Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Sveum: Youth an excuse only for so long
By Bruce Levine
Dale Sveum believes he and the new Cubs regime began the change the culture of the organization last season.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum has heard all the accolades about how he and his staff did a fine job despite losing 101 games last season.
But Sveum does not buy into the praise as a validation of his goal.
"You have the hand you are dealt with and you go with that," Sveum said. "We are all in this to get to the big dance and obviously win the World Series."
Losing is a relative part of the Cubs' journey toward what they hope will be continued excellence. Sveum knew when he signed a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth year that the road to success would be a bumpy ride with a rebuilding club under a new front office led by president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
"Putting a team together is Theo and Jed's job," he said "It is my job to do the best I can with the players I have. There are always things to be filled and to get better. Patience is what it is but you can only use youth as an excuse for so long."
Sveum and his coaching staff did a lot of teaching on and off the field last season. The practical baseball stuff is consistently taught in all 30 big-league cities. The difference with Sveum and his staff was the way that the players were taught to work for playing time. Coming in with the hammer of a long-term contract was the initial way that Sveum and his staff got the players attention. The rest was about relationships and consistency in work ethic.
With a team still in the infant stages of development, Sveum believes he must do a better job in 2013 of directing his club.
"When you lose 100 games it is nice that people say that (he did well), but we hold ourselves accountable," Sveum said. "We have to be better and do a better job. We knew going in we were changing the culture of an organization and the culture of the 25 guys on that baseball field everyday. I think we accomplished a lot of things like that."
Sveum had only 12 games experience as a big-league manager before taking over the Cubs in November 2011. That has not stopped him from standing up to veterans such as Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza when they groused about coming out of games early.
"I think the people that we brought into the organization, the kids coming up and the free agents we want to sign are comfortable knowing myself and the staff are guys that are going to hold people accountable," Sveum said. "It makes a big difference when free agents hear that the manager and the staff are doing the right thing."
One baseball scout who watched Sveum go about his work was impressed with the improvement of players through a brutally long losing campaign.
"(Starlin) Castro and (Darwin) Barney got better as the season went on," said the scout who saw the Cubs 30 times in 2012. "Sveum did a tremendous job of holding the team together after they traded the veterans at the deadline. He had no starting pitching after (Jeff) Samardzjia and they lost almost every game but they continued to play hard and the young guys got better."