The Cubs have named Dale Sveum manager
After Mike Maddux pulled out of consideration for the job, citing family concerns, it seemed to me that Sveum became the favorite. Terry Francona was floated as a candidate, and was easily the most well-known of the candidates, but he took his name out of consideration a couple days ago, citing the need for a year off. I imagine a lot of fans thought that sounded like a good idea, given how the Red Sox’ season ended, and in fairness, it was never clear that he was a serious candidate in the first place. At any rate, this morning Sveum was introduced as the new manager, and he’s signed a three-year contract, with a team option for a fourth year.
Sveum is officially a first-time manager, but he did have 12 games as interim manager in Milwaukee after the club fired Ned Yost in the heat of the wild card chase in 2008. It’s easy to say that 12 games as an interim manager isn’t much on a resume, but those 12 games must have been under as much pressure as it gets for any manager, no less an interim guy, since the team was in the middle of a September collapse at the time. Whether or not it was due to Sveum’s leadership or just a coincidence, the team did right the ship, going 7-5 and making the playoffs, where they were eliminated in the first round by the eventual World Series champion Phillies.
Since that time, he’s served as the Brewers’ hitting coach. In that role, he’s had some tremendous results – the last three years have seen the Brewers with one of the top offenses in the NL – but he’s also had some elite talent to work with. I’m not sure how relevant his record as hitting coach is to his outlook as a manager, but at the very least, he’s had experience dealing with major league players (a prerequisite that Theo Epstein named when the team started the search), and has seemed to do a good job.
Nonetheless, he isn’t being hired as hitting coach; he’s being hired to help the front office implement a new organizational mindset. To that end, his introductory press conference focused on things like “playing the game the right way” and “accountability” and such platitudes. I don’t doubt that Sveum is sincere in his dedication to fundamentals and hard work, but I don’t think he said anything that anyone else wouldn’t have said in the same spot. Like any first-time (full-time) manager, he comes into his new role as a blank slate in a lot of ways.
My first impression of him is that he’s relatively young (47), and seems like he’s a low-key, level-headed guy. The Cubs have a lot of resources as an organization, but the facts remain that this is a team that is not close to having the talent at the major league level to contend, and aside from Brett Jackson also doesn’t have a lot of talent in the high minor leagues that looks ready to hit the majors any time soon. Barring major surprises, the outlook for contention in 2012 does not look good. If Sveum is as level-headed and patient as he appears, that seems likely to be an asset, at least in the near term.