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The Joe Sheehan Newsletter
Vol. III, No. 138
November 3, 2011
Theo Epstein's first act as new general manager of the Cubs? Fire the manager. Epstein informed incumbent Mike Quade that he would not be asked to return under the new administration, and he did so in person, flying to Florida to tell Quade face to face. Epstein is very good at making baseball decisions, but that's the kind of move that illustrates an important part of being a team president or GM. It really isn't just like running your fantasy team.
The decision isn't much of a surprise. Quade had gotten the job by being there when Lou Piniella quit, and held it because the Cubs had a decent record playing out the string after the switch. It's not clear that anyone could have turned the '11 Cubs into winners, but it's hard to see where Quade was helping matters. He showed little originality in his approach to the roster and game management, and if he possessed notable off-field skills that would cancel out that deficit, they went unremarked upon. Quade was a caretaker hired by someone no longer employed, and Epstein wants a manager who brings more to the table than Quade does.
Firing the manager highlights a key point about Epstein's new job: it is a much different one than the last one he took. The 2002 Red Sox won 93 games and had a core of players, including Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra, who were good enough to win a World Series. Epstein didn't inherit a rebuilding situation, and in that more innocent time, was able to employ then-rare tools to flesh out the roster. Over a couple of years, Tony Clark, Rey Sanchez, Shea Hillenbrand and Frank Castillo became Kevin Millar, Mark Bellhorn, Bill Mueller and Bronson Arroyo, which was the improvement necessary to chase away some very old ghosts. Epstein won again in 2007, in an industry that was growing wise to his tricks. It's harder to find a David Ortiz on the waiver wire these days...