Looking to the future, Cubs bet big on Sveum

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Looking to the future, Cubs bet big on Sveum

MILWAUKEE The Cubs werent looking for a celebrity manager. Their brand name is now Theo Epstein.

The search was quick, clean and efficient everything the new president of baseball operations wants this organization to be.

It ended Thursday with Dale Sveum agreeing to a three-year deal with an option for 2015. The 52nd manager in franchise history will be introduced Friday morning at a Wrigley Field news conference.

The sum of Sveums experience as a major-league manager is 12 games with the Brewers in 2008 plus a first-round playoff exit after Ned Yost was fired. The interim manager was passed over for Ken Macha and it happened again last year with Ron Roenicke.

Back then, did Sveum ever think hed be the center of attention for two iconic teams?

So much is about timing, and here it all played to Sveums advantage. The bench is short for experienced major-league managers now available. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux didnt want to uproot his family from Texas.

Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer had confidence in the process that revealed Terry Francona and Joe Maddon as the two finalists some eight years ago in Boston. The Red Sox, of course, cast their shadow over everything.

When Epstein flew to Tampa, Fla., on Nov. 2 to fire Mike Quade in person, he had already spent weeks doing background checks on potential replacements for Francona. Two days later, Philadelphia Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin was brought in for the first interview.

The Brewers media guide lists Sveums nickname as Nuts. That bullet point didnt match up with his low-key attitude when Cubs executives put him in front of the media on Nov. 7.

The only time I really get too excited or emotional is when Im arguing with umpires, Sveum said. Other than that, I dont show a lot of emotion. So probably stoic would be (a) better way (to describe) my personality.

One trait that you have to have as a manager is never to let your players see one way or the other how youre feeling. Whether youre nervous or whether youre mad, whatever, I think its a bad trait to show body language to the players nowadays.

That familiar clubhouse presence Sveum was the third-base coach on the 2004 championship team in Boston appealed to the Cubs and Red Sox. He played parts of 12 seasons in the big leagues, which gives him instant credibility.

Sveum emerged as an All-American quarterback at Pinole Valley High School in San Franciscos East Bay region. He turned down a scholarship offer to play football and baseball at Arizona State University.

The Brewers made Sveum a first-round pick in 1982. Five years later, he generated 25 homers and 95 RBI. He was never the same player again after colliding with teammate Darryl Hamilton and breaking his leg in 1988. He has unique insight into the game.

Sveum widened his perspective during six seasons as a coach third base, bench, hitting on the Milwaukee staff.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin got used to showing up at his Miller Park office and finding Sveum already there beginning his work shift. Melvin called Sveum passionate and well-prepared, someone who knows players and has a competitive edge.

People whove known Epstein for a long time describe him as extremely competitive, someone whos always looking to get ahead and stay there. He beat his old team to Sveum.

Everything sharply came into focus this week in Milwaukee, where the owners and general managers assembled for their meetings. The Cubs jumped in front of the Red Sox and met with Sveum on Tuesday night.

Sveum then had lunch with Boston ownership on Wednesday, hours before Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts would check into the Pfister Hotel. Maddux couldnt convince himself he really wanted the job and would withdraw his name from consideration.

That night the Red Sox signaled they would expand their search and word began to spread that Sveum had an offer from the Cubs.

Epstein and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington left the meetings on Thursday with an agreement to revisit the compensation negotiations after next months Rule 5 draft. Getting Sveum to Chicago wasnt going to be the drawn-out process it was for Epstein.

The long-range plan is building from within, and the managers office will be on the ground floor. Sveum will turn 48 next week and can grow into the job. The Cubs wont need him for the headlines or to sell tickets. Everyone in the room will know: This is Epsteins guy.

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Where the Cubs needed a Javier Baez basket shot to beat Johnny Cueto last October – the swing that might have changed the entire direction of their World Series run – Kyle Schwarber left no doubt with this one.

Schwarber launched Cueto’s 91-mph fastball out of Wrigley Field and onto Sheffield Avenue on Tuesday night, setting the tone in the first inning of a 4-1 win over the San Francisco Giants with a mammoth home run that Statcast measured at 470 feet.

“Whoa, it got small fast,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s almost like when you used to watch ‘Star Trek’ when it came on and the Enterprise would just fly by the screen and get really small. It kind of had that Enterprise-esque look to it. It was there – and then it was gone.”
 
Cueto, the funky right-hander with the dreadlocks, rocker steps and quick pitches, is now dealing with blisters on his middle and index fingers, which may partially explain his 4.64 ERA and San Francisco’s 20-27 record.  

Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo jumped Cueto first pitches in the second and fourth innings, with balls landing in the right-field basket and right-field bleachers as the Cubs (23-21) played perhaps their most complete game this season.

Schwarber’s batting average will read .186 on the big video board the next time he steps into the box at Wrigley Field. But Ben Zobrist’s production as a leadoff hitter could make Schwarber more comfortable and settled in the No. 2 spot. And teams still have to account for Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed power (seven homers) and overall patience (25 walks and 4.22 pitches per plate appearance).

“It’s a continuous process,” Schwarber said. “I’m still going to work every day and trying to figure this thing out. I’m going to go up there every day and be confident.”