Interim manager Mike Quade could be a keeper for the Chicago Cubs

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; 12:24 AM

CHICAGO - The other night, Mike Quade had an appointment downtown following a day game at Wrigley Field, so Quade, a Chicago-area native, did what he has always done - he rode the "El," taking the southbound Red Line from the Addison station. When a group of fellow commuters recognized Quade as the interim manager of the Cubs, they struck up a conversation on the platform, until one asked, "What are you doing riding the train? Shouldn't you be in a limo or something?"

"Listen," Quade told the man, holding his arm out at waist-high, "I've been taking the train since I was this big, and I'll continue taking the train."

So there's one more reason why the Cubs should just go ahead and give the permanent manager's job to Quade: one fewer car clogging up Lakeshore Drive at rush hour.

Such a notion - Quade, 53, taking permanent possession of one of baseball's most desirable jobs - seemed like the longest of longshots on Aug. 22, when Quade, at the time the Cubs' third base coach, took over for Lou Piniella after the latter resigned to tend to his ailing mother.

After all, Quade, a veteran of 17 seasons as a minor-league manager - and six more as a major league coach - is virtually unknown outside of Chicago, and the two candidates most frequently linked to the Cubs' permanent job are huge names: Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg, currently the manager of the Cubs' Class AAA affiliate, and current New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi.

But things have changed since Aug. 22 - most notably the trajectory of the Cubs' season. Quade took over a team that was playing .408 ball (51-74) and has them playing at a .633 clip (19-11) entering Monday night's game at San Diego. While Quade's tenure has been devoid of playoff-race tension - the Cubs having long since bowed out of the National League Central race - the quality and intensity of the team's play since he took over have drawn rave reviews within the Friendly Confines.

"What Quade has done here is unbelievable," said former Cubs third baseman Ron Santo, now a popular team broadcaster and North Side icon. "We have so much energy out there now that we didn't have before."

Asked about the possibility of getting the permanent job, Quade said, "This has been an amazing opportunity to do something I've wanted to do my entire life - and yes, I would love for it to continue. This is a special place. It's special to all of us."

But even as Quade was speaking those words last week, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was in Arizona, interviewing Sandberg, who seemingly has been groomed for the job, spending the past five years managing in the Cubs' farm system.

Girardi's supposed candidacy is more difficult to gauge, as he has shown no interest, at least not publicly, in leaving the Bronx. But his Yankees contract expires after this season, he attended Northwestern University in nearby Evanston, and he spent the bulk of his playing career with the Cubs.

At the very least, the open Cubs job would give Girardi additional leverage to negotiate an extension with the Yankees. And if neither the Cubs' manager search nor Girardi's contract situation with the Yankees is resolved by mid-November, the pieces could fall in place for Girardi's return to Wrigley.

Among other known candidates being considered by the Cubs are former Arizona Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin and former Cleveland Indians manager Eric Wedge. Washington Nationals third base coach Pat Listach and recently fired Seattle Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu could also get interviews.

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