Cubs

Mooney: Who is Mike Quade?

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Mooney: Who is Mike Quade?

Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010
7:06 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Jim Hendry recruited the Chicago area and the Creighton University head coach had a deal with Wilson Sporting Goods. One baseball clinic took him to Prospect High School and there he noticed a photo in the trophy case.

Hendry asked himself the same question Cubs fans would pose decades later: Whos the bald dude?

That teenager frozen in the picture was a natural leader, the three-sport athlete who played quarterback, point guard and shortstop.

This was the 1980s and Hendry didnt immediately realize that he had already watched Mike Quade at the University of New Orleans. Quade was teammates with two men Hendry got to know years earlier through the Cape Cod League, and remains close to even to this day.

Paul Mainieri would encourage Jeff Samardzija to play baseball in college and help convince the Cubs to draft the football All-American before leaving Notre Dame to become the head coach at Louisiana State University.

Randy Bush would win two World Series rings with the Minnesota Twins before joining the Cubs front office and rising to assistant general manager. Bush would be influential in reaching the agreement finalized this week and hiring the 51st manager in Cubs history.

Quade isnt a legacy or a superstar, but hes well-connected and you can be certain that others were rooting hard for him to get this job, to give credibility to the work they do in the minor leagues and maybe, slightly increase the odds that someone else might get a shot like this.

Mikes a terrific baseball guy and the reason people didnt put him on a higher level publicly is because he doesnt promote himself, Hendry said. Over time, the way the games changed (with) the Internet, the blogs, word of mouth and people doing favors Mike Quade did it the old-fashioned way.

Quade will look you in the eye and tell you what he thinks and for that Miguel Tejada is grateful. When Tejada lacked concentration in 1997, Quade benched him for a few games at Double-A Huntsville, the same tactic the manager used with Starlin Castro.

This young shortstop from the Dominican Republic would grow into a six-time All-Star and the American Leagues Most Valuable Player in 2002.

Hes a gentleman, Tejada said last month. Sometimes you dont have to play in the big leagues to be a good manager (if) youre a smart person and you respect the game.

Quade embraced the challenge of taking over a Cubs team that had lost 20 of its previous 25 games and a clubhouse that one player described as dead. From Aug. 23 on, that group won 24 of the final 37.

As manager, Quade was upgraded to a hotel suite on the road, but still threw batting practice, something hed like to continue doing next season, as long as his arm holds up. That is what chairman Tom Ricketts wanted the hands-on coaching Quade once did in Scranton, Pa., and West Michigan.

Its hard enough when you got a wife and two kids in your household, Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster said. Hes got 25 kids that hes got to take care of. Especially in a city where we havent won in so long, thats a lot to take on, but when it comes down to being prepared to be on the field, hes as good as anybody.

Quade gets that we have to sell newspapers and drive ratings and isnt afraid to say what everyone else already knows. Castro drifts in and out of focus. Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano are getting older in a game thats not getting any easier. You cant explain Carlos Zambrano and his moods or his performance.

Heading into Year 103, Quade is aware of the pressures and how the game has evolved since 1908. Even millionaires want to know what theyre supposed to do when they show up to the office.

Im honest, straightforward, Quade said. (You) rarely dont know what I mean. It doesnt mean you like it. It doesnt mean things always work. But at least you know where Im coming from. You can respect that.

Quade is a fisherman who thinks you should eat what you catch out of the Gulf of Mexico. Otherwise, it seems like a waste. Hes earned a good paycheck in Chicago, but still hadnt made that one huge financial score.

Moneyball was being reported while Quade was with the Oakland As. He couldnt believe it when he heard that the film adaptation of the best-selling book cast an actor with hair as the first-base coach. Alopecia areata caused this look. At the age of 53, he knows who he is.

Four years ago, the Triple-A Iowa manager interviewed for the job that went to Lou Piniella. The Cubs and Piniella were a foregone conclusion within the industry, but Hendry got the potential Hall of Fame manager to accept a new third-base coach. The reaction to the promotion was unforgettable.

God bless Mike Quade, Hendry said. I told him he was going to be on the big-league staff. He wanted to know why he wasnt considered stronger for the managers position.

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

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

Cubs reportedly ‘exceptionally impressed’ by Joe Espada in managerial search

As the Cubs peruse over their list of managerial candidates, one name reportedly made a strong impression following his interview with the team.

According to NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan, Astros bench coach Joe Espada left the Cubs front office “exceptionally impressed” following his interview on Monday.

Espada, 44, has spent the last two seasons as Astros bench coach following three seasons as Yankees third base coach. He is one of MLB’s more sought after managerial candidates this winter and one of three known external candidates for the Cubs’ opening, along with Joe Girardi and Gabe Kapler.

Former Cubs catcher and current front office assistant David Ross has been the presumed front runner for the Cubs' opening. But based on Kaplan’s report, Espada clearly has given Epstein and Co. something to think about, which makes sense, considering Espada is coming from an innovative Astros organization.

Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference that there’s no timeline for the Cubs’ managerial search. However, MLB prefers teams to not make big announcements during the World Series, which kicks off on Oct. 22. Thus, the Cubs may not make an announcement for little while longer, though this is purely speculation.

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The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

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AP

The curious case of Brad Wieck and his unique opportunity with the Cubs

If anybody thought the Cubs' 2019 season was a roller coaster, it was nothing compared to what Brad Wieck has gone through this year.

Wieck — the 6-foot-9 left-handed reliever — went from a cancer diagnosis to a Padres cast-off and wound up finishing the year carving through the heart of the Cardinals order in the eighth inning of a must-win game in late-September for the Cubs.

Wieck began 2019 with a testicular cancer diagnosis in January and underwent surgery shortly after. That left him playing catch-up all spring training, unable to lift, run or throw off a mound for a month after the surgery. He only ended up facing live hitters twice before the regular season started and was never able to recover with the Padres, putting up a 5.71 ERA in 34.2 MLB innings. 

Then the Cubs came calling.

While the rest of Cubdom was understandably occupied on Trade Deadline Day celebrating the Nick Castellanos move, Theo Epstein's front office made a smaller move with the San Diego Padres. And Wieck wasn't even the central focus of that trade, as more of the emphasis was on the departure of Carl Edwards Jr. — a polarizing figure in the Cubs bullpen the last few seasons, including throughout the 2016 World Series run.

Yet Epstein's front office didn't treat Wieck like a throw-in. From Day 1 with the organization, the Cubs handled the southpaw more like a first-round draft pick.

Right after the trade, Wieck was immediately assigned to Triple-A Iowa, where he made a pair of appearances against the Tacoma Rainiers. From there, he was invited to Chicago to meet with the Cubs front office and throw a bullpen off the Wrigley Field mound.

"So I got here and they had a whole presentation of what my current curveball looked like and what they would like the shape of it to look like and so we just started messing around with grip," Wieck said. "I went to a spike curveball grip and we got in the lab and we started throwing it more and we came up with consistent break of what we thought was gonna be a better break than the curveball that I had.

"Just trial and error, honestly. We just looked at Rapsodo stuff and saw what spin efficiency is doing and spin rate and trying to get my curveball spin to replicate the exact opposite of my fastball. That's what our goal was."

That led to a trip to the "Pitch Lab" in Arizona where Wieck worked with Josh Zeid, the Cubs' pitching analyst, to continue to mess around with the new curveball grip and add a new, consistent weapon to his arsenal. 

If the term "spike curveball" sounds familiar, it should. It's become the unofficial pitch of the Cubs (you know, if organizations defined themselves by just one pitch). Rowan Wick — Wieck's former roommate in the Padres system — broke out as a trusted big-league reliever in large part because of the emergence of his spike curve. Craig Kimbrel throws one and also taught the pitch to Yu Darvish, who added it to the plethora of options already at his disposal. 

Wieck's time in Arizona was about getting comfortable with the new pitch and not worrying about facing hitters or pitching in a game. After a couple weeks in the desert, the Cubs threw him back out on the mound in Iowa, where he made four appearances before getting the call to the big leagues when rosters expanded in September. 

Right off the bat, we got a look at that spike curve and there is no doubt it can play at Wrigley Field, especially when the shadows roll in:

Just like that, a new weapon was born and Wieck developed more confidence in that reshaped curveball.

"I like that they're forcing me to throw it more because I've been a fastball-heavy pitcher my whole life," Wieck said. "I trust my fastball with my life. To have a catcher get back there and make you throw it, that's really good."

The Cubs' confidence in Wieck also grew as the month went on. He emerged alongside his buddy Wick as vital pieces of the late-season bullpen while Kimbrel and Brandon Kintzler dealt with injuries. It got to the point where Joe Maddon kept Wieck in to face the Cardinals' big boppers (Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna — both right-handed hitters) with a 1-run lead in the eighth inning on that final homestand. We all know how that game ended (Kimbrel served up homers on back-to-back pitches for another gut-wrenching Cubs loss), but Wieck did his job and proved he's far more than just a lefty specialist.

This fall was the first time Wieck had been a part of a playoff push and that outing against the Cardinals was only the 46th MLB appearance of his young career. Moving into 2020, the 28-year-old southpaw looks to be one of only a few arms penciled into the Cubs bullpen. 

The Cubs had their eyes on Wieck for a while before they were able to trade for him and they don't plan on rolling out a big presentation for each acquisition or ask every new arm to start throwing a brand new pitch or completely remake one of their existing pitches. This was a unique situation, but it's one that already paid dividends in a short period of time and could help set up the bullpen for the future. 

It's also another indicator that the "Pitch Lab" can work, as Wieck joins Wick and Kyle Ryan as products of the Cubs' new model they hope to fine-tune and grow. Epstein will hire a director of pitching for the organization this winter and the Cubs are hoping to change the narrative surrounding their shocking lack of pitching development under this front office. 

In Wieck's case, it was a group effort from the Cubs — the front office, research and development department, big-league coaching staff (led by pitching coach Tommy Hottovy), the pitching analytics unit based in Arizona and minor league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara all teamed up to make it happen for the tall lefty in only a month's time.

It's a model the organization will attempt to duplicate moving forward, beginning this winter.