Ryan Dempster's endorsement Tuesday of Mike Quade for the Cubs managerial job in 2011 is the final event in a long series of developments that has convinced me that Quade is the right man for the job.
When Quade was named the interim manager on Aug. 22, I was firmly supported the idea of Ryne Sandberg getting the job with the assumption that the services of Joe Girardi would not be available.
The choice of Quade over Alan Trammell as interim manager surprised me particularly because Trammell had served as the acting manager in late July and early August when Lou Piniella had taken a pair of leaves of absence.
I didn't know much about the 53-year-old Quade other than that he was a native of the Chicago area, had been a longtime minor league manager, served as the first base coach with the Oakland Athletics from 2000-02, and had done a terrific job in his almost four years as the Cubs' third base coach.
After Quade was named interim manager, I learned:
* His teams won 1,213 minor-league games in 17 seasons.
* He was twice named his league's Manager of the Year - at Double-A Harrisburg of the Eastern League in 1991 and Triple-A Ottawa of the International League in 1993.
* He led Class A West Michigan to the Midwest League title, Aguilas Cibaenas to the 1996-97 Dominican Winter League championship, and Vancouver to the Pacific Coast League crown and Triple-A World Series title in 1999.
His performance in his short tenure as the Cubs' interim manager has been as impressive as his resume.
Entering Wednesday's game, the Cubs under Quade had gone 21-11, won eight straight road games, and compiled a 14-3 record in road contests.
Quade has given many of the team's younger players a chance, particularly pitchers. Hurlers like James Russell, Scott Maine, and Marcos Mateo have been called upon in clutch situations and, more often than not, gotten the job done. Entering Wednesday's games, Cubs relievers had compiled a 1.40 ERA in their previous 20 games.
He has cracked the whip with shortstop Starlin Castro, benching the rookie phenom for two contests for a series of mental mistakes he made in a game against the Mets on Sept. 5.
The Daily Herald's Barry Rozner recently criticized Quade for not being as tough on veterans - saying thatg Quade without a contract for 2011 lacked the autority to lay into the likes of Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez - but a recent blog post from WMVP-AM's Bruce Levine contradicted that notion:
"One veteran player was supposed to report for therapy with the training staff two weeks ago at 10 a.m. before a night game," Levine wrote. "Instead, he showed up at 2:30 for his treatment. Afterward, he found out his name wasn't in the lineup. When the player approached Quade to find out the reason for his benching, he was told that off-the-field preparation was to be taken as seriously as batting practice or the game itself."
The best part of the discipline was that it was handled behind closed doors. Quade made his point with the veteran and his teammates without embarassing the un-named player.
My only two beefs with Quade are his insistence on playing Koyie Hill (instead of rookie Welington Castillo) in all but two games since Geovany Soto was shut down and his failure to give Tyler Colvin some playing time at first base.
But both of those quibbles are minor.
I understand that the Cubs fell out of contention long before Quade grabbed the reins, but the difference in how the team has gone about its business since Quade took over has been startling.
It's easy for a team to pack it in under an interim manager and to quote Dallas Green, several Cubs teams have quit with a capital "Q" under interims: Charlie Fox in 1983, Frank Lucchesi in 1987, Jim Essian in 1991, and Bruce Kimm in 2002.
Sandberg has paid his dues, but Quade has been doing so for much longer and now has a major league track record.
My hope now is Quade is offered the managerial job and Sandberg the third base or bench coach position. Quade would get a chance to show his stuff when it really counts and Sandberg would be able to gain some more experience, for the first time since he was a player, at the big-league level.