Everyone sees what Q’s done. He’s done an unbelievable job. We played hard for him — he made it easy for us to play hard for him. Following a legend and an icon is not an easy thing to do and he did it very well. I don’t know if he’ll be here next year, but the way we played will make it tough on Jim — actually, it’s a good thing to make it tough on Jim, because he has a lot of quality guys to interview. We took a step forward at the end of the season. It’s all about development — guys getting better, work their butts off this offseason and get stronger, better, faster and up their baseball IQ and we’re going to be fine.
It wasn’t the year we wanted to have or the year that I was expecting. This team is built to win. It didn’t happen. We didn’t play the way we wanted to, didn’t play up to our capability as a team. Everyone knows that, everyone sees that. At the same time, we never gave up all year long and played hard. We had some changes at the end of the season. Lou had to go home, Quade came in and we still played hard. You can see it in our record against teams that are still in it that we do have a good team. We just showed it a little bit too late. At the same time, we’re missing Ted Lilly, we’re missing Derrek Lee, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot. We wish them well. They have a chance to play for something. I wish we could’ve done it over here. Through everything, the fans have been out every single game. It showed last night and the past three nights. The fan base here hasn’t changed. Everyone loves the Cubs. Next year, we’re going to have to figure out a way to give them something to cheer about all year long and through October. When the end of the season comes, you start thinking a little about next year, and that’s what I’m doing now.
You don’t see 900 hits celebrated on ESPN or anything like when a guy gets his 1,000th hit. If you put it in perspective, 3,000 hits is a Hall of Fame career. Half of that — 1,500 hits — is a big goal of mine, especially considering where I started. I wasn’t sure after my rookie year going into my second year, when I lost my job, if I was ever going to be a starting outfielder again. To have 900 hits is huge. One thousand is a great career. If I get 1,500, that means I haven’t slowed down at all and that would be real nice.
I think the fans have to understand that getting hits in baseball isn’t easy, staying in the big leagues isn’t easy. I’ve been designated for assignment and placed on waivers. I’m going to keep going to see how many I end up with. I didn’t get the game ball. You get the ball on your 1,000th hit, 1,500th, 2,000th, 2,500th. I’ll work toward 1,000 next year and get that ball.
I know there are a lot of questions about how this team is playing and how we’ve responded since Mike Quade took over. We played as hard as we could for Lou and tried to win and it didn’t work out. He had to go home for more important business to take care of his family — everybody knows that. Quade has come in and done an unbelievable job. The atmosphere is the same, we’re still playing hard, everyone is still working hard. The coaches are still going about their business but for some reason, he’s getting wins. You have to attest a little to him.
He’s doing a great job. He’s putting guys in the right position and the right spots to win and for this team to win. I guess it’s like riding a bike for him after all the years he managed in the Minors. He took over, had a little meeting, and was ready to go on Day One. He’s done a very impressive job. He can manage and does a great job. He gets guys out there prepared and ready to play. If he’s not going to be here, hopefully he is managing somewhere soon because a team needs him and deserves him.
There’s not more energy here, it’s just a more relaxed atmosphere. I’m not saying it wasn’t like that when Lou was here. Now, it’s like, “All right, what else can we do? Let’s go play baseball and have fun.” There was pressure here because we were expected to win. I don’t know if that pressure is gone, but whatever Quade is doing, you can attest the wins to him.
We’re going to try to do the same thing against the Reds that we did in St. Louis, which is play well. We’re playing a contending team and we want to keep the streak going and try to win a series. Quade’s doing a good job, everyone’s still playing hard, as we’ve been doing all year long. The bullpen has been shutting guys down like we need and we’re scoring enough runs for the starting pitchers. We’ve got a Reds team, they might like us as players, but I think every team in the Central loves to beat the Cubs and they’re one of them. We can play the role of spoilers and make it tight for this Central race. Let’s see if we can win a couple here and let St. Louis gain some ground, and, at the same time, killing two birds with one stone, we play well. We’re trying to finish up strong. It’s a nice atmosphere in here when we’re winning.
It’s just a different voice with “Q.” Sometimes change is good for a team. At the same time, we lost a legend. It’s got to be tough on “Q.” It’s just something where I don’t know if it shocks players when you see a guy like Lou leave. Older guys have seen it. Young guys, it might be a little shock to their system. “Q” brings energy that he’s brung all year long. It’s just a different voice, and I think it’s showing in how we’re playing.
The last six weeks, Padres, Braves, the Cardinals again — they’re all first or second-place teams. They’re all in the thick of things. The Giants come to town and we’ve got Cincinnati again. You still have to get up for the games and that makes it a lot easier instead of playing teams that are having down years like we’re having. The competition is there, you see the fire on the other side. There is something to play for. It’s not fun getting spoiled if you’re the other team. When you’re the team doing it, it’s a lot of fun. It gives us something to play for. You can’t look past this season. You want to try to finish strong and go into the offseason with positive attitudes.
For me, personally, this is going to be fun. Seeing the team looking back at the scoreboard, seeing what the other team is doing to them and us trying to beat up on them. Cubs versus Cardinals, you will always see fire in those games. This whole homestand will be very difficult. Tough pitching. We have to put it together and try to have some fun.
I was traded late in 2005 from the only organization I knew to the Washington Nationals. The weird thing about getting traded is, you’re thinking, “It’s going to be great for me, a new start” and everything, but you never really know what you had until it’s gone. It seems like since I got traded, I was always trying to get back to Philly some way, some how.
For Theriot, it’s the first time he’s been through it. The Cubs will always be home for him. This is the organization he came up with. When you get drafted by an organization, you think you’re going to stay there your whole career. On the flip side, Ted Lilly has been through it. I’ve been on four teams, I think this is his sixth team. I don’t think it really fazes him. It’s the business aspect of the game.
It seems like the first time you get traded, you take it personally. You have to transfer all that energy into playing the game instead of trying to show your old team, “Hey, see what you’re missing.” That can be a positive or a negative. It was a negative for me when I went to Washington. I was trying to show the Phillies.
Everyone wishes Theriot good luck. Ted’s a vet, he’s been in this game a long time and he’ll go be Ted Lilly. We just want Ryan to go be Ryan Theriot and not try to prove anything to the Cubs, not try to prove anything to L.A. He’ll be fine.
Larry Bowa was my first manager. Frank Robinson was my second. With Bowa, you’re talking about one of the greatest shortstops of all time, even though people forget that. He had 2,800 hits and Gold Glove defense and played on championship teams. He was a fiery, fiery guy, sort of like Lou. Frank Robinson, I don’t have to say anything about him. A Hall of Famer and one of the greatest of all time — 586 home runs, a little short of 3,000 hits. I’m sure he could come back now and get them.
Then I played for Ron Washington. He’s probably the only one who’s different. I think if you mold all those guys together, you have Lou. He’s a clubhouse guy, a players’ manager as well as knows his X’s and O’s on the field. Baseball is going to miss him. He’s always going to be known for his fieriness but at the same time he’ll be known for taking teams to the playoffs and having very good teams.
Note: On Thursday, Marlon Byrd visited the Union League Boys & Girls Club on North Washtenaw Avenue to kickoff a summer-long program. It was the official launch of a community outreach program created by the Cubs and Steiner Sports Memorabilia, Inc., which will include a clinic Monday at Wrigley, hosted by Byrd and pitcher Randy Wells.
It was funny because I remember my first day at the Boys Club — me going in and meeting new people and being a little bit scared because I didn’t know anybody. The relationships that carried over — I met Dion Glover, who used to play with the Atlanta Hawks. Today just took me back. I remembered all those days and the fun we had with all the kids. Everybody was so friendly. At the same time, being able to give back and having them cheer for you and seeing the smiling faces, it was wonderful.
The All-Star Game was unbelievable. A couple lockers down from me was Albert Pujols, right around the corner, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jimenez, the Great One. The whole experience was unbelievable. I think what really capped it off was after I made that throw, after the game, having the other All-Star outfielders come up to me and say that was a heck of a play. You go out there and just try to execute and play hard. It’s the All-Star Game, and being recognized by your peers, them voting me in, and at the same time, great play, and you start realizing, “Hey, I can play this game a little bit.”
I’m the guy who flies under the radar, I try to do small things to help the team. My defense has kept me in the game. The walk to keep the game going to let the MVP, Brian McCann, come through, just little things like that, it was fun. I was really glad I was part of it.