CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' hiring of Mike Quade will be second-guessed by fans and media alike, but make no mistake about it, in the circles of baseball people, there will be firm support for Quade going forward.
As it turns out in this process, Cubs' Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg came up second and Joe Girardi's supporters are left holding their Yankees caps.
Quade's record of 24-13 in a lost season is only significant if you go down a few layers in the clubhouse, training room and manager's office. That's where changes took place. And that's where Quade impressed the Cubs' front office by the direct and powerful way he took control of a team that had gone 5-20 before Lou Piniella went home for good on Aug. 22.
The changes were not subtle. On Aug. 23, the team began to take early batting practice before regular batting practice, and it became routine. Quade made sure that players showed up for medicals on time, and if they didn't they were benched. Veterans began to have better communication with the coaching staff, knowing two to three days in advance when they would have a day off. Lineups were posted six hours before game time, something the players had requested while Piniella was still on the job. All of these little things added up to a regiment that defined him to the Cubs front office as the right man for the job.
Every great manager has had humble beginnings, and although we don't know how good Quade will be, the humble beginnings were there for him. Born in Evanston and raised mostly in Chicago gives Quade the firm understanding of what it is like to have watched Cubs teams try to get to the ultimate goal of World Series champions and not extend the drought that's reached 102 years. Quade knows Chicagoans as well as Sandberg and Girardi.
He understands Cubs fans, and you can bet he will be tough enough to handle the bad times when the fans are on him. Quade has dealt with adversity since the age of three, when he was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a hair-loss condition. He's battled his way through life with the support of his family and the intestinal fortitude it will take to be successful in this job.
Quade has managed 2,500-plus games in the minors before coaching for the Oakland Athletics and then eventually becoming a Cubs coach in 2007. His minor-league experience and knowledge of the National League were considered strong points as the Cubs went through the process of interviewing candidates for their 51st manager.
In 1979, the White Sox hired a no-name Double-A manager named Tony La Russa on the advice of scout Jerry Krause, who told owner Bill Veeck "this guy is special." Thirty-one years later, La Russa is considered one of the great managers of all time. Leyland, who coached on La Russa's staff until 1985, was picked out of thin air for the Pittsburgh Pirates job in 1986 by GM Syd Thrift. Leyland, who managed in the minors for 11 years, was an anonymous third-base coach who had a great reputation among baseball people just like Quade.
All of this said, Quade's success will be detemined by the Cubs players and how many wins and losses they can achieve for him. Long hours and hard work will be nothing new for Quade, a baseball lifer.