As fans of baseball, we often look towards the easiest culprit for our team’s failure. This goes for all baseball fans, even those whose allegiance lies with perennial World Series champions. We glaze over the true problems, flip on our talk radio and our Sportscenter, and we vent. We cry for change, but we cry for the wrong change.
Chicago Cubs fans are in the midst of one such misguided call to arms. A few words during a press conference, a simple, honest observation from a hard-working manager is all it takes to turn the fans against you for good.
After another deflating loss to the Phillies, Cubs manager Mike Quade laid some of the blame on his young double-play combo up the middle, Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney. “We’ve got to stop. Ball’s in the sun, we’ve got to communicate. Cassie thought he had that all the way. I look back at this whole game to that play. The sun’s been in the same damn spot for however long Wrigley Field’s been here.”
This came after Castro waved off his teammates for a pop-up, then promptly missed it after losing the ball in the sun. To the frustrated north-side faithful, this indictment on their future star, their perceived savior, was too much. But there lies the problem. The Cubs front office has not empowered its managers enough to actually lead. Quade can enter the clubhouse, give the most fiery, spirited speech in history, and still not have an effect on his under performing team.
Money leads to so many bad decisions. In baseball and in life. Because the Cubs have invested so much money in so many washed-up players, they feel they are hand-cuffed. They’re not. The key is right in General Manager Jim Hendry’s hand. He just needs to release the lock and break the binds. Give Mike Quade the power to make decisions based on performance. Publicly support him when he calls out his players. Make it clear that Quade is in charge and over-inflated contracts will not get in the way of him making the moves he needs to make.
It’s a shame that Quade has lost the support of Cubs fans, but it’s not his fault. Jim Hendry lost their support long before. Calls for a managerial change will only fuel a merry-go-round of misguided anger and false expectations. Constant change at the manager position rarely leads to success.
Success starts from the top down. The Ricketts family has a choice. They can open their wallets and pursue some more large contracts, or they can start over and allow their GM to make smart, baseball-minded moves. The Ricketts need to make sure Jim Hendry knows it’s OK to stand behind his manager. It’s OK to say you’ll start a guy making under a million a year over a guy making $10 million a year because performance warrants it. It’s OK to keep Mike Quade off the merry-go-round and give him some power to change things in the clubhouse.