Dusty to Sveum: Good luck, youll need it

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Dusty to Sveum: Good luck, youll need it

MESA, Ariz. It will take years before Theo Epsteins scouting and player development machine is up and running.

The buzz the Cubs generated with this hire will eventually wear off and everyone will see just how patient the fans will be with a rebuilding project.

Patience is a real virtue here, Dusty Baker said Monday. Theyve been patient for a hundred years. Thats a hard sell in Chicago more patience. They might be patient for a little while, but unlike any other place Ive been, people count. They can add real good in Chicago. Everybody men, women and children.

Thats a century and counting since winning the World Series, which has made this job so appealing, frustrating and disappointing. The Cubs are on their third manager in the past 19 months. The Cincinnati Reds manager gets asked about and compared to each one.

Baker once had the Cubs five outs away from the 2003 National League pennant. Baker likes Dale Sveum, wishes him luck and wants to beat him 16 times this season.

Sveum believes this job is different, but only to a certain point. He says its nothing he hasnt really seen before after wearing a New York Yankees uniform and coaching alongside Terry Francona with the Boston Red Sox.

The history and all that goes along with Chicago and the Cubs, Sveum said, of course its different than managing some small markets. Theres no question about it. Thats the way it is here and in Boston and New York and the big markets. Theres no doubt its different.

Theres more media. Theres more scrutinizing. Theres going to be the second-guessing of everything. Theres going to be all that. Its nothing you dont know. Its not like Ive never been in a big market before. You know what all goes on.

Sveum can be blunt, his voice is monotone and he doesnt appear to have any nervous energy. Hes about to find out what life is like inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.

It depends on how they do, Baker said. You got to wait awhile before you make that assessment. Give him a couple years. He might say the same things.

Baker had just guided the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series when he moved to the North Side. He had been a big-league manager for the previous 10 seasons, and played almost two decades in the majors. He still didnt quite know what he was getting into (the same could be said for Lou Piniella).

The national anthem is my favorite time of the day, Baker said. During those three hours, the games the same. The difference is what happens and whats entailed before the game and after the game. Thats the difference and the vibes that you get, positively and negatively, from everything involved.

Baker pushed the right buttons as the Cubs won the division in 2003. The Bartman Game jacked up expectations, but the team slowly spiraled downward. A last-place finish in 2006 got Baker fired and triggered a huge Tribune Co. shopping spree.

In 04, we kind of stood pat and even subtracted, Baker said. We didnt reload. That would have been the time to reload when youre getting close. They reloaded after I left. That was the only regret.

Epstein says the Cubs are going to be a sustainable organization, not a team that gets lucky one year and then disappears. There will be growing pains to get there. The president of baseball operations recognized in Sveum some of the same qualities he once saw in Francona.

It sounds like Sveum plans to be more insulated from the media than Piniella or Mike Quade, who seemed to want to take the pulse of the city. Sveum isnt on Twitter, doesnt follow blogs and wont listen to talk radio.

I dont do anything like that now, so Im not going to start, Sveum said. Basically, all I know how to do is get on the Internet and check scores on my phone and e-mail a little bit. But Im not searching out articles. To me, that doesnt even make sense why you would read good or bad (stuff). Obviously, we know theres going to be more bad than good, so its kind of irrelevant to look at (that).

I got better things to do than seek out articles on myself or the team. Im living the team the nine innings every single night. (I) dont have to look to find out what somebody else thinks. I know whats going on.

Welcome to Chicago, where everyone questions about the lineup, little things become big news and the interview room feels like a dungeon. Just ask Baker.

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”