season is over, though the New York Yankees manager will continue to create headlines in Chicago until he signs his next contract.

Its entirely possible that the Cubs will make an announcement before the World Series. The intensity here is of course different than Des Moines or Rockford, two of the 10 stops Quade made during his 17 seasons as a minor-league manager. But for the next Cubs manager it wont be the same in 2011 as it was in 2001, or even two years ago.

Some of the greatest moments of Piniellas professional life came in the worlds media capital, amid the crossfire of the New York tabloids. Hes partially credited the amazing comeback of the 1978 Yankees from 14 games back on July 19 to World Series champions to the citys newspaper strike that year.

We just concentrated on playing baseball instead of the gossip, Piniella said this summer.

But that exposure still didnt completely prepare Piniella for managing a franchise that has won one postseason series since 1908 and is now heading into its 103rd year without a championship.

In Chicago, every win or loss is almost covered as if its an NFL game and not just by the traveling beat writers Piniella addressed by name.

Major League Baseball has made serious investments with its network and websites. So have national outlets like ESPN and FOX and regional affiliates such as Comcast SportsNet. Piniella knew the digital landscape completely altered the way he was seen and heard.

The media is so overwhelming because of everybodys expectations, Cubs pitcher Randy Wells said. If you can somehow put that out and just let the play on the field talk, then I think the media scrutiny will kind of come down a little bit.

This year we saw Piniella, Joe Torre and Bobby Cox move toward retirement. Together they won more than 6,600 games and represent a generation of managers that used to enjoy more autonomy and a more relaxed relationship with the press.

Front offices increasingly rely more on statistical analysis than a managers instincts, and view him as an interchangeable piece. But organizations shouldnt diminish the importance of the one person who communicates with fans before and after every game, nearly 400 times a year.

That is one of Ozzie Guillens definite strengths, his ability to take the pressure off the 25 men in the White Sox clubhouse.

Hes always been the guy that will take away the attention of the media, White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. Hell distract them and hell make something happen and I really think he does it intentionally.

Maybe he doesnt maybe its Ozzie being Ozzie. But he really does get the attention off his players and onto himself.

Does he like the attention? Probably, but at the same time I think hes doing the right thing (so that) no ones constantly harping on the offense or constantly harping on the bullpen or the starting staff. Its all about him and players are able to relax and just go out and focus on what they need to do to win.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has indicated that the team needs a manager who understands what he would be getting into, the culture of Wrigley Field and the fans expectations.

Ryne Sandberg has been an enormous public figure in Chicago since near the beginning of the Reagan administration.

For all their experience, Eric Wedge (Cleveland) and Bob Melvin (Seattle, Arizona) dont fit that part of the description, having worked in smaller markets, though they seem to be in good position to be managing somewhere soon, possibly in the National League Central.

Near the end of his 37-game audition, Quade still enjoyed the back-and-forth with reporters, though it would be interesting to see if he still felt that way next July during the middle of an 11-day homestand, should he get the job.

Whoever that man is, he will have to be himself.

You look guys in the eye, Quade said last month. You realize (youre) going to have rough stretches. Whether Im talking to them, or Im talking to you guys (in the media), thats the only way I know how to handle things.

(You) got to be honest and say what you need to say, make your adjustments and move on. (I) hope I get to keep doing it.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

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Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

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USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

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