The trade deadline has come and gone and while I was one who believes that the team was very much in the wrong for standing pat, there is some irony that since the team made no moves on July 31 the Cubs are undefeated.
Thanks in no small part to catching the Pirates, a team that has been a thorn in the Cubs' collective side the last few season, at the right time the Cubs have their first four-game winning streak of the season. While I should be happy that the Cubs are finally playing like an actual big league baseball team, I am instead nervous.
After all, it was around this time last year that the team finally figured out how to play baseball again and it was under this very manager that they did so. There are more than a few members of the media and the Cubs fandom who believe that Quade has his job this year because of the way the team finished up last year.
After the Cubs trudged through the 2010 summer looking lifeless and uncaring, Quade took over for an even more listless Lou Pineilla and promptly guided the team to a 24-13 finish to the year.
So what's the problem with the team finishing hot, you ask?
As far as being a team that is actually worth watching, winning at a .649 clip is only a positive, but there are other factors to consider this year. The Cubs look destined to finish in fifth place for the second straight season and the club appears to be at a bit of a crossroads.
There are some who believe that the team need only to add a few free agent pieces in order to contend in 2012, while others believe the team is still a couple of years from really putting together a run.
No matter what camp you belong to, we should all be able to agree that the current crop of Cubs isn't going anywhere and because of that it is time to play the kids.
One such youngster is already up and playing (more often than not) in Tyler Colvin. The young outfielder burst onto the Major League scene a year ago and looked like the real deal, belting 20 home runs and leading all major league rookies in that category. He opened this season as an unorthodox platoon partner with the only Cub that has actually been traded, Kosuke Fukudome and struggled mightily before being sent to Iowa.
Colvin was recalled for the second time when 'Dome was dealt and since his most recent recall hasn't exactly torn the cover off the ball going just 4-for-15 (aided greatly by one 3-for-5 game).
Which is More Important?
While the team would like to wrack up as many victories as possible, and while Colvin hasn't really shown he's the kind of guy you can lean on to do that, there are other factors to consider right now. Colvin has been hyped for a couple of years now as one of the "future stars" of the organization and with his struggles this year it is time to see if he can actually play.
That is why some of Quade's comments make me uneasy. When asked the other day why Reed Johnson got the start in right field in two straight games (just days after Colvin's recall) the Cubs manager made some head-scratching comments:
"We're committed to finding out about Colvin. He's going to get opportunities. It's going to be up to him to keep them…Given the bench and the way we're working things, I think it works out just fine. Last year he did that as well. But I think right now for me, if I'm going to keep everybody involved and try and keep people fresh and everything else, I'm going to take advantage of a Reed Johnson, and spot Colvin."
In April or May, these comments would sit just fine with me. In August, when the team is completely out of contention and currently 19 games under .500, there really shouldn't be a position battle. The team needs to see what the youngster can do. The club should already be well aware of the strengths and weaknesses of Reed Johnson.
Mike Quade might be managing for his career in the final months of the season. This is his first big-league managerial job after over a decade as a minor league coach and major league assistant. The team's dismal season and plenty of odd managerial decisions by Quade have led many to speculate that it will be his ONLY season.
That becomes a problem if Quade is more interested in wracking up wins as opposed to making sure guys like Colvin, Wellington Castillo Brett Jackson, Ryan Flaherty and DJ LeMahieu are getting their share of swings at Major League pitching. The Cubs must fight the urge to put wins ahead of the future.