Cubs

Sandberg's drive for manager surprises Dawson

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Sandberg's drive for manager surprises Dawson

Monday, Aug. 30, 2010
9:45 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The brand is so powerful that Andre Dawson has been recognized by Cubs fans in Japan and Hong Kong. Around the world, people are wondering who their next manager will be.

Thats part of what makes the job so attractive. Every candidate dreams about running from the top step of the dugout to the pile of players celebrating on the infield grass. He will be remembered forever as the manager who guided the Cubs to their first World Series title in more than a century.

The front office is trying to define what sort of leader that man should be. Ryne Sandberg has shown that hes willing to ride buses, eat peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and break a sweat throwing batting practice.

With a search that could last into November, fans and reporters alike are curious for any detail. Sandberg played with Dawson for six seasons and lobbied for him to get into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Im still kind of amazed that he wants to do it at this level, Dawson said Monday. Its different at the minor-league level when youre doing more evaluating. Youre working with the kids and youre trying to get them to the next level.

Here its just egos, attitude, business and youre under the microscope a little bit more. Ryno (was) a little bit more laid-back, quiet. Maybe theres a different animal now thats trying to surface.

Last month, Dawson joined Sandberg in Cooperstown, N.Y., and for that induction, he was honored during a pregame ceremony at Wrigley Field, which was largely empty on Monday night when The Hawk walked in from the right-field gate.

The fans in the bleachers once poured beer on Dawson when he played for the Montreal Expos, but he again credited them for the second act of his career. His knees ravaged after 11 seasons of playing on the artificial turf at Olympic Stadium, he needed to play on natural grass.

Insulted when the Expos asked him to take a 200,000 pay cut, he offered a blank contract to the Cubs and Atlanta Braves. He doesnt know how long he would have lasted in baseball without the surge of energy he experienced playing in Chicago. His numbers 438 home runs, 2,774 hits, eight Gold Gloves, eight All-Star appearances would almost certainly look different.

It might take the Cubs telling Joe Girardi to draw up his own contract to lure him out of New York and the empire the Yankees have built.

Sandberg took a risk when he decided to leave his comfortable post-playing existence and start out managing at Class-A Peoria in 2007 before working his way up the organizational ladder to Triple-A Iowa.

Youd never know (hes a Hall of Famer), Iowa outfielder Sam Fuld said. He doesnt just rest on his laurels. If you saw his work ethic, youd think he was a guy who never played above A-ball.

Mike Quades high point as a professional player came at Double-A Buffalo in 1981, and on Monday night, the Mount Prospect native managed his first game at Wrigley Field. Even as a third-base coach, Quade always tried to take a moment each day to look at the rooftops and all the scenery and appreciate his surroundings.

That the Cubs chose Quade when Lou Piniella decided to step down last week does not necessarily signal a lack of faith in Sandberg. Iowa is trying to make a playoff push, and imagine the media circus if a Cubs legend just showed up in the clubhouse one afternoon.

How will Quades record after this 37-game audition be judged?

I hope that the overall picture is taken into account, Quade said. Im sure wins and losses will be a part of it. To what extent? Thats for the people that are evaluating me to (decide).

Ironically, Quade used to have Sandbergs job in Iowa, and he is wearing No. 8, just like Dawson did during his MVP season in 1987. Dawson thinks Sandberg can handle this, but knows that he wont be viewed the same if he becomes the 52nd Cubs manager in franchise history.

There are going to be certain expectations, Dawson said. Its a tough situation to put yourself in because youre used to success. Youre used to being put on a pedestal. (With) your accomplishments, your achievements, theres always been a lot of hype.

Now youre in a different situation where (youre) trying to get players to perform at a certain level. (And) if you cant do that, youll know right away whether youre cut out for it.

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

Cubs trade Mike Montgomery to Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado

Cubs trade Mike Montgomery to Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado

It’s not a blockbuster move, but the Cubs have reportedly made a trade with more than two weeks until the trade deadline.

Theo Epstein confirmed previous reports after the game that the Cubs traded left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Kansas City Royals for catcher Martin Maldonado. Epstein added that Willson Contreras is heading to the 10-day IL with a strain in the arch of his foot, but he didn’t expect Contreras to be out much longer than those 10 days.

Montgomery, 30, joined the Cubs in the middle of the 2016 season, but struggled this season. He had a 5.67 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 27 innings this season.

Maldonado, 32, was hitting .224/.288/.359 with the Royals. Maldonado can fill in at catcher with Victor Caratini while Contreras is out.

Jason Heyward getting back to 'who he's supposed to be' in Cubs lineup

Jason Heyward getting back to 'who he's supposed to be' in Cubs lineup

This is the Jason Heyward the Cubs thought they were getting when they signed him to an eight-year deal in December 2015.

Back then, the Cubs believed Heyward had more power to tap into from his 6-foot-5, 240-pound, linebacker-esque frame. 

It didn't play out that way initially, with Heyward hitting only 26 homers to go along with a .367 slugging percentage and .688 OPS in his first three seasons in a Cubs uniform.

But all that has changed this year.

Heyward is on pace for 26 homers in 2019 — which would equal that three-year total — and his 71 RBI pace would be his highest since 2012, when he drove in 82 runs.

The 29-year-old hit his 15th homer of the season Sunday and it marks the first time he's eclipsed the 15-homer threshold since that same 2012 season, when he hit 27 dingers as a 22-year-old with the Atlanta Braves.

The power is the area that jumps off the page right now about the new and improved Heyward, but that carries with it a grain of salt that must be taken with everybody's longball total in the game right now. But his walk rate (11.6 percent) is the second-best mark of his career to only his rookie season in 2010. He's also pulling the ball less than he ever has and utilizing the middle of the field more while his hard and soft contact rates are far and away better than they've ever been in a Cubs uniform. 

All told, this is not the same hitter Cubs fans saw in the first three years of Heyward's megadeal.

"He's set up a little bit differently," Joe Maddon said. "Right now, his confidence is soaring. That ball was properly struck [Sunday afternoon] and he's been doing that often — even his basehits.

"... He's set up a little bit differently, but honestly, I think it's a confidence thing right now. He's feeling so good about himself. He's on the barrel more. I mean that's obvious. You don't see the ball off the weaker part of the bat nearly as often as we've seen in the past. I think that's the primary difference — the ball's off the barrel. 

"His hands are really alive. I love that the ball's still line to line, but the power is still showing up. I think that's exactly who he's supposed to be."

Sunday's homer was the game-winning hit for the Cubs and Heyward put his team in front once again Monday night with an RBI groundout to plate Kris Bryant in the fourth inning before a bullpen/defensive meltdown in the seventh inning. Oh yeah, and he got the game-winning knock in the bottom of the eighth inning Friday immediately after the Cubs gave the lead right back to the Pirates in the pivotal first game coming out of the All-Star Break.

He's been a difference-maker in this Cubs lineup all year, even as they search for more consistency and steady production. 

Heyward has gone from a guy who was on the bench in some of the most important games in the 2016-17 postseason because of his offensive issues to an integral part of this team's run production.

He's shown flashes of this in the past, including a month or so in the early part of last summer where he got really hot. But this has been sustained offensive production. In every month but May (when he batted .186 with a .618 OPS), Heyward has hit over .300 with an OPS well above league average, including a .968 mark in June and .992 in April.

But right now, he's not getting into all that. He's just trying to ride the wave of a long season.

"I don't try to break it down at all, honestly," Heyward said. "Just keep it simple and just stay in tune to what I got going on — first at-bat or whatever. It is kinda simple when you just look at it — not dwell on the negative, don't get too deep on that. 'Cause you're gonna fail. Just kinda choose how you want that to happen and make the best."