Cubs

Quade recalls the "Moneyball" days in Oakland

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Quade recalls the "Moneyball" days in Oakland

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.

2019 MLB Power Rankings: It's almost time to get mad about All-Star snubs!

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USA Today

2019 MLB Power Rankings: It's almost time to get mad about All-Star snubs!

It's almost exactly halfway through the season, and if you've been following these rankings, you'll know the tiers have been set for some time now. As the All-Star break gets closer, it's the middle of the pack that has a big couple of weeks coming up. Looking at you, Pittsburgh or St. Louis or Cleveland or Texas or Oakland or Philly. Make something happen, or suffer the ultimate fate: falling an arbitrary number of spots in a MLB Power Ranking slideshow you're certainly not clicking through. There is no worse punishment. 

Want to see where your very good or very bad or maybe in the middle team ended up this week? To the rankings!

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2019 MLB POWER RANKINGS, PLEASE

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

Adbert Alzolay makes some memories on an otherwise forgettable night for the Cubs

The Cubs lost an entirely forgettable game on Tuesday night, dropping the second of their four games against the NL East-leading Braves by a score of 3-2. They left four men on base, only managed four hits, ran into two outs, and made one error in a game that was over well in time for a Clark Street nightcap, or three. 

What was memorable about Tuesday night was the performance of Adbert Alzolay, the Cubs’ top pitching prospect who was making his first major league start. The final line: 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, one run, four walks and four strikeouts. It’s certainly not the prettiest line you’ll see in tomorrow’s box scores, but the 24 year old passed the eye test with flying colors. 

“Everything was good - he was outstanding,” Joe Maddon said after the game. “I just think he hit a well there at the end. We just have to get him more used to that. Listen, he’s been injured in the past, he’s coming back - you’ve got to be real sensitive to the number of pitches and workload you put on him, because you can see how good he’s going to be.”

Things got off to an inauspicious start for Alzolay, whose first pitch of the game was crushed 413 feet into the left field bleachers for a leadoff homer, courtesy of Braves’ outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. It would prove to be the only hit and run that Alzolay allowed on the night. 

“It’s just one pitch,” he said. “You have to keep working - the game continues. I was just starting the game, so if you lose your mind in that situation than you’re not going to last a lot of innings.

“Even after the home run, he came right back and said, ‘I’m fine’,” Maddon added. “Then he went up and got three really good hitters out. I liked the mound demeanor, we’ve just got to get him a little further along in regards to being stretched out.”

After coming out flat with his secondary pitches during his 4-inning relief appearance on June 20th, Alzolay flashed better command and execution of both his curveball and changeup. Half of his strikeouts came on the curveball - one to get left fielder Austin Riley in the 2nd and one to get Acuña in the 3rd. After throwing 13 changeups in his debut, Alzolay double that number on Tuesday (27). 

“I’m feeling really confident throwing the pitch in any count,” Alzolay said of his changeup. “Tonight I threw it a couple times when I was behind in the count and I got a good result after that, so I’ll just keep on throwing it.

“For us to get confident at something, you have to practice, you have to execute it, and you have to use it in the game,” said catcher Willson Contreras, who plated both of the Cubs’ two runs with a double in the 4th. “For him to be able to throw the changeup for a strike, and strikeout people, it’s really good - especially at his age.”

Maddon couldn’t answer when Alzolay would make his next start. With Kyle Hendricks eyeing a return around the All-Star break, there would seemingly be a few more opportunities ahead of the rookie. Given what he showed on Tuesday night, it’d be hard to argue against it.

"He can be really good in the big leagues," Contreras said. "He still needs to make adjustments like all of us, but with the confidence he has, the ability he has, and the way he prepares before the games, it's going to take him a long way."