11:20 AM CDT, October 26, 2011
There are times when you can out-think yourself. There are episodes where you try to divine a situation and what you are being told begins to sound crazy and idiotic while also believable.
But enough about Tony La Russa. In this case, I mean Mike Quade and his Cubs future.
Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ new baseball Moses, plans to fly to Florida to hear Quade’s “vision’’ and explain his own. This appears to be Epstein just being a mensch. Quade would seem to have no chance to return as manager.
But not so fast. Quade might not be the done deal dead duck everyone thinks. I hope that didn’t prompt you to pass part of a meal through your nose. I apologize if I caused you to throw up in your mouth. But Quade’s return remains a possibility.
I’ve yet to have another chance to watch “Office Space,’’ which might be where all the clues are, based on Theo Epstein’s references to Milton Waddams and his red Swingline stapler and being moved to the basement, so I’ll go by Epstein’s appearance Wednesday on “The Mully and Hanley Show’’ on WSCR-AM 670. The new Cubs Moses not only launched into greater detail of the qualities he demands in a manager, but seemed to list them in order.
He cited leadership first -- leader of players and coaches without having to tell everyone about your authority all the time.
Next came master psychologist. Epstein doesn’t believe all players are created equal and thus cannot be treated equally.
Last came tactician, specifically incorporating much of the new math with the old eye test.
Epstein said it was a “high standard we look for’’ in a manager. That doesn’t mean high profile. Perfect example: Do you know who Epstein’s finalists were in his first big hire in Boston?
Terry Francona and Joe Maddon, that’s who, at a time when the reaction was more “Who’s that?’’
Epstein picked the guy who had managed his way into a disaster in Philadelphia. It worked out, though.
Me, I can’t imagine Quade’s being retained, not to mention pulling off Francona’s World Series trick, but it’s worth evaluating Quade against Epstein’s checklist.
Quade’s leadership? He appeared to be the manager of the young players and the designated driver for the veterans.
But wait. Couldn’t that be considered master psychological management? Isn’t that an example of what Epstein believes is the need for handling individual players individually?
It seems thin, especially when the veterans appeared to show Quade a deteriorating amount of respect, if further deterioration was possible.
Carlos Zambrano famously and embarrassingly asked “What manager?’’ Aramis Ramirez hustled when he wanted. Alfonso Soriano still poses. Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster showed Quade public disrespect about pitching decisions.
And don’t forget Garza’s flat ignoring Quade’s orders not to swing the bat to avoid a double play that would give Starlin Castro a chance to get his 200th hit at home. That incident seems to raise questions about all three qualities.
Asking a guy to strike out so another player can compete for an individual honor is a joke -- laughable leadership, psychologically conflicting about respecting the game, and not about winning. Tip to Quade: Don’t bring this up with Theo.
The ridiculousness of batting Jeff Baker third or fourth or batting him period, along with starting Reed Johnson could be argued to be a combination of psychology and stats. There’s no way Quade could’ve guessed that Epstein would take over, no way, but it’s worth noting that Epstein said Francona’s greatest qualities were playing psychologist while embracing mathematical probabilities.
Quade was playing percentages and playing veterans differently than kids, specifically Tyler Colvin. The Cubs traded Kosuke Fukudome expressly to give Colvin two solid months of at-bats. Except Quade wasn’t listening. His moves made no sense unless viewed against the backdrop of survival.
But you wonder now if Quade had another plan. Was he playing the odds that the new guy, whoever he was, would evaluate him on more than wins and losses? Could he have figured that the opposite of Jim Hendry is sabremetrics?
It would be a good guess, for sure. Even with zero foresight, Quade could bumble his way to becoming a laughingstock but spin it with some plausible deniability. It’s a reach, but people have gotten suckered worse. I mean, some fool wasted millions on Carl Crawford and John Lackey.
You get the feeling that Quade commands as little respect among Cubs players as Terry Bevington did in the White Sox clubhouse 15 years ago. Quade isn’t the clown that Bevington was, but he has some clown-like ways, starting with his cloying use of nicknames.
And yet, Bevington survived 1996 as an idiot into 1997, the perfect fool to have in place when Chairman Reinsdorf approved the indelible quitter’s act known as the “White Flag’’ trade.
I can’t see Quade getting as lucky as Bevington. Then again, Milton Waddams ended up with a lot more than just a red Swingline.
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