When the Cubs played so well at the end of last season after floundering for much of the year, the attention, quite naturally, was on interim manager Mike Quade.
As it turns out, that was appropriate -- but partly because of things that happened, or didn't happen, while Lou Piniella was still the manager.
Kevin Millar, one of the Cubs' last cuts in spring training last year, told the ESPN radio affiliate in Chicago that Piniella's lack of communication was a huge problem, and ESPN.com published comments from Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano that backed up Millar's claim.
Millar told the radio station that Piniella didn't tell him in advance when he was going to play in spring training games, something that's considered standard operating procedure in the majors these days.
"I didn't get a chance to play with Lou, but I mean, there definitely was something missing," Millar said. "You have to have more organization and know who is going in the game that day.
"Listen, I played 12 years in the big leagues, and I sat there for nine innings in a spring training game and didn't know if I was playing or not playing. There's just common courtesy, to use an example personally. You know, 'Hey listen you're going in the fifth inning after Derrek Lee.' OK perfect. So you know to go get loose in the fourth or whatever it is. It's little things like that. The lineups were a big issue."
Soriano told ESPN.com, "We like to know when we play. We asked him (Piniella) in Atlanta (where the Cubs opened the season), 'Let us know when we play, and when we have a day off.' And he said, 'Yes,' but he never did it. That doesn't make everybody comfortable. (Quade) is different. If you're off on Friday, he told me like two or three days before. So that makes me play more hard for him, because he has a lot of respect for me. And he knows what he wants, and he knows how to treat the players."
The Cubs went 24-13 at the end of last season after Quade took over. Piniella was not available for comment, according to the report.
--Entering his first full year as a big league manager, Mike Quade is going to be subject to scrutiny and second-guessing, even though he went 24-13 at the end of last season.
That's OK with him.
There were several moves in Sunday's 5-4 loss to the Pirates that left Quade open to the second-guessers among fans and media.
To wit, he allowed the right-handed hitting Reed Johnson face Pirates' right-handed closer Joel Hanrahan to lead off the ninth inning, instead of going with Kosuke Fukudome or Blake DeWitt, both left-handers.
And Quade played the infield back with runners at second and third with one out. The Pirates scored the go-ahead runs on an infield single and wide throw by shortstop Starlin Castro.
A day later, there were no regrets.
"It's too easy to go back and go, 'Wow, if we would have had the infield in there,'" Quade said before Monday's 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks. "I can't give up the lead there, not when I've got the last at-bat. No way in heck. So I can't second-guess that.
"We talked about the decision to let Reed hit. Going into Fuke's walk the other day, he didn't have great numbers against Hanrahan. Who does? I figured I'd give Reed the at-bat there. We can debate that all day."
Quade and the media might debate it all day.
The one refreshing thing about Quade is that he does not shy away from strategy give-and-take with reporters, before and after games. On Monday, he even used the term "over-managing" when talking about using three relievers in the seventh inning.
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