There are a lot of unwritten rules in baseball. There are a lot of things that happen on the field that stay on the field. When I came up, umpires treated the veterans a little differently than they treated rookies. It was not in a bad way, it was just a respect thing, a seniority thing. Veterans have a little bigger strike zone when they’re pitching against a rookie. When I came up, Maddux, Glavine were getting calls on balls off the plate. You don’t say anything. You earn your time and you earn the right to say things.
But then it comes to a point where an umpire sometimes will say something out of the box. He doesn’t mean any harm, but he’ll say it to a young guy who doesn’t know how to take it and it gets back to the team and gets back to the manager or the front office, and after looking at the Marlins series and how the season has gone like ours, it’s not well received at all, even if it’s said in a joking manner. Maybe it can rattle a guy and when the outcome of that at-bat when he’s spoken to is a negative with a strikeout, it really doesn’t look right. The big thing in baseball is it’s a fraternity. Umpires are included in this fraternity and we all need to be on the same page and work together. Communication has to be out there.
Mike Quade had our backs in his post-game interview the other day. He said exactly what needed to be said — he didn’t say too much and didn’t say too little. He got it out there and it was heard and hopefully it doesn’t happen again. The umpire knows who he is and the player knows who he is and the umpire knows what he said. Hopefully, there’s an apology that comes the next time that crew comes to town and if not, just make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You have a guy like Ryan Dempster, who’s your bulldog when he comes in. It’s his day to pitch and you’re excited to see him on the mound. When he has to come out of the game, there’s that fire in him that he wants to stay out there and he wants to keep going strong. You have two strong-minded guys, Q and Demp. Q believed in one thing, going with his bullpen. Demp believed he could keep going strong. At the same time, people have to understand you need that. You don’t want a passive manager, you don’t want a passive starting pitcher. Sometimes you bump heads. We have 7 1/2 months together. It’s not all love. Sometimes it’s war, even in the locker room. We treat it like a family. What happened yesterday happened, and today you move on and go from there. Maybe Ramon throws six, seven innings and doesn’t want to come out and the bullpen is ready and it happens again. At the same time, that’s something that will always happen in the game of baseball just because of the competitiveness and the fire between players and staff.
If it had been Zambrano, it would’ve been blown up and blown out of proportion. The camera stays on Carlos. They’re waiting for him to have his next blow up. Dempster’s had blow ups, but you just haven’t seen them or hear about them. I’ve had my blow ups and you never hear about them. It happens to everybody. I guess it’s a Catch-22. If it’s Dempster, he gets a pass. If it’s Carlos Zambrano, it gets talked about more because he’s Big Z.
Everybody wants to talk about the three-hole. My take on it is, Mike Quade’s the manager and he makes the decision. Who he wants in the three-hole is who’s going to be there. I’ll do anything to help this team. If the team is better off with Starlin in the three-hole, that’s fine with me. If they want me in the three-hole, same thing. You have to hit in this game to stay in the top spot and the hot spot. You have to go with the hot hand. Is Starlin ready? I believe so. But at the same time, I’m a male, I have my ego, and I want to do whatever I can to stay in the three-hole. The lineup is going to go back and forth. I have to do a better job of making Quade’s job easier. Starlin is doing the job he’s doing in the one spot, Barney is doing the job he’s doing in the two spot, I have to make sure I do my job, and then one, two, three, four stays solidified. Again, you have to go with the guy who’s doing the job and driving in runs, which is Starlin. A lot of people comment about it but it doesn’t bother me. I know the job I have to do. Everything I’ve done last year, what people really don’t know is last year was the first year I really started off hot. Sometimes it takes time, sometimes you lose your swing and you have to find it. I’m going to keep battling. When September comes, I’ll be exactly where I need to be, whether it’s three, six or wherever that is.
I guess everyone knows about my blowup last Sunday in Milwaukee. There are certain things that happen in baseball that you keep in the clubhouse, you keep between the manager, you keep between the players. Quade came out and said there was miscommunication. I got asked the same question. The big thing about me is I don’t throw managers under the bus, I don’t throw coaches under the bus. The best way for me to keep DeJesus’ name, Dernier’s name and Quade’s name out of the media and my name not attached to any negativity is to not say anything. That was the only way I could get my point across to the media that day.
When you see it on ESPN or MLB Network, nobody knows the reasoning and it makes me look bad. I don’t mind that. Again, the whole point was it was handled internally and kept that way. I didn’t come out and say anything. Nobody is sure what happened and if people want to put the blame on me, that’s fine. I don’t mind that. Everyone makes mistakes in their job. But to harp on it just because a negative came out of it instead of a positive, I thought was unnecessary so that’s the reason I reacted the way I did.
I will always have my coaches backs, my whole organization’s back — all the way from the Ricketts to the clubhouse guys to the janitors to the guys working at Wrigley. I think I have respect in this game and a lot of people understand where I was coming from. The main thing was to have Mike Quade and the 25 guys on this team understand where I’m coming from and they did.
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.
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.