Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011
Posted: 9:44 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
CINCINNATI Mike Quade will come home late one night and find Moneyball on HBO. He will sit down and wont be able to change the channel. At some point, curiosity will take over.
Its like a car wreck at an Indy race, Quade said.
The Cubs manager doesnt plan to go see the movie when it hits theaters on Sept. 23. He didnt read the book either. As someone who worked seven years in the Oakland organization three as an As coach, four as a minor-league manager he already lived through Moneyball.
Billy Beane let Michael Lewis behind the curtain during the 2002 season, to show the bestselling author how a small-market team could compete against the games economic superpowers. The As used statistical analysis to stay ahead of the curve, finding value in overlooked assets like on-base percentage and college pitchers.
A recent New York Magazine cover story details the struggle to get this movie made. Film rights to the book were sold in 2003. Several screenwriters and directors took a swing before it made it to the big screen. The star power of Brad Pitt, who plays Beane, kept the project moving forward.
Carlos Pena, who spent part of the 2002 season with Oakland, was once contacted by a Moneyball movie representative, but never heard anything back.
The Cubs first baseman was featured in the book, but doesnt remember being interviewed for it, and hasnt read it either. But hes definitely curious to see how it translates and who, if anyone, plays him in the film.
Given unprecedented access, Lewis did a great job of blending into the background. As an As first-base coach, Quade was a low-priority source. It took awhile before Quade finally asked someone: Who is that guy?
I show up at the ballpark a lot of times with blinders on just because I got work to do, Quade said. In a major-league clubhouse, there are a lot of unfamiliar faces, whether theyre friends of players, (the) manager (or) GM. I basically approached things like: Its none of my business who this is.
While shadowing the Oakland front office in the run-up to the 2002 draft, Lewis developed a relationship with Mark Teahen, and the two would stay in contact years later. A gifted writer and reporter, Lewis reconstructed the scenes where the As select Nick Swisher and Teahen within the first 39 picks.
I read Moneyball right away I know Swisher didnt, Teahen joked last year during spring training while he was with the White Sox. I think Michael even sent it to him on tape. But he didnt have the patience to even listen to it.
Quade, who maintains a home in Florida, enjoyed The Big Short, another Lewis book about the global financial crisis. But the manager has only read a few excerpts of Moneyball.
Why do I need to read what I lived? Quade said. (But) I was so interested in the real estate meltdown. I love contrarians, those people that were looking at numbers (saying): This is ridiculous. This cant happen. This isnt true. (There) were a few lone voices nobody listened to and these guys make gazillions.
Theres no doubt that Quade has felt like that during his career. The 2002 As won 103 games including 20 in a row at one point but lost to the Minnesota Twins in the division series. Quade wasnt brought back the next season as Beane made room on the coaching staff for his good friend Bob Geren, another future manager hed ultimately have to fire.
As a younger man, Quade was devastated when he was fired from the Pirates organization. Now 54, he knows that in this business you're hired to be fired.
Carlos Pena was part of the Moneyball philosophy when Billy Beane acquired him from the Texas Rangers, he is mentioned in the book and was contacted about the movie. (AP)
You (are) resolved to the fact that this is the nature of what you do, Quade said. The times I have been let go, many of them I understood and almost expected. Oakland was not one of those. But personality conflicts (happen). Its not the best part of the game, but you understand it.
Even in private moments, Quade doesnt sound bitter. He still considers Oakland farm director Keith Lieppman to be a close friend and a major influence in his career. That decision pushed him to Triple-A Iowa, Lou Piniellas staff and ultimately his chance as a big-league manager.
No one knows how this movie will end. Beane has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the general manager job on the North Side, even though the As havent had a winning season since 2006.
Miguel Tejada has credited Quades tough-love approach in the minors the same one now used with Starlin Castro for helping him develop into the American League MVP in 2002. Against long odds, Tejada, Eric Chavez and the Big Three of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder formed the core of a contender.
Thats what Quade takes pride in and will remember most from the experience. Hell wait to let others see it and report back with their reviews of the movie version.
One friend in San Francisco told Quade a scene was shot in which a coach on the field is wearing a Quade jersey. The kicker is that the Quade character had hair.
It was a pretty damn good baseball factory, Quade said. I just hope that comes through in the movie. It was a really good time to be an Oakland Athletic.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.