The Cubs spent Mondays off-day in Miami. The sun and the sand might as well be a postcard for the teams serenity now state of mind.
One team will be in crisis mode on Tuesday in Little Havana, and it wont be the Cubs. Ozzie Guillen returns from his five-game suspension and the Marlins will have to spin the story to their citys strong Cuban community.
Protestors may gather outside Marlins Park after Guillen made sympathetic comments about Fidel Castro in an interview with TIME magazine. The Cubs will just show up for work. Theyve already had front-row seats to the media circus.
One player compared the past few years to a runaway train. The team was up for sale, and the fans blamed everything on general manager Jim Hendry, even if it wasnt all his fault. Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano created fireworks in the clubhouse.
Inside the managers office, Lou Piniella burned out. Mike Quade won over the players during a 37-game audition, but lost them over the course of the 2011 season.
To be clear, the Cubs dont have it all figured out yet. Theyre 3-7 and the national experts seem to think theyll wind up around 90 losses.
But now that Theo Epstein has been given the keys to the kingdom, there is a sense of stability and confidence in the long-range plan. People have noticed how quiet it is around this team.
Everybody just focuses on what we do playing baseball, outfielder Alfonso Soriano said. Everybodys relaxed and enjoys what we do.
This is different now, a lot of young guys, a lot of talent, new manager, new GM. Those guys they know what theyre doing. Theyre very smart.
Dale Sveum has zero tolerance for nonsense. The manager wont have to answer for Zambranos next explosion.
Its gonna happen, an ex-teammate predicted. Its in his DNA.
The Cubs transferred more than 15 million to the Marlins in the Zambrano trade, a deal that almost certainly doesnt happen if Guillen isnt managing in Miami.
Epsteins front office consciously tried to tape a distraction-free zone around the team. Near the end of spring training Ryan Dempster who will get the start on Tuesday night was asked about the new atmosphere.
I think its too early to say, Dempster said then. DeJesus is a real problem child. This kids crazy.
Yes, the Cubs imported low-key, low-maintenance veterans like David DeJesus, Ian Stewart and Paul Maholm. Sveum created a serious environment where hitters are in the cage early and studying video on computers late.
There are so many outside distractions in baseball, (even without) the situation in Miami, outfielder Reed Johnson said. They just kind of stressed to really focus on doing the little things weve done in spring training to help us win games.
If we can do those little things, thats really going to give us our best chance to keep putting some Ws in the win column.
Sveum believes a team takes on the managers personality, and this is where the Cubs broke off from the Red Sox model.
Boston woke up on Monday trying to interpret Bobby Valentine going on television and saying that Kevin Youkilis wasnt as physically or emotionally into the game.
Sveum doesnt need to see his face on billboards, and didnt come into the season with any plans for endorsements. He shrugs and sort of chuckles in the middle of his answers, and his grammar isnt perfect.
All that masks a very sophisticated view of the game, heavy on quantitative analysis, with an understanding of its emotional rhythms.
One thing you try and do as a manager is keep everybody on the same playing field every single day and communicate, Sveum said. As a manager, you have to be the same guy every day. Its just one of those things: Keep going, its a long season.
As an organization, the Cubs dont want any surprises. The video and the numbers will tell them where to position fielders. The background reports on potential draft picks will run four- or five-pages long. Decisions wont be made from the gut. Its all about risk management.
Chris Volstad the pitcher acquired in the Zambrano trade grew up in South Florida and spent almost seven years in the Marlins organization.
When Volstad was asked what to expect for Ozzie Night at Marlins Park, he said the two words the Cubs never want to hear: Well see.