Scenes from Spring Training: It’s hard not to like Mike Quade

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I got down to the clubhouse a little late — and entered through the wrong door, oops! — but my timing ended up being pretty good, as manager Mike Quade was just opening up his office for the media gaggle.  I walked in and, as I usually do, hung in the back to take it all in.  My takeaway: Mike Quade is an impressive freakin’ individual.

It’s hard to point to a specific reason why. It’s just his manner and demeanor.  He’s a confident guy — really commands the room — but he has a self-effacing sense of humor you tend not to see from guys like that. Like Scioscia, he made a crack about his bald head. When asked about the lineup he said “I dunno guys, you have any ideas?” Based on his calendar, some photos and a sheet of postage stamps on his bulletin board, he really, really likes dogs.

And he was impressive and seemingly effortless on the normal baseball stuff that a lot of managers seem to struggle with.  He was asked about when you get on a guy for a mistake in the spring and when you don’t and his answer was immediate and straight forward (one mistake, you let it go; you deal with patterns).  He was asked a question about pitchers hitting 8th that, while I may be wrong, seemed to be calculated to get him to say something about Tony La Russa. He neither dodged it nor slammed La Russa. He said what he thought — he puts his worst hitter ninth and that’s usually his pitcher — and acknowledged that La Russa does what works for him and there’s no problem with it.

The point isn’t about the specifics of anything he said.  It was just the manner.  He seems like he has no time for baloney, but he isn’t so stridently anti-baloney that he’s going to bull through things that may seem minor with some sort of businesslike false bravado. He talked about delegating authority to coaches and being mindful of how hard it is for the marginal guys in the roster this time of year, but also made it clear that his job is to get his starting nine and pitching staff ready for the regular season.

When Lou Piniella stepped down last year and the search was on for his permanent replacement, a guy with close ties to many Cubs players told me that the strong preference of the players was for Quade to get the job. And he got the job.  And based on what I’ve seen from him, he was the right damn choice.

Rays lose, clinching postseason berth for Athletics

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The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.

Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).

Yay?

John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.

What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.

The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?