Players pleased with selection of Quade
Dempster says new manager handles Chicago pressure well
CHICAGO -- Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster was one of the first players to endorse Mike Quade, and on Tuesday he applauded the team's decision to reward the former third-base coach with a two-year contract as manager.
"Opportunity knocks at your door, man, and he answered the call," Dempster said Tuesday. "It's good to see somebody [rewarded] who goes out there and works their tail off for that many years as a manager in the Minor Leagues, then to do that as a coach in the big league level, and all the while just wanting that opportunity. He did a great job."
Quade took over Aug. 23 and the Cubs compiled a 24-13 record in the final six weeks of the season. It was a complete turnaround from the team that had opened the second half with an 8-21 record.
"Winning cures everything," Dempster said. "It makes you feel better -- it's more fun to go to the ballpark. I think he just brought that out in us before we started winning. He made it fun when his record was 0-0. There are a lot of pressures that come with playing here and managing here and coaching here, and I know he's as good as anybody to handle that."
Quade was picked over Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg and Eric Wedge, who was named the Mariners' manager this week. Sandberg was the popular choice among many Cubs fans.
"Let's get one thing straight -- Sandberg was my favorite player growing up," Cubs catcher Koyie Hill said. "That's why I wanted to be a Cub. We have the same agent. We've gone to dinner together over the last 12 years. I love the guy. He's helped me a great deal, talking to him and being around him in Spring Training.
"I've never played for Sandberg," Hill said. "I was a big supporter of Quade. The players, to a man, were big supporters of Quade. There were a lot of great candidates, but we were all pulling for 'Q.'
"I know Sandberg is an iconic figure in the Cubs organization, and we all understand that," Hill said. "It's nothing against him at all. What you saw the last six weeks was as much a part of Q being in charge as it was us playing together. I think it goes hand in hand and we're all real happy for Q."
Quade communicated well with the players, like posting the lineup early and making sure they played the game the right way.
"I think he comes to the ballpark that day and his only concern is winning that baseball game that day," Dempster said.
But doesn't every Major League manager do that?
"I think he does a really good job of it," Dempster said. "I felt like he got the best out of each and every player on our team. And what happened? We won more games than we lost."
Hill said Quade took charge on the first day with the team meeting in Washington and never looked back.
"We all knew at that point, there was no way we were going to get back in contention," Hill said. "If you want to grade out seasons, if you're in the playoffs, it's a success, and if you're not, it's unsuccessful.
"His point was whatever happens, no matter how many games we win, we're going to get better," Hill said. "[He said] 'I don't care if we win or lose -- obviously, we want to win -- but the key here is to continue to get better.' To me, that said, don't worry about the results. We have to work on our foundation and preparation and game plan. If we get all that under control, then success will come out of that. That's what happened, and that's what you saw."
Quade helped the younger players, particularly the relievers, gain confidence. But he also communicated well with the veterans.
"[Alfonso] Soriano, [Aramis] Ramirez, [Xavier] Nady, Randy Wells, [Carlos] Zambrano -- all these guys, they all liked him, and I think that speaks volumes about him as a person," Dempster said.
University of New Orleans head baseball coach Ron Maestri wasn't surprised to see Quade receive all the praise. Maestri was Quade's coach at the university, and he attended Tuesday's news conference at the Stadium Club at Wrigley Field.
"He's paid his dues," Maestri said. "When you manage 17 years in the Minor Leagues, you learn how to handle people, whether it's the media, whether it's players."
Maestri would visit his former outfielder whenever the Triple-A Iowa team, managed by Quade from 2003-06, came to New Orleans to play. Quade often cut short the visits, saying he had work to do.
"He's very upfront," Maestri said. "He's got the baseball ability, the technical X's and O's, the fundamentals, but when you get to this level, it's about handling players.
"The thing I was most impressed with was he was given an opportunity in a very difficult situation," Maestri said. "The veterans could've tanked it and gone home. A lot of them were disgruntled. Then you had a lot of young kids. How do you get the veterans to play hard the rest of the year, and how do you infuse the other kids who get the opportunity? The young kids thrived and the veterans came on at the end of the year. That's impressive."
Of course, Quade still teases Maestri that he hindered his Major League playing career by switching him from shortstop to the outfield in college. But Quade batted .396 his senior year and was selected in the 22nd round of the 1979 Draft by the Pirates. He didn't reach the big leagues until 2000, when he was named the Athletics' first-base coach.
Dempster knows the decision to keep Quade will be criticized. He doesn't see any reason for that.
"What 'bad' happened today for the Chicago Cubs? Nothing," Dempster said. "Something great happened today. We hired a great man and a great manager."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.