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.”
Sveum signed a three-year contract with a fourth-year club option in November of 2011. He has watched some of his young players struggle on both offense and defense this season.
“We are never happy with all of the young players’ production,” he said. “We do think that Anthony Rizzo has progressed even with some tough patches along the way. When you project a young power hitter for 25 home runs and 80 RBIs in his second year and first full season, that isn’t bad. The average isn’t where it should be. You can say the same thing for Castro and his hitting. The one thing you look at is how they handle adversity. You look at these young guys and see if they can be championship-caliber players when we are ready to win. The adversity is something almost all players go through, so you learn from it and the mistakes you make. That is a part of the evaluation as to what these players are made of and what to expect when they are in September and vying for a pennant.”
One major plus of a Sveum-led team has been total commitment by his players and staff despite the continuous losing.
“You can’t play for people,” Sveum said. “The one thing you can expect is a good effort every time they play. We don’t have patience for not playing hard or being prepared. We expect that guys are going to work to make themselves better every day.
“We get frustrated with things. We are all human beings, but you can never let the players know that. We have been really good at trying to make guys better and show a positive attitude through tough times in these situations.”