I'm really beginning to think Mike Quade is in over his head as Cubs manager. It's a strange thing to realize about a guy we saw managing the team so well late last season. You certainly can't tell from just looking at the score of today's 10-8 Cubs victory over the Dodgers, and you can't tell when you look at the Cubs 10-10 record, which is as good as anyone could have expected for April.
But, there have been some moments of either indecisive hesitancy or situational brain-farts from Quade in numerous games this season. Some of them have involved pitching--for example, under-using Kerry Wood, who has appeared in only seven of 20 games, and over-using Jeff Samardzija, who has 14 walks in 11 innings, and Marcus Mateo, who has appeared in more games than any ther Cubs pitcher at 11, yet has an 8.64 ERA.
Quade also has tended to leave struggling Ryan Dempster on the mound for too long. He did it in Dempster's first three outings this season--though he did yank Dempster in time to get a 5-4 win in Houston--and did it again today, allowing Dempster to pitch into the sixth inning and give up seven runs, when it was pretty obvious after a three-run fifth inning, and even more obvious after giving up the game-tying to open the sixt,h that Dempster was done for the day,
But, that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was that Quade had an obvious opportunity in which to send a pinch hitter out for Dempster in the bottom of the fifth, when the Cubs had the bases loaded with two outs and a chance to pad a 5-4 lead. Dempster, whose hitting chops should never be confused with Carlos Zambrano's, should never have come up to the plate. Naturally, he struck out, despite the best effort of a Dodger reliever to walk him by running the count to 3 and 2.
What was Quade thinking? Maybe he wants to give Dempster the benefit of the doubt and help him work out of a tough start to his season by letting him try to work deeper into the game, but that still doesn't forgive whiffing on a textbook situation for deploying a pinch hitter in a close game.
What ultimately counts today is that the Cubs had an amazing comeback win. But, if that's what it's going to take for the Cubs to maintain a .500, Quade better start consulting his textbook more often.
I'm increasingly worried about Ozzie Guillen, too. Some may believe he is unlikely to be fired after gettng a one-year extension not long ago, but a White Sox team with first place talent is now 8-13--and it's not a good, hitting-the-ball-hard, pitching-well-just-not-good-enough 8-13.
The Sox are flat in every facet of the game, and what's worse is that Ozzie has already been through his whole we-stink, they-can-fire-me-if-they-want diatribe, and the Sox have not responded. A number of hitters are slumping big-time, starting with new arrival Adam Dunn, and the pitching has been no better, with the starters trying to out-do the bullpen in a race to see who can embarrass themselves the most on the mound.
The American League Central Division looks turned upside down, with the Indians and the Royals fighting over first place, and the Sox and Twins fighting over last, with the Tigers in between. Maybe that can't last, but if the Sox come out of April five or six games under .500, or worse, they will need more than some interleague luck this year to win the division. They wll not only have to beat the Twins, which they failed to do last year, but they will have to make up some victories in Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit, where they have lost two in a row in lifeless fashion.
Maybe Ozzie isn't going anywhere, but if his tough love and energy can't get a reaction from his team, it's a good bet the Sox aren't going anywhere either.