Apologies for the short, tardy post today. For the last couple weeks, I’ve been getting up much earlier than usual to exercise with a couple friends–one of whom is a former Navy SEAL. For someone like me, whose usual exercise regimen consisted of periodic laps between the couch and the fridge, it has been a shock to the system to say the least. The good news is that I’m slowly becoming slightly less of a lazy slob.
Just a few scattered thoughts as the Cubs enter the last weekend of the season:
- A lot has been said and written this week about the future of Mike Quade. While his contract guarantees he’ll be paid for the job next year, it seems like a forgone conclusion that he won’t be the Cubs’ manager next season. No serious Cub fan would argue that he was dealt a winning hand this season. But even if you strip away all the ineffectiveness on the roster, all the injuries, and all the mistakes made by his bosses, he still didn’t do much to help the team win. Just how much difference can a manager make in the course of the season? Between writing up the lineup card, putting players in the best position to succeed, monitoring his starting staff, making shrewd use of his bullpen, executing timely pitching changes, defensive switches, and pinch hits, and policing his players on the field and off, the manager can and should make a significant impact on his team. Looking over that list, there’s not one area Quade didn’t occasionally fall short in throughout the season–including some where he never excelled. As a manager, he makes a great third base coach–which is good news, since Ivan DeJesus never really got the hang of that job, either.
- And Quade’s hits just keep on coming! The controversy-that-isn’t (yet?) over him
orderingsuggesting that Matt Garza strike out to secure one more at-bat for Starlin Castro on Wednesday is a bizarre punctuation for the season. What strikes me is that if Garza chose to strike out of his own accord, we’d probably laud him as a good teammate (he grounded out). But Quade stepping in makes the whole thing unpleasant and divisive. No one’s individual achievement should supersede the game, and I’d hate for any of our guys to be ordered to take dives for Castro or another player. The whole thing reminds me of the game where Cal Ripken Jr. broke the record for consecutive games played. I forget which inning it was, but the Orioles stopped the game and brought out a parade of gifts, like a new car, a pool table, and some other stuff I can’t remember. Then Cal took a lap around the field. It was a great achievement to be sure, but I can remember thinking that it must have been miserable for the rest of his team who had to keep playing once the celebration was over. Even if Castro getting one more at-bat isn’t nearly as much of a distraction, you still don’t want your manager putting one guy before the rest of the team. Especially when he’s got six more games to get his 200th hit. Not smooth, Quade.
- Somebody asked me the other day when I thought the Cubs would hire their new GM, and I was surprised by how little consideration I’ve given it since Hendry was fired. It seems like the same set of names has been circulating almost form the start: Gillick, Hahn, Friedman, Epstein, Byrnes, Colletti, etc. Some of those guys are about to wrap up their seasons, while others can expect at least a few more weeks of intense work as their teams head to the playoffs. My point? While Ricketts doesn’t seem to want to show his hand too much, expect the wheels–which have hopefully been in motion for months now–to speed up now that the season is coming to an end. The Cubs have a laundry list of needs (pitchers, 1B, 3B) and pressing issues (Zambrano, Ramirez, Pena), so expect a decision sooner than later. I hope the new front office will be up and running in time for the winter meetings, but it might take until then to get the new guy in place. Any longer than that and it might officially be time to panic.
- There hasn’t been much to cheer for this season, especially the last couple months. But the baseball schedule has given us one more meaningful weekend of baseball to close out the season (surprise!). The Cardinals sit two games out of the wildcard, and start a three-game series tonight against the Cubs in St. Louis. Maybe you don’t harbor the same animosity I do for the Cards, but the chance to knock them out of the playoffs is enough to get me excited. And before you think I’m mimicking the White Sox fan’s attitude of “I don’t care if we lose, as long as you lose, too,” let me say that I think the Cardinals’ potential playoff run has far-reaching implications for the future of the NL Central. Specifically, I think keeping the Cardinals out of the playoffs significantly decreases their already-low hopes for resigning Albert Pujols. For starters, they’ll miss out on the bonus postseason revenue, shrinking their ability to give him the kind of raise he’s looking for. But it also gives him an extra two or three weeks (or more) to be away from his team, to weigh his options, and to watch as more successful teams fight for pennants and rings. I know Cubs fans are divided about whether or not to sign Pujols, but what we can all agree on is that we don’t want him to return to St. Louis. Keeping them out of the playoffs might go a long way to send him off. I know I’ll be watching.