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Cubs can make statement by hiring from within
By Bruce Miles | Daily Herald Columnist

Iowa Cubs manager Ryne Sandberg


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Published: 9/2/2010 2:58 PM

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You can search the world over, but sometimes, the answer is right in front of you.

That might be the situation the Cubs are in with their managerial search.

You've heard and read the names of Joe Girardi, Fredi Gonzalez, Bob Melvin, Bob Brenly, Bobby Valentine and others as possible candidates to manage the Cubs beginning in 2011.

All are good names to one degree or another. And they're all "big" names to one degree or another.

But big might not necessarily be better. The Cubs have been down this road three times in the last decade, hiring "big-name" managers Don Baylor, Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella.

Each enjoyed some success before either the teams went bad and/or the players tuned out the skipper. Only Piniella left with a winning record while with the Cubs.

This time, the Cubs can do something different. They can send a positive message up and down and across their organization by hiring a manager from within.

The Cubs have two candidates who deserve a shot: current manager Mike Quade and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who currently has the Cubs' Class AAA Iowa farm club poised for the playoffs.

Despite each man's lack of major-league managerial experience, both have paid significant dues and each has his own political capital to spend.

Let's take a look at the pluses and minuses of each.

Quade's pluses: The Cubs did not name Quade the "interim" manager when he took over for Piniella. Quade is the "manager," and he's getting every opportunity to keep the job beyond this year.

The immediate results have been good. The Cubs have a record of 6-3 under Quade, and while it's true the Cubs have scored most of those victories against doormats Washington and Pittsburgh, they didn't do so hot against those teams this year under Piniella.

There also seems to be a lighter feel around the clubhouse; that often happens when a new manager comes in during the season.

I was walking out of the park with a couple of players in Cincinnati, and both acknowledged the good feeling, with one of them noting that it wasn't the end of the world when a young reliever threw ball one, referring to Piniella's noted impatience.

Although Quade had never managed in the major leagues before now, he has 17 years of managing experience in the minor leagues, including four in the Cubs' system. His teams finished in first place eight times.

Quade's minuses: All he lacks is big-league experience, both as a player and as a manager. Neither has to be a deal breaker. Major-league history is full of successful managers who came in under Quade's circumstances and went on to flourish.

He acknowledged that the amount of information he must process each day has increased dramatically, but he seems a quick study and a guy who leans on his coaching staff for help.

It remains to be seen how Quade handles a pitching staff, his bench and big-league players with big-league egos over time, but so far, so good.

Sandberg's pluses: Sandberg did exactly what he was supposed to do and what some in the Cubs family thought he wouldn't do: ride the buses (and some airplanes) in the minor leagues for four years.

Having visited with him last week in Des Moines, I can report that he's out on the field early hitting fungoes, throwing batting practice and taking care of the other managerial duties.

Sandberg's teams have won in the minor leagues, and the players seem to have total respect for him.

His Hall of Fame credentials don't guarantee managerial success, but how many Hall of Famers have gone back and ridden the buses?

Sandberg's minuses: Sandberg came as close to bristling as I'd seen when I asked him about his lack of major-league experience as a coach or a manager. That lack of experience is the one thing that may cause general manager Jim Hendry not to hire Sandberg.

Handling the media is a huge part of the job, and the Chicago media can be tough. Sandberg said he'd have well-thought-out answers to anything we throw at him.

He'll face the same issues Quade faces in dealing with today's player, and he'll have to be careful not to say, "in my day," too many times.

He also told me he's adjusted to the different types of players at each level, including Triple-A, where disgruntled older players can poison the well. That has not happened at Iowa.

Making a pick: We'll find out soon just what kind of employers the Cubs are. Sandberg and Quade both are in situations many of us find ourselves in. That is, aiming for a higher job and doing the necessary training to get it.

Of course, that doesn't guarantee success, but with a good support staff, there's no reason either Quade or Sandberg couldn't succeed.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has talked about building from within. He and Hendry might be well served doing that with the hiring of their next manager.

Managerial resumes

Mike Quade

Age: 53

Hometown: Evanston

Current position: Cubs manager

Major-league playing career: None. He played five years in the minor leagues, advancing as high as Class AA.

Major-league managing experience: Cubs manager since Aug. 23

Major-league coaching experience: Cubs third-base coach from 2007-Aug. 22, 2010; Oakland Athletics' first-base coach, 2000-02

Notable: Two-time manager of the year in the minor leagues...Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 22nd round in 1979...Has a minor-league managerial record of 1,213-1,165...Graduated from Prospect High School in Mt. Prospect.

Ryne Sandberg

Age: Turns 51 on Sept. 18

Hometown: Spokane, Wash.

Current position: Manger of the Cubs' Class AAA Iowa farm club

Major-league coaching experience: None

Major-league playing career: Hall of Fame career with all but 13 of his 2,164 games with the Cubs

Notable: Drafted by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 1978 draft...Had a minor-league managerial record of 282-274-1 entering Thursday... Nine-time Gold Glove winner and 10-time all-star... His uniform No. 23 is retired by the Cubs.