It's difficult to see where the Chicago Cubs organization seems to be headed. Marred in the midst of the worst season the team has seen in nearly a decade, the biggest questions don't necessarily deal with the current status of the franchise, but with the progress towards a winning future.
There's no denying that former Cubs stars like Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano may be nearing the end of their Cubs careers, as there have been few teams that have seen such an alarming decline in productivity from its core players than the Chicago Cubs have.
All-star caliber players have regressed to the point of receiving serious consideration as some of the league's most over-paid and under-producing players, while the development of prospects has seemingly come to a halt.
Needless to say, the 2011 season seems to be nothing more than a waste as far as the Chicago Cubs are concerned.
As the Cubs continue to slide farther from contention with every passing day, the silver lining mentality that surrounds any team that considers itself in a re-building mode seems to have passed this year's Cubs. While most every Cubs fan would agree that the key to future success hinges on the departure of the team's former stars, it's unclear whether the organization itself understands the impact the current cast of has-beens has on the development of the team's prospects.
Though few expected the Chicago Cubs to have much of a chance at contending for the National League Central division title, the notion of progress seems to have been lost in 2011 as well.
The somewhat controversial signing of Mike Quade as manager of the Chicago Cubs seems more questionable now than ever before, as Quade was awarded the job largely based on the notion that he could develop the young Cubs talent into a cast of contenders, and has seemingly failed miserably in doing so.
As the 2011 Cubs chronically cough-up late-inning leads, continue to lead Major League Baseball in defensive errors and boast baseball's second-worst team ERA, there is very little positivity for rookie manager Mike Quade to hang his hat on.
Simply stated, Quade is quite possibly overseeing the worst Chicago Cubs team in nearly three decades.
Somehow, though, it seems as if Quade's future as the Cubs skipper seems safer than that of any of Cubs previous managers who have experienced similarly bad seasons. Unlike former managers Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker and Don Baylor, who felt the heat from fans and media for producing an on-field product that was far less than spectacular, Quade seems to evade the criticism and pressure that would only seem prominent in a season as poor as this one has been for the Cubs.
Realistically speaking, Quade's Cubs have failed in all aspects of the game. They are last in the National League in pitching, have the worst fielding percentage in the league, draw fewer bases on balls than any other club and are in the bottom half in most every other vital offensive category other than total hits.
While many of the Cubs losses in 2011 have been due to manageable aspects of the game like bullpen usage, strategic lineup management and even holding umpires accountable for poor calls, Quade is rarely held accountable. All too often, Quade is portrayed as a man who doesn't have much to work with.
Prior to the 2011 season, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry had a bit of a difficult decision to make in regard to who he would name the Cubs manager. Hendry was faced with retaining Quade, who took over as interim manager in 2010 after Lou Piniella's departure, or giving the managerial duties to former Cubs great Ryne Sandberg.
While most fans and members of the Chicago media believed there was no better time to hand the reigns of the team over to Sandberg, Hendry chose Quade, largely based on the 24-13 record the Cubs posted under his leadership in late 2010.
While a Sandberg-led Cubs team would have provided a significant boost in enthusiasm for Cubs fans and placed control of the team in the hands of one of the few former players who enjoyed a large amount of success at Wrigley Field, Hendry chose the candidate who had little experience as a Major League manager outside of a month's worth of games.
The result of Hendry's decision, of course, has been the debacle that is the 2011 Chicago Cubs.
While it would seem only fitting that Quade shoulder a large portion of the blame for the on-field circus act the Cubs have resembled, he has seemingly been cast as a manager who hasn't been given much to work with. Gone are the days of Chicago media and Cubs fans calling for the termination of an unsuccessful manager. For Quade, it seems this may only be the beginning.
Puzzling as it may sound, success at a high level is sometimes a bit of a curse. While Mike Quade will undoubtedly retain his job through the end of the 2011 season—and possibly well into the 2012 season—former Cubs managers with much more proven track records found themselves continually facing harsh criticism and a constant public display of disapproval.
Luckily for Mike Quade, Jim Hendry believes the demise of the Cubs franchise in 2011 was imminent, regardless of the team's manager.
Unluckily for Cubs fans, it seems it may take many more losses to suffer through until the Cubs front office realizes that, quite simply, Quade just isn't the right guy.