Sveum tells Cubs: No more excuses

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Sveum tells Cubs: No more excuses

Dale Sveum dazzled Cubs executives with his information, the video analysis to help hitters and the spray charts to position defenders. But this statistic he called up could be the most telling indicator of the manager hell become.

In all my dealings in baseball, Sveum said, 99.9 percent of all players want to be looked in the face and told to get their crap together.

Clark and Addison is an increasingly corporate place, being filled with people educated at elite private schools on the East Coast. But they recognized the potential and saw themselves in Sveum, who rides motorcycles and is covered in five tattoos (he had to pause to make sure he counted them all).

Sveum knew hed be asked about how he got the nickname Nuts during Fridays news conference at Wrigley Field. He couldnt go into details about what he did as a young Brewers player, other than: It has nothing to do with my lower half.

Sveum will need a sense of humor in this job. The predictable questions came about Prince Fielder and Carlos Zambrano, though it would be shocking if either one is in a Cubs uniform next season.

Theo Epstein wasnt surprised that Fielder grew close to Sveum. The Brewers hitting coach develops those relationships all the time.

I dont think that was unique, Epstein said. Its hard in this game to find someone whos willing to go up to a superstar and just talk to them and be able to tell them sometimes what they dont want to hear. And that, ultimately, wins players respect.

The president of baseball operations was looking for someone with a backbone who could connect with players without enabling them. It will be interesting to see what happens when Alfonso Soriano stands at home plate admiring his shot or Starlin Castro fails to hustle after a ball he booted.

Youre trying to create a situation where the other team knows how you play that game, Sveum said. The worst thing that happens in baseball is when we look over and (say): Theyre dogs. Nobody plays hard over there.

You want to have catchers fear you when youre coming into home plate and not just take an easy way out and slide. That was one thing I think we established in Milwaukee. (Win or lose), they knew they were at least in a fistfight.

Sveum doesnt want to hear about the day games or the facilities or what happened in the past. These are the things managers say their first day on the job, but its exactly what Cubs fans want to hear.

Everybodys got excuses, Sveum said. Thats just a cop-out or your own insecurities if youre whining about things.

Sveum is now working for an organization sensitive to its public image and a front office that wants to control the information. It was disorienting to hear him call catcher Geovany Soto an average thrower and describe pitcher Randy Wells as easy to run on.

From Sveums perspective, those are just the details that will help you get better. You cant just let it slide because youre in the big leagues. His first coaching job in the majors came in 2004 on a Red Sox team that had Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez and won the World Series.

He came into (Bostons) superstar culture and he didnt back down at all, general manager Jed Hoyer said. He earned that respect right away. And I think some of the players at first were like: Whats this guy doing? He never backed down and the guys really embraced it.

Sveum, who will turn 48 next week, certainly saw enough of the Cubs across the years as a utility player who found a way after shattering his leg and a Brewers coach looking for every possible edge.

Sveum has three tattoos honoring his late father, who served in the Marines. One is what the son heard before he walked out the door going to a game: Give em hell. Another is a rattlesnake with the words: Pain is inevitable, suffering is just an option.

This could be the counterweight to a young, polished front office. And a sledgehammer through the clubhouse.

Whether its physical, whether its mental, Sveum said, suffering is your option if you want to whine and cry about it.

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester explains absence from Cubs' White House trip: 'Absolutely nothing political'

Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony. 

President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.

Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.

"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together." 

This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.

"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

The time Addison Russell froze up after getting a text from Eddie George

Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too. 

Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said. 

One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George. 

Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.

After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."

Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."