Since his hiring as the general manager of the Cubs, Jim Hendry has dealt with high-profile managers at Wrigley Field, and the feeling that every move needs to have an immediate impact, even at the expense of building a long-range plan. Maybe that helps explain the 102-year championship drought. Shortcuts just don’t work.
With Lou Piniella’s decision to retire, and then to leave in midseason, Hendry finally had an opportunity to try and get a long-term plan in place.
A longtime fan of the managerial potential of Cubs coach Mike Quade, Hendry knew Quade would not win an offseason dog and pony show because he didn’t have the sizzle of Ryne Sandberg or Yankees manager Joe Girardi or any of the former big league managers who have become hot items this year.
There was only one way for Quade to win over the team’s fans and new ownership: take over the 51-74 mess that Piniella left behind and make the Cubs competitive in the final weeks of the season. Hendry gave Quade the chance to do that, naming him the interim manager instead of Sandberg or Cubs bench coach Alan Trammell.
Quade made good on the opportunity, and he got the job on a full-time basis at season’s end instead of Sandberg, who after four years of managing in the minor leagues was the runner-up this time.
The Cubs were 24-13 with Quade in charge. More importantly, the promising prospects who had struggled with Piniella’s style became productive members with Quade in charge.
Quade is no wallflower. He is demanding. And now he faces the biggest challenge of his career, managing a team that has turned Wait ‘Til Next Year into its annual slogan.
And his long-term experience and success in developing young players is critical to revamping the Cubs. While a $145 million payroll didn’t buy success this year, the Cubs do have some talented young players, and Hendry, a former coach at Creighton and scout with the Marlins, sees the development skills in Quade. The Cubs have a starting point with shortstop Starlin Castro, outfielder Tyler Colvin, and strong-armed pitchers Andrew Cashner, Casey Coleman, James Russell and Jeff Samardzija.
That’s why Hendry is betting his job as general manager on the ability of Quade to handle the job as manager.
Phillies’ Window Closing?
The Phillies are in the most successful stretch in the franchise’s 128-season history, advancing to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year and coming up two wins shy of a third consecutive World Series appearance.
The reality, however, is that the Phillies are nearing the end of their successful stretch. With a roster that averages 31.3 years, the Phillies are not only the oldest team in the big leagues, but the only one with an average age over 30.
The Phillies had five players on their postseason roster younger than 30, and only one younger than 25: outfielder Domonic Brown. There wasn’t a player in the starting lineup younger than 30. Lefty Cole Hamels, who will be 27 next season, is the only key player who isn’t on the backside of 30.
It’s not like the Phillies are poised for a major makeover, either. They will lose right fielder Jayson Werth to free agency this off-season but have 16 other players from their postseason roster under contract for 2011.
Counting the options for shortstop Jimmy Rollins, which they assuredly will exercise, and a $4.5 million option for lefty reliever J.C. Romero that figures to be a subject of debate, the Phillies have more than $89 million already committed for next season, more than every team except the Yankees ($118.1 million) and Cubs ($96.3 million).
That doesn’t leave a lot of room to address needs in the rotation behind Hamels and Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, both of whom are 33, in the bullpen or on the bench.
And the farm system may have promise at the lower levels, but is patchwork at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
The Phillies sold their future for the present, adding Cliff Lee, Halladay and Oswalt, and their attempt to recoup their losses for Lee by trading him to the Mariners last winter looks like a bust at the moment.
The Phillies are restocking the system, and have top quality prospects at Class A and lower, but Brown was the only player in the organization ranked among the top 20 at Double-A or Triple-A.