In the fall of 2006, Mike Quade -- a relatively unknown manager of the Cubs' Triple-A Iowa squad -- interviewed for the team's big-league job after Dusty Baker's four-year contract expired.
"Mike deserved the interview," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said. "He had done a great job during the two years he handled our Iowa team.
"We had a good meeting [at Ridgemoor Country Club in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago]. Out of that meeting, Mike eventually became our first-base coach when I hired Lou [Piniella]."
Four years later, Quade -- whose team is 12-3 on the road since he took over the managerial reins from Piniella -- is probably just one week away from his second interview for the job. The difference this time is he'll be one of the favorites to become the full-time manager.
"I think the relationships I have formed with the players during the four years I've coached here, and the knowledge I've been able to store away, working with Lou and the other coaches, only enhanced what I knew about managing and dealing with players," Quade said.
If you think Quade has gotten the most out of his team because he's given in to players, you'd be sadly mistaken. One veteran player was supposed to report for therapy with the training staff two weeks ago at 10 a.m. before a night game. Instead, he showed up at 2:30 for his treatment. Afterward, he found out his name wasn't in the lineup. When the player approached Quade to find out the reason for his benching, he was told that off-the-field preparation was to be taken as seriously as batting practice or the game itself.
Quade refused to comment on this incident, saying what goes on between the players and himself is between them.
"The mantra stays the same, concentrate on getting the job done and try to win every day," Quade said. "Then take a few days off at the end of the season and hope you've done enough to get a serious chance to stay on.
"It comes back to the old cliché, why worry about something you can't control. All I can control is getting the players ready to play [the next seven days], and that's really the way I approach it."
In 1979, Tony LaRussa was a Double-A manager -- picked out by scout Jerry Krause as the White Sox's next manager for owner Bill Veeck. In 1986, Pirates GM Sid Thrift hired relatively unknown White Sox third base coach Jim Leyland to manage the Pirates.
"I'm very fond of those two names," Quade said. "That's the way you look at it, you make the list [choosing a manager], what does this guy bring to the table? Look at his communication skills. Look at how he handled players before and his knowledge of the game. These are the qualifications.
"So getting a chance to do it at the big-league level -- and in a big market like Chicago -- was a final test for me in my mind. This six weeks has been something I can evaluate myself as well in that role. I feel good about it."
Quade has established a solid bond with the players on the Cubs, giving veterans 2-3 days notice when they're going to have a day off. And also he posts lineups early in the day to give players a chance to prepare. This was something the players asked for from Piniella, but only received sporadically.
Personally, players shouldn't have a say-so as to how a manager runs a team. And in deference to Piniella, his methods worked well enough to win two divisions in his four years in Chicago. However, it appears Quade does have something special going with this team.
Ryne Sandberg and Eric Wedge have interviewed for the job. Quade will have his sometime next week. Bob Melvin, Pat Listach and Don Wakamatsu will all have time talking to Hendry.
The question about Joe Girardi's availability is still up in the air. Sources tell ESPNChicago.com that Girardi is now being considered by other big-league teams who still have not replaced their managers, but are waiting until after the season.