There's a very good reason Mike Quade's appointment as Cubs manager for 2011 and probably beyond did not leak out before the 11 a.m. Tuesday press release announcing his introductory press conference four hours later.
Quade apparently is not a politician, and thus a leaker. I tried twice on Monday to call Quade when I had the correct suspicision the end game of the managerial-interview saga was at hand. But he kept voice mail on all the time, while he and GM Jim Hendry sealed the deal.
Hendry kept his own counsel, too, just as he vowed at the beginning the interview process. Not even Hendry confidants Bruce Levine of ESPN-1000 and Dave Kaplan of WGN-Radio and Comcast SportsNet got the story ahead of the official announcement.
Such a tight lid can be misconstrued as a palace-guard mentality. I recall the late John Callaway upbraiding me, Tom Shaer and other panel members on his WTTW nightly show back in 1989 after the Bulls fired Doug Collins. Callaway's reasoning was far more important political firings in Washington, D.C. have been leaked by savvy reporters. But I defended the sports journalists to Callaway. If Collins, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Jerry Krause all agreed to zip their lips until the firing was announced, nobody was going to get it. Reinsdorf and Krause could run an intelligence agency with the best of 'em.
The reason I mention Quade's abiltiy to keep things to himself is such a quality will serve him well as a backstage communicator, praising and most likely disciplining players away from public scrutiny, the way it should be handled. And to listen to Hendry explain why he hired Quade, the manager's off-the-field handling of players played just as important a role as his on-field strategy and use of young players in the Cubs' 24-13 finish.
"A lot of the stuff I do stays within the deal," Quade said. "I think to me it all boils down to how I communicate with guys and how I think that guys need to be handled. Am I always right? Absolutely not. I spend my time to understand each individual player and the problem or success they're having, whatever the case might be, and analyze it as such.
"It was important that I stood firm on what I am and who I am, come hell or high water. If that doesn't work up here, then maybe I'm not talking to you guys today. But that's always the way I've done it. And I just feel an honest, straightforward conversation gets you through the good times and the bad."
When team leader Ryan Dempster gave his most enthusiastic managerial endorsement ever to Quade, you know he put out some fires behind the scenes while turning up the bunsen burners below some under-producers, rookies and veterans. You got no evidence of slacking and non-hustling in Quade's 37-game tryout of the type that reached a height during the 5-20 collapse that preceded his hiring.
I recall how Jim Riggleman was ribbed as "Ragdoll Riggs" by columnists such as Jay Mariotti for not being forceful enough. But Riggleman reamed out laggards like Benito Santiago and Lance Johnson behind closed doors during the horrific 1999 season. The media simply did not learn of these incidents until much later.
Dusty Baker was ripped for seemingly letting the inmates run the asylum. But I did believe Baker, more intense than he let on, when he claimed players had been called into his "principal's office."
Going further back to the early 1990s, Phil Jackson's professed strength was as a backstage communicator to keep the Bulls' traveling circus in line and in focus for threepeats.
Obviously, coaches and managers need a kind of "good cop, tough cop" persona. So that question was posed to Quade: does he have such character, too?
"I was happy with the way things went, whether it was the youngest of the kids or the oldest of the vetereans," he said. "I don't think in terms of that persona. But I go back to the fact that I'm honest, straightforward, you rarely don't know what I think. It doesn't mean you like it. It doesn't mean things always work in my favor. At least you know where I'm coming from.
"Handling people is the important thing. If people can't respect that....they don't always like it, but respect it. If not, I'm not right for them or vice versa."
Sounds like Quade has thought things out for decades about "working" players. He sounds flexible.
And he sounds deeper than predecessor Lou Piniella, whose basic philosophy seemed to be just sending the boys out to play -- just get it done on the field without a lot of forethought in prepping them. That was not good enough in the 2008 playoffs or beyond.
Quade's job, obviously, is as big out of sight than on the field, preventing the Carlos Zambrano blow-up before it actually happens. He wanted the job, and he definitely has it now.