Of all the qualifications for Cubs manager Mike Quade had to fulfill, possessing a tin ear is near the top of the list.
Right off the bat Tuesday, Quade had to block out all the belly-aching about Ryne Sandberg finishing second (or third, if you think Eric Wedge might have edged him) in the manager sweepstakes. Not only did Sandberg win a hefty plurality in fans' preference on Bleed Cubbie Blue, our sister site, but he also was backed by a torrent of complaining calls to sports-talk stations. The most extreme were folks who said they can't be Cubs fans anymore without Ryno to lead them.
More importantly, at some future late-summer date when the Cubs could find themselves in contention (stranger things have happened in Wrigley Field), Quade will need to turn a deaf ear to the latest version of the century-plus curse talk. And he wil;.
Remember, Quade prepped in Mt. Prospect -- also home to Dave Kingman -- and not in Austin, Sacramento or Tampa, the hometowns of Don Baylor, Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella, the last three celebrity Cubs managers who knew little about Cubs Culture coming in.
Quade, the consummate baseball lifer seemingly out of uniform in a blue suit in his introductory press conference, is too savvy and experienced a Chicago-area native to let curse talk slip into his workplace.
"I lived here (before moving his off-season home to Florida)," he said. "I was raised here. I get it. You're totally aware of it and any of the other comments that were made. But it's not going to do us any good as a ballclub or me as a manager or as a person to have that anywhere near my thoughts on a daily basis.
"I think we understand how we need to win baseball games. And I think the less said about that during our work and during games, the better. Great conversation. Look, you guys sell papers, you guys are on the radio. I know, believe me, I know. I'm from here. It does us no good whatsoever. You look at it, you go 'OK,' and then you out and try to win games."
Closely related to the century-and-change (the "Eamus Catuli" sign on a Sheffield rooftop had not been advanced from "101" as Quade spoke) issue is the day-baseball-kills-the-Cubs theme. Yeah, there's a lot to that. Working 9-to-5 for 50 or more games in a 4-to-midnight baseball world is not conducive to being at your best. But it is what is is. And Quade vowed to live and prosper with the sun in his eyes.
"From what I need to ask from this club, you've got to find a way -- and we will -- to make this a positive," he said. "I was in Oakland for three years. We played the second-most day games to the Cubs. And we had a way worse travel schedule than the Cubs. Every time we got on a plane in Oakland, there's no Cincinnati, St. Louis or Pittsburgh (and he forgot busing or driving 90 minutes to Milwaukee). It's a long ride. It's an extremely long ride once you get past Denver. We had three years in the playoffs. We had a nice run. That was never talked about.
"You rest people. You do what you have to do. It's not something you deny. We play a lot of day games. How are we going to keep people fresh? It's got to work to your advantage. The stronger the bench, the stronger the bullpen, the stronger the ballclub."
There's a bottom line about Quade at work here. And that's work. Be it in the daytime or in the heat or with a sports-talk gabber who rarely shows his face at the ballpark screaming about curses, Quade is going to out-work his opposing manager and probably his coaches. Unlike Lou Piniella, who seemed to gain weight and lose energy as the season proceeded, Quade will be a whirling dervish of activity, as trim and fit as his players and, hopefully, more mentally agile.
I could hardly flag him down as he race-walked through the clubhouse before games late in the season. Jim Hendry, the man who finally pulled the trigger Sunday, calling with the job offer as fisherman Quade was sorting through a fresh catch of crabs in Florida, compares him in style to a younger Jim Leyland. He said he hoped to continue pitching batting practice when he has time. And he'll get involved in some nitty-gritty of coaching, one of the prerequisites for a manager as defined by chairman Tom Ricketts. If Piniella liked to delegate to his coaches, Quade might do some micromanaging.
And with the Cubs, a manager with his hands on every aspect of the team is a refreshing approach. Baylor was said to be a mediocre communicator. Baker was too much a players' manager at the wrong time. Piniella was detached like a chairman of the board (hopefully not "bored" at the end).
But the first thing Quade has to get in his players' heads is they don't bear the weight of almost four generations. 1969 and 1984 and 2003 and 2008 and all the years in between, the crazy-quilt College of Coaches and collapses and conspiracies don't run into 2011 and beyond.
Just play ball, the right way. Your new manager is watching keenly.