The easy, PR-friendly storyline to the Chicago Cubs tabbing baseball lifer Mike Quade for their new manager over Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is that the team is changing things up by taking a break from celebrity skippers.
Push aside some of the smoke, though, and I think we'd find that Quade's hiring was a shrewd and bargain-driven move by the Ricketts family, who are still in the early and difficult days of their stewardship in Wrigleyville.
Don't get me wrong. Quade could prove to be a capable manager for the Cubs — his 24-13 interim stint this season hints at that — and I'm not among the kool-aid drinkers who think hiring a guy like Sandberg or New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi would have meant instant contention in 2011.
Quade earned the endorsement of his clubhouse, has a reputation of working well with young players and rode more than enough buses in the minor leaguers to earn his chances. The 53-year-old was rewarded with a two-year contract plus an option for 2013 and I think he's as good a choice of any at this point in the Cubs history.
But whether or not GM Jim Hendry and the Ricketts based their decision on those factors above is a different debate all together. After all, the Cubs are headed toward a multi-year rebuilding period in which they'll try to develop a young core (Starlin Castro(notes), Tyler Colvin(notes)) while getting out from under some really bad contracts (Alfonso Soriano(notes), Carlos Zambrano(notes)). Things could easily get worse before they start moving toward better.
Considering that, why burn a franchise legend like Ryno by saddling him with a team that won't do his reputation many favors? Why back up the armored truck to lure Girardi from the Bronx when Quade can do the same job for a fraction of the price?
The one piece of evidence that gives me hope the Ricketts are doing what's best for the Cubs franchise — and what's not best for their pocketbook — is that Sandberg doesn't appear to have a place in the organization going forward. (Sandberg intimated as much in a radio appearance on Tuesday afternoon.)
Not having Sandberg around Wrigley Field is disappointing to me and his other fans, but at least there seems to be some conviction that Quade is the guy for the job. Sandberg won't be waiting in the wings during Quade's first extended losing streak and he's presumably free to pursue managerial openings elsewhere, including 90 miles north in Milwaukee.
So anyway, the storyline that Quade is an unassuming guy ready to roll up his sleeves and work toward building a World Series winner at Wrigley Field is a nice one and a theme I could even be talked into as the cold winter approaches and there's nothing else to do but think.
I just wonder if that's the No. 1 reason he was brought aboard full-time.