A: Obviously Jason Dubois had a great year. He spent about a month in the big leagues starting in mid-May and came back only to pick up right where he left off. We had a great year and as far as the regulars go, "Doobie" was the best of the younger group. For the most part, I had a veteran group of guys and he benefited from them. Richard Lewis joined us late in the year and also put in some good work. Richard is a nice player who got his feet wet. I hope that his rehab goes well and he's the same player he was when he showed up, because I think he has a bright future. Right off the top of my head, those two deserve the accolades.
Q: You've managed David Kelton in each of the last two years. What are your thoughts on him and his future with the Cubs organization?
A: The one guy in the entire bunch that you still believe will find a way to get it done is Kelton. He has great bat speed and people are still excited about him. I was really hoping 2004 was the year he established himself, but now it's time for him to get it done this year. Obviously, he's another kid we like, but he needs to put it together quick.
Q: What are your hopes for Lewis this season?
A: Uou'd just like to see him build on the year he had last season at Double-A. Every league is a new challenge and you have to prove yourself. You're always excited, but no matter what my evaluation is, he has to do it himself and that's what you're always anxious to see. His work ethic is unquestionable. I'm a fan, and I'm anxious to see if he can take to that level of play and put it together here. Some would say, "Of course he will." Well, I'm thrilled to death, but each level is tough. He spent two weeks on fire for us and then, as Triple-A will do, he struggled before getting hurt. He hit some ball's hard in that slump, sure, but it was a tough time for both him and for us overall as a club. But that's okay. Dubois went through periods when he struggled, as did Kelton. Richard got his taste of Triple-A. In a brief month with us, he experienced a great deal. Primarily, his rehab is coming along great, as I understand. I'm hearing now that he will be healthy come spring, so you start with that and say, "Okay, he's healthy, so now lets watch him make his adjustments." When you see people with talent, you wait and see if they can use it to exceed. He gives me every indication that he will.
Q: Dubois and Lewis are two prospects who impressed you with the bat. Who impressed you most as a pitcher?
A: Will Ohman did a nice job in a setup role out of the bullpen, and Sergio Mitre is a nice-looking prospect, too. There's also John Koronka and Michael Wuertz. It's funny; I've been around the Cubs organization for two years and we love to talk about young prospects. I love Wuertz, but he's been around. With the transition he's made from starting to relieving, you just can't help but believe in him. You keep thinking he's only going to get better. His fastball and breaking ball are both quality pitches. As for his ceiling and potential role in the majors, I'm just not sure, though I think there is a role for him and that he will always take the ball. There's so much to like about him and what he can get done. As a starter, he was getting people out on the Triple-A level, but then he gets a new lease on life when he goes to the bullpen. He has made the most of it to this point. He's been resilient.
Koronka is the same way. He showed up from Cincinnati and really had a great year. I don't know much about his history, but he's another guy who if you hang around, you notice he doesn't come across as a young guy. He's only 24 and a left-handed pitcher, so that's enough said. With a great changeup and the curveball he's developing, he's an interesting story. He's the kind of guy who maybe doesn't light up the gun, but he's still someone that everybody is talking about in the organization. He's a guy that is going to surprise some people and I think he'll get there. It will probably end up being all about his command, though. He should be good enough to get the job done at the next level.
Q: You were brought up by the parent club to help with Dusty Baker's coaching staff in each of the past two seasons. What was that experience like?
A: Not only was I able to watch the way Dusty runs things and get accustomed to major league players, but it afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal, let alone experiencing the thrill of being in a major league playoff race. It was a great experience. Last season, I came up, things did not go as well, and yet I think you benefit from both situations regardless. You watch how players respond to one situation after another, and you get to know them. You watch Dusty and how he handles a situation that doesn't go as well. It was obviously more fun two years ago, but when coaching is your life as it is mine, you learn something from every situation. To have the chance to go to the majors and watch these guys play at that level--if you don't learn something, you're an idiot, and you're not paying attention. You always look forward to the opportunity and realize you have a lot to learn. We had a really nice year in Iowa record-wise, but there's always something you need to learn.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself for those who don't know the real Mike Quade.
A: Last year was my fifteenth season as a coach. I played for a few years in the minors, but I've been on a coaching staff for many years. I was originally with the Pittsburgh Pirates and someone told me after a couple of years there that I should pay attention to coaching because I might have a career in that field. At that time, I was belligerent as hell and told someone exactly what I thought of it. Well, I realized some years later that it was probably the right answer at the time, but that my talents simply weren't going to pan out. I was around some unbelievably talented folks in Montreal, where I originally met Gary Hughes (Special Assistant to the General Manager) some years later. From there, I left and wound up in Philadelphia managing the Phillies' Triple-A club before spending time as a coach in Oakland. One thing I've been lucky in regards to is that when you work hard, listen closely, pay attention, you feel like you've gone a good job. The time I spent in Chicago the last two season, in addition to my time with the A's, I was probably around as good a group of players and young talent as anyone could have the fortune of doing so.
It's a "Who's Who?" list in those three organizations, so it's obviously a pleasure to work with those teams. Success is a wonderful thing when you have those kind of players I worked with. In my three years in Oakland, we were a playoff team. To arrive there and have those playoff runs, even losing in the first round--how lucky is it to get there and just be in the post-season? I've had a great run and I am happy to say my two years with the Cubs have been as much fun and as optimistic as we were in Oakland those three years. I can't imagine having been anymore excited than I am now about post-season opportunities with this organization.
Q: David Cash was lost for the year early on last season. Do you have an update on David, and what exactly was the problem there?
A: I know that it was a really scary deal when he went down. I was sitting in the dugout and was happy his arm didn't break right into, because it looked awful physically. Before then, he was showing good signs but was cut short so quickly that you can only hope they're doing amazing things in surgery these days. There are guys who literally have come back from major arm surgeries who are throwing harder now than before. I don't know what they put in there, but versus what would happen to a player 15 or 20 years ago, there's at least room to be optimistic that [Cash] will come back as the same guy. If he does, we'll need a full year before we get too carried away. But there's enough to be excited about with regards to having some sort of major league career. It's obviously up to him as to what role he'll be in. When something like that happens, my trainer will come and talk to me. When you find out it's year-ending, you visit with the kid for the last time and you obviously wish him the best and make sure he works his ass off. When it's year-ending, you just don't do any follow-up. I know now from somebody that, so far, they've been okay with the progress.
Q: What was your favorite moment from last year's team?
A: As funny as it may sound, perhaps my favorite moment was when we finally clinched the division with only a game or two left in the season. We had a great year with some great veterans and there were all sorts of things going on. I had a great staff, not only on the field, and it was a terrific year. The only thing that was really discouraging was that it just wasn't clicking at the major league level as it was the year before. We had a great year in Iowa, but we all understand it's all about what's going on in Chicago with Jim [Hendry] and the gang.
As far as my favorite moment, we were struggling so badly during that funk toward the end of the season that my pitching coach, Rick Kranitz, was looking for some way to get out of it. So, he came up with a doll that he had purchased at a local store. Anyway, we had a team meeting and I said everything I needed to say, and Rick just put this doll on our bench and it became a good luck charm. I'll be damned if we didn't win three or four in a row and clinch the thing. The game is so funny and I'm not a superstitious guy, so I'm not inclined to do stuff like this.
So, now we go to Oklahoma City down two games to one in the first round of the playoffs and Russ Johnson, our infielder, gets sick of the doll after we lose the third game to Oklahoma. He finally said, "Okay, enough is enough. It's time to finish this thing without it." Well, he takes a bat and breaks the doll completely in half and we go on to rally and win the series. That was a fun moment. But I love the young kids and they are your first priority. You just can't say enough when you're managing a club at the Triple-A level and you have quality veterans. It's one less thing to worry about and they also take care of a whole lot of business with your younger players. It's not a tutoring session to them; it's just how they go about their business. Those guys - Trenidad Hubbard, Calvin Murray, and Denny Hocking, who joined us late in the year and came to our club in a great frame of mind without an ounce of major league arrogance - were unbelievable in how they handled themselves.
Q: Can you give us an update on Nic Jackson? What have you heard there and what are your thoughts on Nic as a player?
A: You know what? I asked about Nic the other day and the report I got was good. You know, you end up being so careful with him, because of all the setbacks and the on-going problems with his throwing arm, I won't allow myself to get too excited. I know the player, his mentality, his talent, and I love them all. Physically, though, we have to find a way to keep him healthy, and he has to find a way to keep himself healthy. It's just so unfortunate to have him down physically. What I have decided is to hope I show up in spring training, see his face, and just hope he stays healthy. Right now, I think he's on track as far as rehab goes. They are happy with this progress and he is penciled in as a guy who is going to perform come spring. I assume that he is 100 percent, but if in four weeks I walk in the door and he's still healthy, I'll be thrilled.
Q: Let's talk for a second about your coaching staff. Any significant changes there?
Mike Quade: Not really, aside from my trainer (Ed Halbur), who wound up in Chicago as the assistant trainer. We were so happy for "Doc" and when you do articles like this and other interviews, there's always behind-the-scenes stuff. The scouts are those kinds of guys and when it comes to me personally, the trainer does so much behind the scenes because not only does he have to deal with me, he has to deal with players and their physical injures every day. The trainer's room is a lounge where people talk, and have either good times or tough times. They deal and hear stuff that I never deal with. That's just the nature of the trainer. Add to that the fact that they're also my traveling secretary, and it's a lot of work. I've decided that what can make your season go smoothly, even if you're struggling, is a good trainer. It's kind of like having a good umpire. That's the guy we had last year in Ed Halbur.
Q: You mentioned earlier that Bill Belichick is someone you admire greatly. Tell us a little about your personal connection with him.
A: He's certainly at the top of my list right now. He's so unassuming, and he seems so comfortable in every situation. I just admire the hell out of him. There's a level of sincerity about him that I love. It's the idea of teamwork. His club handles itself with so much class. If you're not willing to go with the program in the NFL, you're out. To have the clout and success he has had, and to conduct himself like that, I just admire the living hell out of him. His secondary has so many problems, yet they find new ways to win and get it done.
In all my years of coaching and with the way sports are now with all the individualism involved, I think his players spell "team" more than any other club or organization in any sport that I can think of. Maybe it's just me, but you just look for people to analyze, like Dusty, Jim Leyland or Bill Belichick. He's a guy I admire and would love to sit and have a beer with. I would not want to be Philadelphia right now. This guy has made me a believer over the last few years, and he hasn't always been dealt the best of luck. It was a combination of getting in the right situation with New England and communicating a little better. I'd love to buy him lunch! I'm a big fan of humility, integrity and class. That whole group and the way they conduct themselves is great. He didn't walk the fence with Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe a few years back, and it's worked out very well. He's a great man.