Carlos Zambrano’s post game rant on teammate Carlos Marmol was the headline grabber after Sunday afternoon’s game, as well discussed by Jordan yesterday. While the blown save by the Cubs closer is what opened the door for the Cardinals to tally another extra inning come back win, what went under the radar a bit due to the outburst was manager Mike Quade’s decision to pitch to All Star slugger Albert Pujols for the second straight day. After watching the St Louis first baseman launch the game winning walk off home run on Saturday after failing to instruct Jeff Samardzija to intentionally walk the batter, Quade trotted out journeyman right hander Rodrigo Lopez and refused to learn from his mistake from the day before.
So for the second straight game, Pujols made Quade and the Cubs pay, and the Cubs were swept out of St Louis to extend their losing streak to six games.
After leading the Cubs to a respectable record as the interim manager to close out the 2010 season, the baseball lifer seemed like a worthy candidate to consider for the full time job. After a neck and neck interview process with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg for the Wrigley Field job, the Jim Hendry favorite Quade was selected as the manager. He was the opposite of what Lou Piniella represented. A no name guy with no Major League managerial experience that the veterans seemed to respond to last year after tuning out the aging Piniella. The life long Minor League coach and manager also spent enough time in farm systems to be able to handle the potential youth movement that was surely to begin invading the Friendly Confines within the next couple years.
But a slow start began to snow ball when a post game tirade of his in Cincinnati led to players responding with an even worse effort of baseball the next night. The rookie manager appears to have failed to control the clubhouse and has failed to continue to distance himself from the status quo Cubs fans have seen in recent years. Quade tried to show that he was willing to bring the hammer down on players by benching Starlin Castro last season when the rookie phenom did not run hard on a routine out. Yet the same manager did not have the courage to bench slumping veterans like Alfonso Soriano with the same hammer.
The Soriano example was repeated just yesterday with the Zambrano incident. Big Z may at least be expressing the truth regarding the Cubs play, with truth something Cubs fans and the media have not heard much of lately around Addison and Clark, but the public flame out of his teammate was not the proper way to go about handling the frustrations. And Quade failed to make public comments that showed that he was going to seize control of the situation.
Now with the volatile Zambrano it is hard to see what Quade can say given the starting pitcher’s temper tantrum filled track record, but it is still a sign that the rookie manager is losing control of his team. And in terms of trying to trade Zambrano, it is possible that not commenting further publically on the issue may help Hendry facilitate a trade.
We are only a third of the way into the season and it may already be time to wonder out loud if Quade was indeed the right man for the job. What is sad is not just the fact that the 2011 season is already lost, despite low expectations for the most part, but the fact that the Cubs may have burned the bridge of having fan favorite and team legend Ryne Sandberg managing the team to a story book ending one day. Only time will tell whether the decision was right or wrong (assuming Sandberg gets a Major League job one day). Stay tuned.
At least Zambrano is helping himself keep some trade value. He did pitch a quality start, only allowing one run on five hits through seven innings while battling Chris Carpenter. These two staff aces have had some good head to head match ups over the years and yesterday was no different.
Aramis Ramirez made some noise by driving in the only two runs of the game for the Cubs. He lined a double into the gap and finished the day 2 for 2. While everyone is still waiting and wondering when his home run power stroke will return, it was good to see him chipping in after having to sit out the last couple games from taking a bad hop ground ball to the face.