Cubs think Dale Sveum can take the heat

Cubs think Dale Sveum can take the heat
January 13, 2012, 3:26 am
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Dale Sveum hasnt heard from Prince Fielder and doesnt know where the free-agent slugger is going to get his megadeal. Their friendship wasnt going to matter much anyway. The Cubs are going in a completely different direction.

Goodbye Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, who combined for 54 homers and 173 RBI last season. A Google search for Matt Garza and trade rumors yields about 163,000 results.

Sveum wont be able to call on Sean Marshall out of the bullpen, but at least he wont have to separate Carlos Zambrano from teammates and spin the story afterward.

A new front office has traded away Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner and no-commented on Starlin Castros legal situation. Those were the faces of the future plastered all over last years Cubs Convention.

Theo Epstein could have hired a bigger name, someone with more experience. But the president of baseball operations wanted to find the next Terry Francona to front this rebuilding project.

You can already see the message (in) the additions and the subtractions, Sveum said. Were here for the long haul and were going to make this thing right, where were competing every single year (as) a team thats winning 90-plus games every year.

The Cubs have lost 178 games across the past two seasons, which explains why theyre on their third manager in the past 17 months.

Their convention opens on Friday at the Hilton Chicago, where Sveum will get a taste of what life is like inside the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon. The fans will vent about Alfonso Soriano. There will be endless questions about the lineup and changing the culture.

People around the Milwaukee Brewers wondered why Sveum didnt keep the job after clinching the wild card during a 12-game interim assignment in 2008, and why he was passed over again when manager Ken Macha was fired two years later.

That didnt matter to Epstein, who expects Sveum to grow into the job. This is someone who figured out how to last 12 seasons in the big leagues after a freak leg injury nearly derailed his playing career. In a sense, it was all preparation.

When the New York Yankees released Sveum late in the 1998 season, he decided to stick around as a bullpen catcher for the World Series run. Their manager at the time saw qualities that could make a future manager.

I always look at when teammates sort of rally around somebody, Joe Torre said. Thats always a good sign, because that means they sense an honesty and an ability to bond and communicate. (With) his baseball knowledge, nothing was ever too much.

Sveum found a way to operate within the superstar culture of the Boston Red Sox as a third-base coach on the 2004 forever team that reversed the curse. In the clubhouse he gained a reputation as someone who could stand up to players and tell them what they might not want to hear.

Sveum impressed Epstein and future Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer with all the hours he put into video work and detailed spray charts. Boston fans and media noticed Sveum for the wrong reasons, the guy who kept waving runners in and would stand there to answer for his over-aggressive mistakes.

He was always accountable for making a decision that didnt work out, Hoyer said. He owned it and thats a big part of this job. Im sure hes going to have some press conferences with you guys after the game: Why did you bring this guy in?

Hes going to make mistakes and you guys will call him on it and he has to own up to it.

Sveum, 48, knows who he is. He rides motorcycles and has tattoos all over his body. He didnt even bother to pack a sport coat when he traveled to Milwaukee to interview with the Cubs and Red Sox during the ownergeneral manager meetings last November.

The expectations are low now, but all this patience could vanish with the first three-game losing streak. Sveum believes hes ready to take the heat.

The opportunity to win when youre in these big markets, Sveum said, magnifies everything and creates an atmosphere every single night that sometimes you dont get in other cities. When you manage in these cities when the spotlights on the team and yourself all the time, it makes it a lot more enticing to have one of these jobs.