This time it's official. Mike Quade is the manager, not interim manager, of the Chicago Cubs.
Reactions so far have been nearly dichotomous. Either it's a refreshing move that rewards experience over celebrity, or it's a horrible move that spurns a legend. It should come as no shock that I find myself in the former camp, but I do understand the reservations of those who question the perspicacity of such a move.
Quade has only managed 37 big league games and, although the team performed well under his direction, those games came when wins and losses were basically meaningless. Also, having spent his entire playing career in the minor leagues, he doesn't have the perspective of someone like Ryne Sandberg on what it takes to be a successful major league baseball player.
And since Quade doesn't have an extensive major league career, any major league managing experience previous to his interim stint, or even time spent as a major league bench coach, he doesn't have the kind of name recognition that would draw extra interest to the team or generate excitement during what many expect to be a few down years for the organization.
But each of those arguments has holes, especially when you consider the fact that Sandberg was the other candidate.
Yes, 'Q' doesn't have a full season from which we can scrutinize his managerial aptitude, but Sandberg hasn't even been on a major league staff for one day. And if sample size really matters, Quade's 2,415 games as a professional manager (not including the winter leagues) easily trumps Sandberg's 561.
It's well-documented that he didn't play in the major leagues, but neither did Joe McCarthy, Jim Leyland, Earl Weaver, Jack McKeon, Buck Showalter, or Joe Maddon. Walter Alston had exactly one career plate appearance (he struck out) and Tommy Lasorda pitched 58.1 innings over three seasons with a 6.48 ERA.
Tony LaRussa and Jim Tracy combined for 416 plate appearances and a slash line of .224/.317/.310 in their careers. Charlie Manuel was a .198/.273/.260 hitter in 432 plate appearances, Sparky Anderson was a .218/.282/.249 hitter in 527 plate appearances, and Bobby Cox was a .225/.310/.309 hitter in 719 plate appearances.
Despite the low or nonexistent levels of major league playing experience, that group of thirteen future major league managers has combined for 36,592 wins, a .544 winning percentage, 44 pennants, and 24 World Series titles to date. It also includes five of baseball's nine all-time winningest managers, and five members of the group (Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland, Buck Showalter, Charlie Manuel, and Joe Maddon) will be looking to make that record even better next season.
Meanwhile, Ted Williams (.429 winning percentage) and Frank Robinson (.475), who are certainly in the conversation for the greatest players to ever play this game, weren't exactly the most successful managers.
Quade's performance will show if he does or does not have the perspective necessary to be a successful manager, but his major league playing experience (or lack thereof) is not a conclusive factor whatsoever.
Generating interest and excitement through name recognition is no guarantee and, for an organization that already features a national fanbase and some of major league baseball's best drawing power, would likely be a fleeting and nominal benefit. In addition, that interest and excitement should be easily replaced by those who wish to learn more of the Evanston native managing the team he watched as a child.
What's more important is how this will affect the players.
By virtue of all his years managing in the minor leagues, including the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, he knows how to handle the young players that will likely make up a good share of the roster these next few years. And with his years of major league coaching experience, including his stint on the Cubs' staff since late 2006, he knows and has experience handling the veterans, too.
His approach towards the players during his brief time as interim manager supports both those suppositions.
He notified players of scheduled days off days in advance, posted lineups six hours before the first pitch, benched players that showed up late, and held pitch counts down to reduce unnecessary wear and tear. He also managed this stripped down and disheartened team to a 9-7 record against the Cardinals, Padres, Reds, and Giants as they contended for playoff spots.
And, as backup catcher Koyie Hill said, "The players, to a man, were big supporters of Quade. There were a lot of great candidates, but we were all pulling for 'Q.' [...] It's nothing against [Sandberg] at all. What you saw the last six weeks was as much a part of Q being in charge as it was us playing together. I think it goes hand in hand and we're all real happy for Q."
Hopefully the organization will find something for Sandberg, whether it be on the major league staff or heading back to Iowa, in case he can't land a different major league job.
If Sandberg does get a managerial position with another team, though, feel free to compare and let hindsight tell which way this decision should have gone. But for right now, there is no way that you can definitively say that 'Q' was the wrong choice.
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