The national media has already started guessing who might be the next Cubs manager.
Dale Sveum hasn’t shown any outward signs of stress, answering questions about his job security in his matter-of-fact tone. But there was definitely a level of anxiety on Wednesday as the Cubs closed down their 98th season at Wrigley Field.
“I’m not going to sit here and lie (and say) you’re not wondering what’s going to happen in four or five days from now,” Sveum said. “That’s just human nature. But there’s nothing you can do about it. (You don’t) control those decisions. You just keep plugging away.”
Sveum Watch started on Sept. 17 when team president Theo Epstein declined to answer a yes-or-no question and say the manager would be back in 2014. It might not end until Sept. 30, the day after the season, when the Cubs send smoke signals from the team’s Clark Street headquarters.
Sveum believes there’s nothing else he can do to impact the evaluation process, which could at least result in a shakeup of his coaching staff.
“I’m not going to do anything different than I have for two years,” Sveum said. “I’m just going to do what I do, and the evaluation is up to them. I don’t think four games is going to change anything.”
Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer hired Sveum in November 2011, believing his patience and sense of calm would make him a good fit for the job. Sveum had the long-term perspective of a coach who helped the Milwaukee Brewers develop their homegrown core — Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks — into a playoff contender.
“I don’t really try and be anything other than who I am,” Sveum said. “That’s how I live my life, and that’s just my personality as much as anything. I don’t let a lot of things bother me or dwell on things. There are frustrations that go along with everything, but I don’t really take it home with me.”
These two seasons will put almost 200 losses on Sveum’s resume, but the front office is more concerned with player development, managing the long-term roster and building relationships.
Anthony Rizzo is hitting .182 with runners in scoring position and falling into deep slumps where he goes weeks between home runs. Darwin Barney’s Gold Glove defense at second base has been offset by his .209 average. Dropping Starlin Castro to No. 8 in the lineup for a game last month angered the All-Star shortstop, who has looked lost at the plate this season.
Sveum said he understood what he was getting into at Clark and Addison, where Cubs executives gave him a three-year contract with a club option for 2015 — instead of two guaranteed years — knowing this wasn’t going to be a quick fix.
“The bottom line is we haven’t won as many games as you’d like,” Sveum said. “But I knew in getting this job that there was going to be a very good chance that people were going to be traded for prospects, (that) we needed to get the minor-league system much healthier and hit the jackpot on some free agents that we sign.
“Nothing’s really changed (from what) I was told. You’re never promised anything.”
Epstein and Hoyer had insisted that Sveum wasn’t hired to be a puppet manager or a placeholder and projected that he would grow into the position. But there’s no guarantee that it will be Sveum’s expressionless face staring out from the dugout when the Cubs matter and Wrigley Field is rocking again.
“That’s why you take these jobs when you know things are not going to be all that good at the beginning,” Sveum said. “You hope you’re around for when things turn around. There’s no question that’s what we do this for — to win and be here when we’re getting ready to be very competitive.”