Chicago Cubs: Managing
CHICAGO – Former Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum had nothing bad to say Friday about his time on the North Side, but did suggest that his candor wasn’t always appreciated.
Back in Chicago this weekend as the hitting coach for the Kansas City Royals, Sveum said his time as Cubs manager was a good experience and he still sends text messages on occasion to both team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
But Epstein and Hoyer might not have always appreciated Sveum’s tendency to speak his mind about his players during his two-year stint as manager, which ended after last season.
“I’ll take the fifth on that one,” Sveum said with a chuckle before Friday's game against the Chicago White Sox when asked about his tell-it-like-it-is style.
Nevertheless, Sveum said he wouldn’t have changed anything.
“That’s the way I am,” Sveum said. “Players know when you change and you’re not yourself. I am what I am. Maybe I would have left a pitcher in an inning more or took him out an inning earlier and all that, but I don’t think how I managed, and managed people and the communication, I’m not going to change that way.”
Sveum started this season as the Royals’ third-base coach, but when the offense struggled he replaced hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who was moved to catching instructor.
Under Sveum’s tutelage, the Royals’ power-strapped offense has delivered at least six runs seven times in the past 14 games.
With Sveum as Cubs manager, key players such as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo failed to produce as expected, which likely was one of the reasons Sveum was let go. He doesn’t see it as an indictment of his leadership abilities that both players have been better this season.
“People grow into being better hitters,” Sveum said. “You guys heard me say that many a time. It’s age and learning and getting all these major league at-bats, it’s all different things. Don’t forget, I was the one to ask Rizzo to finish low and lower his hands. So you can mix apples and oranges, but I wish them all the best. I got fired, but they’re still people I care about.”
The entire experience with the Cubs hardly soured Sveum on managing. Asked if he would like to manage again, the 50-year-old emphatically said he would. He said that’s why he immediately jumped at the Royals’ offer to be a coach instead of sitting out a year knowing he was still getting paid by the Cubs.
So how long did it take before the Royals reached out to him?
“The phone did ring pretty quick; I was on the way back to my apartment [after getting fired],” Sveum said. “It didn’t take too long to get a new job, which was great. People thought just because I was getting paid that I was going to sit around for a year, but that’s not the way I am and I know how hard it is to get back in this game as well. I enjoy it, and I enjoy being on the field in any capacity.”
Sveum might not show a lot of emotion, but that is much different than being an unhappy person. He might have been taken aback over his firing at the time, but he has no hard feelings at the decision made by the Cubs’ front office.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “You wish them all the best. We all have these jobs to get fired someday, and there’s not a lot of [longevity] for most people. It was a great experience in a great city. This is the best city in the country as far as I’m concerned.
“Managing every day in the National League, obviously the game gets going a little bit in the seventh inning on. So you have all that under your belt that you’ve done it and you’ve done it to the best to your ability. It’s a great, great experience and I’ll always thank Theo and the Ricketts family for giving me the opportunity.”
“I know the quality of teacher he is, the quality of coach that he is,” Yost said on Day 1 of the winter meetings. “One of the best coaches that I’ve ever had.”
CHICAGO -- Donning a Chicago Cubs jersey for the first time, new manager Rick Renteria is excited about the opportunity to lead the Cubs, including embattled shortstop Starlin Castro.
Castro is coming off his worst season as a professional -- hitting just .245 -- but the positive-minded Renteria is ready to go to work on him -- and the rest of the team.
Former manager Dale Sveum wasn’t one to shy away from a tough conversation, but the key difference with the new coaching staff might come down to that one word: teaching.
Team President Theo Epstein was asked what the major goal was in recent hirings, including former batting champion Bill Mueller as hitting coach and newly retired player Eric Hinske as first base coach.
“To find as many coaches as we can that can impact players,” he responded. “It takes a special personality as well as experience to actually reach the modern player. To dig deep and engage ... and find out what makes them tick.”
That might be Renteria’s strength. His positive attitude became an attribute early in his career. At Class-A ball in 1982 he had his best year as a professional, hitting .331 with 14 home runs and 100 runs batted in. His manager was former infielder for the Detroit Tigers, Johnny Lippon.
Epstein and Hoyer like most of what Sveum and his staff have done in his two years on the job. Despite their warm and fuzzy feelings for Sveum and his coaches, it’s wise to investigate accomplished free-agent managers like Joe Girardi.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs' formula for becoming a perennial contender has had its impact on the club’s manager and coaching staff. For the second consecutive season Dale Sveum and his supporting group of coaches have had to watch the front office trade away the top veteran player on the team in July for prospects of the future.
The numbers don’t lie. The Cubs have had only two winning months in the two seasons since Theo Epstein and Co. took over the shop in October of 2011 -- July 2012 and 2013. August has been a painful experience. The Cubs are a combined 15-44 in their last two Augusts. Those two months are the worst the team has had over the past two seasons.
Sveum, who was a guest on ESPNChicago 1000’s “Talkin Baseball” on Saturday, said getting through tough times, such as when the Cubs blew five-run leads twice this week, requires tough people.
“I am not going to sit here and tell you these losses aren’t devastating,” said Sveum. “That is especially true of some of them this week. My job is to keep my head up and help my staff keep fighting to stay up. You have to understand there is a tomorrow, so we keep working with the players to keep them motivated and get better.”
On a 2-2 count Puig checked his swing as home plate umpire Kerwin Danley appealed to first base umpire Lance Barksdale to no avail.
Puig walked one pitch later and that’s when Sveum was ejected from the dugout by Barksdale. Replays showed Puig more than likely swung at the pitch.
Sveum was ejected earlier this month for arguing a check-swing call that went against the Cubs' Donnie Murphy. Sveum described the call against Murphy as "easily the worst check-swing call I've ever seen."
Special to ESPNChicago.com
ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum received his third ejection of the season Monday night after arguing a close play at home plate in the seventh inning.
With the St. Louis Cardinals leading 2-0 and runners on second and third and one out, Pete Kozma hit a sharp grounder to third baseman Luis Valbuena, who knocked it down but threw late to first base. Anthony Rizzo then threw home as Yadier Molina broke for the plate, but the throw was wild.
Catcher Welington Castillo retrieved the ball and threw to pitcher Travis Wood, covering the plate, apparently in time to get the sliding Molina.
Umpire D.J. Reyburn, however, called Molina safe, bringing Sveum out of the dugout to protest the call.
“The throw definitely beat him,” said Sveum. “He (Reyburn) said he got it right.
“It was a big play in the game at that time. We had our best pitcher on the mound, he blocks the plate and gets there, it’s an out call. The ball beat him (Molina) by a lot. That’s what I saw on the replay.”
That play led to another run in the inning, and the Cardinals added another in the eighth for the 5-2 victory.
Wood said he had not seen a replay, but thought he tagged Molina before he reached the plate.
“My take was that he was out but he (Reyburn) has the overall say and he called him safe,” Wood said. “We’ve got to overcome that and get after the next batter and make the pitches.”
The ejection was the seventh for Sveum in his two seasons as the Cubs’ manager.
Guccione called an outside borderline pitch by Jeff Samardzija to Ryan Braun a ball, prompting Samardzija to yell towards home plate. That’s when Guccione ripped off his mask and stared back at the Cubs pitcher.
“As far as I was concerned you can have a little emotion out there about some calls,” Samardzija said afterwards. “I didn’t think I did anything out of line. I made a comment and that was it and he decided to show me up from behind the plate.”
CHICAGO -- First-year Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum says he prides himself on his patience. It will be interesting to see if he has any remaining heading into year No. 2 of a poise-crushing rebuilding project.
Sveum was at the helm during just the third season of at least 100 losses in the long history of the Cubs and the first since the club lost 103 games in 1966. The club also lost 103 games in 1962.
In fact, Sveum was told during his interview that he wouldn’t be judged on victories, but rather his ability to teach and to forge a unified clubhouse.
In that sense, Sveum, along with bench coach and right-hand man Jamie Quirk, delivered exactly what was expected.
But was everything perfect? Not exactly.
Sveum insisted on going to his right-handed hitting bench over and over again, even though it showed early in the season that it was having difficulty against left-handed starters.
He and pitching coach Chris Bosio let Jeff Samardzija run wild with an ineffective curveball for a month, although the argument could be made that by letting him see that it wasn’t a good pitch for him, Samardzija was able to strengthen his resolve around the pitches he does throw well.
And Sveum was quick to jump on young shortstop Starlin Castro for his mental gaffes, even though there were plenty of other issues from players up and down the roster.
He clearly had the respect of his players, though, establishing a no-nonsense attitude that prevented infighting in the face of all that losing.
Baker, 63, made it to his 3,000th career game as manager on Tuesday night, but before his 3,001st game could even begin, he was taken to the hospital for what was originally supposed to be a chest X-ray to check for pneumonia. It was instead discovered that he had an irregular heartbeat.
Baker stayed in the hospital Wednesday night and is expected to remain there again Thursday night before flying home to Cincinnati on Friday. It is not known if he will return to the bench Friday when the Reds play host to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs’ Dale Sveum, who isn’t even at the end of his first season as a manager, was asked about the pressures of the job.
“It’s a demanding job there is no question about it,” Sveum said. “Whatever health issues we all have you never take your health for granted. But all our prayers and everything go out, and hopefully everything is good with Dusty because he’s a great guys and the rest of this year will be important for him to be around and healthy.”
Reds bench coach Chris Speier, who has taken over for Baker the past two games, sees the stresses first hand but still aspires to be a major league manager one day.
“I was kidding him that no wonder you have heart problems,” Speier said. “But all kidding aside, there are a lot of things that go into it. I think anybody that has been involved in baseball – I’ve been in it close to 40 years – you always look forward to these types of opportunities (to manage) but it takes a special man and a special breed to do it especially as long as Dusty has done it and how successful he’s been.”
Despite Baker’s heart scare, the reds still managed to win Wednesday night’s game in extra innings.
“I worry about Dusty,” Speier said. “Everybody at this time of the year is a little beat up is a little tired, but I don’t think you really understand the scope of being mentally tired that affects the physical tired because of the managing job. He’s done it for so long and is used to it but I was thinking about it last night that ‘Wow, he’s done this for 3,000 games.’”
After his first 162 games, Sveum wil make it a point ot get away for a while.
"There will be some decompressing time, there is no question about it," Sveum said. "I think we all have to kick back and relax for a while and get away from it. There will be that point where you start grinding all over again come November and December and obviously after the first of the year everything will get kicked in again. But you have to find an outlet and kick back a while."
WASHINGTON – It was expected to be a rough season for the Chicago Cubs, which doesn’t mean all the losing has been easy to take for first-year manager Dale Sveum.
“I’m not going to say I sleep perfectly every night,” Sveum said. “There are definitely some sleepless nights but (I get) enough sleep, I guess. Then there are the nights you sleep a lot because you haven’t slept in a while.”
The Cubs entered play Thursday with a 51-85 record, ahead of only the Houston Astros (42-95) in all of baseball.
Not much has gone right this season, and when the Cubs started to play better, their roster was gutted at the non-waiver trade deadline.
The Cubs are dead last in the National League in hits, walks and on-base percentage. They are second to last in runs scored and team batting average.
In the first year of his tenure Sveum is being judged on how he is able to teach a young roster and whether or not he can get them to buy into changes vital for future success. At some point, though, wins and losses will determine his job security.
Whether that takes another year or two remains to be seen.
“I don’t really dwell on when I’m going to be judged,” Sveum said. “I’m just trying to be a guy that right now has to teach. You have to keep your coaching staff positive as well. It’s not that easy for a staff sometimes, and understand that this is where we are and these kids are trying to survive and we have to make it easier on them to survive.”
The rigors of the season appeared to show Wednesday when Sveum argued with home-plate umpire Larry Vanover because he thought Vanover was staring down the Cubs dugout. After the game he was testy when asked about Chris Volstad’s struggles.
“I am a very patient guy so that’s one thing I have going for me,” Sveum said, “But I ain’t going to lie to you, patience will only go so far too where you do snap. Usually when I do it not too many people will see it except maybe the individual (being talked to).”
With the Cubs’ staff chirping at home-plate umpire Larry Vanover following some questionable calls in the fifth inning, Sveum moved to protect his troops.
“I just don’t think that’s right when you’re looking at our dugout for no apparent reason at all,” Sveum said, referring to Vanover.
Sveum did admit that the bench had expressed displeasure with Vanover’s calls. In particular question seemed to be when Welington Castillo struck out looking.
For several years, Sandberg relished the time in upstate New York catching up with Gary Carter, another Hall of Famer who was pursuing the same goal of managing in the big leagues. Sandberg, the quiet, focused guy, and Carter, the chatty extrovert, shared their experiences in the minors, from the rigorous travel to the challenges and rewards of working with young players.
"He seemed to be frustrated with the lack of movement upward with the Mets organization, so he spent some time in independent ball," Sandberg says. "We compared notes, and I know that he was pulling for what I was doing."
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It won’t be as simple as that to get him back on track offensively, of course. The Cubs just needed Rizzo to step back, catch his breath and get right back at it again after a little instruction. Bryan LaHair got the start at first base Wednesday.
“He’s not feeling right at the plate and it’s just snowballing now so you just want to stop that from snowballing any further and let him kick back,” manager Dale Sveum said. “He worked with (hitting coach James Rowson) today and he can get things ironed out.”
Rizzo looked defeated Tuesday night, not only going 0-for-4, but striking out three times while barely putting up a fight. He did have a hit in four of his five games before play Tuesday, but he has been more of a singles hitter while batting .240 in August.
Rizzo has just three extra-base hits (two doubles and a home run) in 100 at-bats this month.
“We’re trying to work things out,” Sveum said. “It’s adjustments as much as thoughts and thinking too much and trying to do too much all the time instead of letting it happen.”
Sveum didn’t want to portray the struggles as anything more than a young player trying to find his way in the major leagues.
“To me it’s just more of a young man that got here and was obviously on top of the world with doing everything and unfortunately sometimes in this game , like you try to tell some guys, for some reason in this game when you’re going good you’re just putting yourself in a slump sometimes,” Sveum said. “Why that happens is the million-dollar question as to why you are on top of the world and the next day you feel like you’re on ice skates in the batter’s box. But that’s why you give guys days off and let them kick back and regroup and go get them again.”
There aren’t too many top prospects left to add to the expanded September roster, but for the ones that do arrive, the expectations are somewhat simple.
“If you’re here for a short amount of time, you’re not worried about stats, you’re worried about what you see with bat speed, the intelligence, the willingness and the ability to make adjustments when things might be out of whack,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Those are the things you’re judging and evaluating more than the stats.”
For Rizzo the assessment has been easy. He was well ahead of the learning curve when he arrived to the Cubs and put on an impressive offensive show practically immediately. Jackson and Vitters, on the other hand, have been evaluated more on intangibles.
Jackson has had a rocky start to his major league career, entering Monday’s game with 31 strikeouts in 63 at-bats. But he has settled into a comfort zone as his three home runs over a seven-day stretch would show.
Vitters has dealt with his own struggles on offense, but has been better than advertised with the glove, which isn’t to say that he won’t need additional defensive work. He was in the starting lineup Monday, carrying a .102 batting average into the game and a .118 on-base percentage.
Sveum was asked if he knew he would already be in development mode in August when he was hired over the winter.
“I don't know if we used the word ‘know,’ but there was a possibility,” he said. “Obviously we all knew that going in because Brett Jackson's development was going to be up, Vitters development was going to be up, as well as maybe some of the pitchers we (brought) up got here because of (various) reasons. Because of trades they might not have the complete development that we wanted but we knew that there was a very good chance after the trade deadline that these things were going to happen.”