You may not agree with Dale Sveum bunting with his #3 hitter.
However, you do have to be impressed with the way Sveum is handling himself and the Cubs job so far.
This is a pretty tough gig for a first time manager. The Cubs job is already tough (probably top 3), but then add to it the task of rebuilding with an impatient fan base and then consider how well Sveum is handling it.
What is most impressive thus far from Sveum is his handling of the media and his players. He has handled the press with a calm, steady demeanor. He has not been intimidated one bit by the sometimes-petty bunch.
He has taken his players to task both privately and publicly somehow without it sounding like he is throwing them under the bus.
Sveum is also always searching for answers, and for a change around here he actually offers some.
Recent Cubs managers Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella became deft at throwing their hands up and deflecting blame towards the GM, saying they didn’t have any answers. It's has been refreshing to see Sveum come up with some of his own.
There have been plenty of examples.
Sveum has been candid about Chris Volstad’s struggles. Sveum has shown patience with the pitching project. Yet, he still will let you know there is a short leash any of his players.
“The slider got him in trouble again,” manager Dale Sveum said. “That thing is something that we have to work on because it’s a pitch he needs but it’s getting hit too often and too hard. He was in a situation where he needed a ground ball and couldn’t get out of it and close that thing down again. It just got out of hand again.”
Sveum was crystal clear his staff disapproved of Carlos Marmol’s reliance on his slider, and he soon removed him from closer job after warning him a change was coming. Sveum keenly sensed anymore blown games by Marmol could mentally crush this team.
Recently there was Sveum publicly and not so subtly suggesting that Alfonso Soriano use a lighter bat. It seems Soriano obliged and some results are coming from it. Sveum wasn’t at all coy about wanting more production from his fifth hitter and letting everyone know Soriano still hasn’t given in totally to his suggestion.
"Whatever it is, it's a strange phenomenon that (Brewers rookie) Edwin Maysonet has more home runs than Alfonso Soriano right now," Sveum said. "That's tough to swallow, because we've got to get some two- and three-run home runs out of that position. We're having trouble sustaining innings enough."
Sveum recently asked Soriano to swing a lighter bat, and Soriano said he did go down one ounce a couple of weeks ago, from 33 1/2 ounces to 32 1/4.
Sveum said Soriano was "OK" with the request, but added: "He didn't quite go as far as I wanted with a lighter bat."
"It's one of those things where you can tell a guy to use a really small, light bat," Sveum said, laughing. "Physics alone, it makes sense."
Sveum has also been quick to say he won’t tolerate walks from his bullpen. Today he is trying to come up with an answer for the struggling Kerry Wood. Sveum said Wood might have to throw more in the bullpen warming up.
"It's one of those things," Sveum said. "The ball is coming out of his hand well, but (he issues) four-pitch walks right away."
Sveum adds today that closer Rafael Dolis needs to use his slider more.
"He can't keep throwing fastball after fastball," he said. "He has a good slider and he has to use it. Not that that was the place or anything, but I think he's learning to use that pitch more."
I think for the short time Sveum has been in charge he has layed down the law in quick order. This is a guy who knows how he wants things done. I am looking forward to watching him get even more comfortable as the season moves forward along with some changes to the club.
Finally, Sveum even has an answer for those who question how often a manager for a sabermetric reliant front office is playing so much “small ball”.
"You wanna talk about (sabermetrics), then OK," he said.
"Then you talk about the team that has more people on base during the course of the game is going to win way more games than the other teams. You want to keep intentionally walking guys and all that? Then the odds gradually come (the opposing team's) favor to win the game. If (the opposing team's) third, fourth and fifth hitters get up five times in a game, you've got a chance of losing that game at an alarming rate."
Whether you agree with it or not, he gave you another answer.