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Is Sveum really to blame? A balanced look at the beleaguered Cubs manager

Is Sveum really to blame? A balanced look at the beleaguered Cubs manager

I've never been one to think that managers have that much impact one way or the other on a game to game basis.  There is lots of data to show this is true.  Yet whenever something goes wrong, the manager is to blame.  It goes with the territory.

I tend to have a mixed opinion here.  I see a manager's most important duty as his ability to manage personalities and distribute playing time down the roster, but I don't see the day-to-day decisions as being much of a factor (i.e. should he have bunted, did he pull the pitcher too early? Too late?)

A lot of emphasis tends to go toward the latter and it's a common complaint I get from some readers.  My answer is that, though we don't see it, those kinds of decisions are based in large part to random fluctuation.  Those decisions tend to even out much more than we think because, once we decided the manager is to blame, we selectively choose to confirm our bias.  We'll mention every time the "wrong" relief pitcher was used, but ignore the times when the "right" decision was made.  I barely heard a peep out of Twitter when Sveum made a series of correct bullpen moves that ensured a Cubs one-run victory against the Pirates om the last series (though our guy Felzz was on top of things there) -- but the very next day when his reliever gave up a run, the anti-Sveum contingent was out again in full force.  The quality of the bullpen pitchers also plays a factor.  Hard to make the "right" decision when you are likely to get scored on no matter who you put in.

I've heard complaints ranging from not using a pitcher to pinch-hit for Donnie Murphy (so that he can bunt) to not arguing about a play that was "clearly" fan interference -- yet pretty much missed by everyone involved.  It obviously wasn't that clear.  It struck me that those were extreme reaches to place blame on a guy who has become a convenient target.

It makes great talk show fodder because a manager and his decision making process is such a visible target.  It's a game we can play along -- decision-by-decision -- where we also happen get the benefit of hindsight.  We make note of a managerial decision when it doesn't work.  We discard it when it does work.  And so the balance seemingly shifts to a series of bad decisions, not because that's necessarily what's happening, but because that's the way it is perceived to be happening.  How easy is it to go back and point out all the mistakes a manager makes in a loss?  We can do with any manager in any game for any given team.

The narrative that Sveum is to blame on a game to game basis is not one to which I personally subscribe.  I think those in-game decisions even out pretty close to 50/50, to the point where a managers decisions may only affect a few games one way or the other over a season long sample size -- and even that can swing in the other direction the very next season.

That is not to say I'm absolving Sveum and saying he has no impact on the Cubs performance as a whole.  I do think managers play some role in a team's success, but I think it needs a bigger picture perspective.

I'm more concerned about how a manager...

  1. Manages his players and their personalities
  2. How he distributes playing time and whether he puts his players in a position to succeed
  3. (In a rebuilding situation), how his players develop over the course of a season.

Managing player/personalities

The first example is a bit abstract and difficult to measure but managers to some degree are salesmen.  You have to know and understand your players and you have to get them to "buy in" to what the team is doing.  A name that comes to mind that was a success in this area was former Bulls coach Phil Jackson.  In baseball, Joe Maddon fits the bill while, on the other end of the spectrum. we saw Bobby Valentine almost single-handedly take down a once powerful Boston Red Sox team.  It's a part of the job that's easy to do when a team is winning, however, and not so easy when the team is losing.  So even that is influenced by team performance.  I can think of no better local and recent example than former Cubs color analyst and Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. When the Arizona Diamondbacks were hitting on all cylinders, the team tolerated his abrasive, micro-managing style.  When they didn't win the next season, they quickly tuned him out and he lost control of the team, ultimately leading to his demise as a manager.

I bristled when Dale Sveum called out his young players publicly early in the season but I also believe he learned from that mistake.  Sveum has seemed to keep that player criticism in-house.   Moreover, I've always seen Sveum's criticism as constructive.  He wants his players to improve and the criticism tends to focus on that goal, but keeping that in house is an area in which he has greatly improved as the season has progressed.  We can't forget that he's learning as much as some of his players in some respects.

Distribution of playing time

There are areas to improve, as some have noted.  James Russell has been overused, though some of that had to do with lack of personnel early in the season.  The Cubs now have Zac Rosscup and Brooks Raley as additional lefties in the pen.  Sveum hasn't learned to trust them yet and so Russell's workload has remained heavy.  Sveum has fallen in love with Russell, much as he fell in love with Shawn Camp last season.  When you have a bullpen as frightful as the one the Cubs have, perhaps a security blanket is almost a necessity.  Sveum needs to learn to trust more of his bullpen, but by the same token he needs better personnel for that to happen.  It's a two-way street.

We also talked about perhaps giving Anthony Rizzo a day off against a tough lefty like Francisco Liriano -- especially late in his first full MLB season and one in which a day game followed a night game.  Others have pined for Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro to get more rest.  Again, this is partly due to a lack of personnel.  I imagine if Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy were utility players as they should be, Sveum would be more inclined to find spots to play them and rest Castro and Barney.

But Sveum has also been pretty good about putting players in positions to succeed.  Some complained that Bryan LaHair didn't play enough against lefties and should have been an everyday player.  It's easy to say now that should not have happened and that the Cubs managed to stretch out LaHair's production and value to it's very limits last year.  They have also made great use of Nate Schierholtz, though he is tiring now, as well as rotating outfielders Ryan Sweeney, Junior Lake, and Bryan Bogusevic.  All have thrived as they've been put in situations where they matched up well.

I also like the way Welington Castillo was eased into a full-time role over the past two seasons.  Catching is a demanding, grinding job and not every player can be thrust into that role -- especially one who still had work to do in managing a game.  Here is a good example where the Cubs had good depth and it allowed Sveum to gradually bestow the full-time role on Castillo.  Dioner Navarro had an excellent season and Sveum didn't hesitate to use him to give Welly a breather.  The same will happen, as I said above, once Sveum has guys like Valbuena and Murphy that he can bring off the bench in the infield or when he has other guys in the bullpen he can trust.

Developing players

This is the toughest task the Cubs have assigned Sveum.  You would hope that by the time the players reached the majors, they would only need occasional fine-tuning and adjusting -- but Sveum has had to try and develop more than his share of flawed players.  Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters were early examples of players who received more than your normal amount of instruction at the MLB level.  Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are players who have had to make big adjustments as MLB' ers and both have struggled to adapt at this high level of competition.  The jury is still out on both but I have greater hope for them because of their past record of success and because each have shown glimpses of being that improved player we all want them to be.

Again,a good example of a player who has developed well has been Welington Castillo, who has gone from a talented player with gifted skills to a player who has supplemented those gifts with proper technique and a greater understanding of the game.

While there is some worry that the young core has struggled and that that may have some implication on the Cubs next wave of talent, which includes top prospects like Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Albert Almora.  My answer to that is that you hope that these players come to the majors more prepared for the big leagues than their predecessors, so that they won't need big changes once they arrive in the pros.  The hope is that this part of Sveum's responsibilities as a manager will be greatly diminished over the next couple of years as the Cubs have assigned greater responsibility for development to their farm system -- where it should be.  That would leave him to concentrate on the first two areas we talked about.

It's too early to judge Sveum and certainly to move on to a different manager.  Yes, it's been two years, but it's been a very atypical two years for a manager in that he didn't have the luxury of handling talented, MLB-ready players from day one.   Of course, some of that improvement has been laid at Sveum's feet as well and ultimately he will be judged partly on how much progress his young core makes.  But whether you agree with how he's done it, he has put the work in with his young core and I think he deserves the chance to see what he can do once those players start performing better on a consistent basis.

I don't see Sveum as a point A to point B guy.  I see him simply as the best available choice at that time and the Cubs will give him every chance to succeed, in part because continuity also plays a role with a young developing team.  He'll be judged on whether he's the guy to take the team to the next level when the team itself is ready to reach the next level.  That is only fair.

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  • YAY! The voice of reason regarding Sveum. Thanks again John. Good objective writing that helps us to keep in proper perspective the real influence on the manager. Might I even suggest that I still think Sveum might even be slightly an above average MLB manager or is that taking it too far? Either way, I think his influence on this teams Wins and Losses are a wash.

  • In reply to KSCubsFan:

    Thanks. It may be early for that too, but you have to think the Cubs must have thought he had a chance to be that when they hired him.

  • t\The criticism of Sveum is varied, as one might expect considering the various opinions regarding the importance of one phase or another of the game. My complaint has to do with preparation and fundamentals. Good major leaguers don't need a lot of calisthenics to hone their readiness to play. This is less true with the inexperienced players like we have on this club. They seem to me to be poorly prepared on a day to day basis to throw to the correct base, run the bases intelligently, and be on their toes and keep their noses in the game. I can only ascribe this to inadequate effort by the manager and his coaches.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    That's a fair point. Let me ask your opinion on a few things, if you don't mind. How much do you think that being prepared to play and lack of fundamentals has to do with development at the farm level?

    Also, how much should be tolerated of inexperienced players? They will make mistakes as we all know. It's part of the process. But at what point do you differentiate between expected youthful mistakes and one where there are too many mistakes? If there are too many, some of that goes back to the bare bones development system the team had at the minor league level before the new FOs arrival.

    I think it's a complicated question, to be honest, with no easy answer.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    I agree with you Bloomie. Strategy is an area Sveum has been weak in; we steal bases, hit and run, hit behind the runner, etc. And before someone says we lack speed to steal bases, well, proper technique and picking the right time to steal can work. How many times have we had a runner on base with less than two outs, and a slider-ball pitcher on the mound. Perfect guy to steal from, as his pitch most likely will be in the dirt, making it difficult for the catcher to throw out the runner.

    If Joe Girardi is available this winter, I am in favor of signing him. With the players coming up, knowing they are going to be managed by a guy with championship pedigree, as well as knowing the nuances of Wrigley Field and day baseball, the respect will be there. Hiring him makes so much sense for the current team, future players, and the fans. But I would hope we can keep Bosio and McKay, two proven coaches.

    I really cannot stomach another seaosn of Sveum. Why let him manage next season if everyone is so sure he cannot get us to the proverbial Point B, let alone C (championship). Girardi is the guy, plain and simple.

  • In reply to JollyCharlieGrimm:

    Who said everyone is so sure he is not a point A to point B manager? Certainly not the Cubs. That's not even in their vocabulary.

    Additionally, this front office doesn't believe in this old school stuff you laid out here. They are philosophically against sacrifices, productive outs, stealing bases with guys who aren't successful at least 75-80% of the time. They don't hit and run. There's a lot of stuff here that simply shows me you just ignored what this front office has done for the past 10-12 years.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Here's an interesting question: what has happened to Darwin Barney? Not to say that he was ever an All-Star in the making, but he seems like a guy wishing to get a fresh start somewhere else. Defense, offense, projected energy level, lack of previous positivity in interviews... it has all noticeably waned this year -- and after garnering acclaim from his Gold Glover in 2012. Did he think after his Gold Glove season and more prominent public spokesman duties for the players (which may have been self-appointed) that he deserved to be a core player and get an extension like Castro and Rizzo? (Castro now makes 9 times what Barney does, and Rizzo's salary starts rapidly escalating starting next year.) That's my guess. In which case, might it be aggravation with the FO (which doesn't make it justified, as I wouldn't have given him an early extension)? Or is it aggravation with Sveum's handling of him in the lineup, bunting, micromanaging him on defense, etc.? Or is it just a realization that this team won't start being any good until right around his free agency year... which leads him to be hoping for a change of scenery.

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    Love this article, as well as it's timing. As the big club limps into another off-season and the Sveum-blamers get louder I think it's important to point out how little he has had to work with, as well as the biases we create in our heads.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    Thanks Matt.

  • My point on Svuem is. He was brought in not to win games but to help develop the players that are at the Big league level. I don't dislike him or think he is a bad manager I just think he is failing in the development of the younger players. I like his approach when he first got to the Cubs, but lately he has been too hands on with the players. He needs to guide not meddle.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I'd 2nd what Kevin said. We can nit pick all we want, but the only legitimate concern has been the development of our core. While that's not 100% a reflection of Sveum's ability, it was his most critical task. No one can be happy with the development of our top 3 "core" pieces. They have all struggled more than we'd like. Castro, Rizzo, and Shark all need rebound seasons in 2014. He gets an A on Beef, to help counter some skeptics. I think we'll know by the end of his 2014 contract if he is the one to take us to the promised land... Right now, there's too many incomplete grades and certainly more questions than answers.

    I do believe though that with some talent infusion this winter, he will be judged to an extent on W/L record next year.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    In regards to the "the top 3 'core'" I think the jury is still out.
    1) Samardzija appears the most unchanged to me. His stuff is ridiculous but he routinely runs into trouble trying to over-pitch, and throw everything right by everyone. I love his stuff, confidence, and competitive fire and think he would be helped greatly by having a better team around him to make him feel he didn't need to win games single-handed.
    2) Rizzo, as many have pointed out, has had a better season than traditional numbers would indicate. He hasn't shown much ability to adjust to the hard stuff inside (other than backing off the plate), however, which he will absolutely need to do if he wants to become more than a three outcome guy.
    3) Castro may be the trickiest. He seems to be have the clearest regression of the three. I just don't agree with the argument that he should have been left alone! There were clear holes in his game and his approach to hitting. Certainly, we would like to see seasons like 2011 more than 2013 from Castro, but to say he was anywhere near his potential as a hitter in 2011 is a cop out. It's also too early to say that the changes have failed. It definitely looks like it right now, but if he can find a way to blend the instruction he's received with his natural instincts as a hitter, even if that only means 2-3% increase in his walk rate, or 3-4 extra HR's annually in the years he's playing for a competitive Cubs team, I think it was a success!
    None of this, of course, gives Sveum a grade any higher than "incomplete".

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I agree that's part of his job -- and that is something that's unique to a rebuilding team as opposed to teams with talent already in place.

    He may well be failing in that development part and maybe he has taken too much of that on, knowing it's part of his responsibility -- but I agree that a good teacher knows when to teach, when to guide, and when to let students discover things on their own.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not part it is his job. When he came in there were one illusions that he was coming in he wasn't coming into win. He was coming to help with the rebuild process and there are only 2 ways to do that one is scouting and the second is development. He isn't going to help with the scouting so, he is part of the development. It is that simple.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    No. It is not that simple. This is a gross oversimplification of any manager's duties. There are many other functions that even a rebuilding manager has to do, some of which are outlined here. So yeah, it is part of his job. It may not entail winning but a manager's job isn't win or develop. it isn't an either/or situation. It's not that black and white.

    Even the part about developing talent is limited because much of development is done at the minor league level, to completely revamp players at the MLB level and expect it to succeed from day one with every player is a set-up for failure -- because no manager can expect to succeed in that environment. It's an additional task they threw on him, but it's not the only one.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That has to be the main job in this situation. It is that simple if he isn't helping the developing the players he isn't doing his job in this situation.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    So, the FO says to Sveum, "The last organization failed to develop Jackson, Vitters, Castro, and Rizzo properly. Your task is to undo everything they did wrong in one year and if you can't, you're fired."

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The fact that all of the younger players are regressing is a huge reflections on him. If one or two were progressing I wouldn't say anything but it's all of them.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Castillo, Wood, and Lake have progressed nicely.

    But I get it, that's probably the main concern right now with Sveum. Just think it's too early to judge him on that.

  • Red flags:

    Bunting with your cleanup hitter, no matter how weak your roster may be, is moronic.

    Often hangs his starter out to dry when they have little to nothing in the tank.

    The downward spirals of Castro and Rizzo.

    That being said, it's hard to judge, at least using wins and losses, a manager that was given a team built to lose. So it looks like we'll have to wait, two, three, maybe four more years to judge him.

  • In reply to Vinny:

    I can buy what you're saying. He has made mistakes but probably a little to o early to judge.

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    While I think managers get too much blame when things don't go well, obviously, they make a difference over the long haul, or it wouldn't matter who the manager was. I think the biggest impact a manager has is the mental aspect ... helping players be sharp mentally and resting them when they aren't. As far as development, I think the coaching staff as a whole is more important than just the manager (although the buck stops with him). The assistants are going to spend more quality time with the players on a day-to-day basis than the manager does.

  • In reply to Darren Bizarri:

    Agreed that the coaching staff does more of the developing -- but yeah, he's the manager and he's the guy who has to make sure it's getting done and done right.

  • "Former Cubs manager Bob Brenly...??"

  • In reply to jamespk:

    Ha ;) meant to say announcer.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    figured as much. solid work nonetheless.

  • In reply to jamespk:

    Thanks James.

  • John:
    I really appreciate your balanced assessment of Dale Sveum as manager. I think unbiased and insightful reflections like this are really important for Cubs fans. Keep up the great work.

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    Thanks Hank!

  • I think Sveum's great strength is how he keeps the clubhouse on one of the worst teams in baseball. We've seen some chinks in the armor there this year with some of the EJax comments and Sveum talking about sending Rizzo and Castro down to AAA, but for the most part he's solid that way.

    I think one of his great weaknesses is that he gets "married" to his impression of a guy, despite evidence to the contrary. I remember him saying about Rizzo and Brett Jackson last spring something like, "These guys could be major leaguers right now... especially Jackson!" And then this spring we heard about how Jackson's swing was completely changed and we wouldn't believe the difference and look how well that turned out. On the flip side, you have guys like Cardenas who come up and Sveum doesn't like so he doesn't play them AT ALL. That's just poison on a rebuilding team, imo. With an expanded roster on a team out of contention, it's anti-productive to run the same group of guys out there day in and day out. Let the young guys play, see what you got, use it like you would spring training - to evaluate talent.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Yes, agreed especially with that first paragraph -- and I think that goes in with my first criteria. He has them buying in. And despite a mistake here and there, they like him and respect him. They play hard for him and they play until the end.

    With regard to the second, I think part of that is true at well, though I don't think September is the best month to evaluate talent --- and I think they are evaluating some of the talent -- Sweeney, Lake, Bogusevic, and some of the young pitchers. They want to get an extended look at those guys.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not to totally disagree, but perhaps to temper the enthusiasm on the "playing hard" thing -- I'd argue that there are very few players on the Cubs who don't have something to prove in their careers right now, whether they be young players trying to establish an identity or veterans trying to remain in the big leagues. I do think everyone is still trying hard and putting in effort, and that's a good thing, but I wonder how much of it is simply out of career need for the Cubs. This isn't a veteran Yankees team rife with bloated contracts.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    True, but I will that Soriano bought in, so did Garza. Carlos Marmol did everything they asked.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, Great article as always! It is interesting that all of the three players that you mentioned are gone. I believe the loss of these players has had an negative influence on the team. We seem to be seeing more flat play then when we had people like Soriano and Garza busting their butts everyday.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    True, and that probably is a testament to Sveum and staff, since all three probably knew they were goners this year or next.

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    Well structured and thorough. I think I view most the cubs issues objectively, but the regression of Rizzo and Starlin had me disappointed. I see no harm in keeping Sveum at the helm. His occasional mention of Almora or Baez makes me think he has a long, and appropriate view for this team.

  • In reply to Theo Einstein:

    Thanks Einstein. I do like that he sees the big picture as well.

  • Sorry with the lack ofdevelopemnt of core guys, mis use of the bull pen, horrible with the media Sveum I dont believe is a guy that can win and hold the team together when the waves of talent come up, I would make a move this offseason and write a blank check to get Girardi in the dug out.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I wouldn't hold my breath on Girardi. I'd prepare yourself for another year of Sveum and if the talent gets better, Sveum's perceived managing abilities will magically get better as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i love your level takes on issues but my point is having been on a higher than HS dugout bench for a couple years is that Sveum just doesnt have that intagible it factor that gets championship teams to run thru a wall for him, until the Cubs have that guy i dont care what product goes on the field, Cubs wont win a game 7 with Dale at the helm. PS would You trust Dale in a game 7 ? if no hire a real manager now . Cubs are 1-2 years away get the guy that takes that team to the promised land now.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Thanks. Those in the Cubs front office haven't managed at higher than the HS level. This is a decison made at an executive level and they'll make it based on research, data, conversations, interviews, etc. There really is no way of knowing how players feel about Sveum by observing from behind our television sets regardless of experience. I've been lucky enough to be able to communicate with many who work at the professional level in this industry, so I have some idea here of thought process, but I don't claim to know what players are thinking right now. I have no idea how things are in the clubhouse between Sveum and his players. My guess is that it's pretty good.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly! His strategies will become a lot more successful when he has better players to work with!

  • John, as always, I appreciate the even-keeled, analytical approach in your article.

    However, I'm still worried about Sveum and won't be upset if they choose to move on from him. (Though admittedly I'm not to the point where I'd be upset if they kept him either.)

    Here's the thing. The development of Castro, Rizzo, and Shark is a BIG deal. They are the three biggest core pieces, and if they falter I could see it legitimately setting the Cubs back in their process. And I don't like the excuses (they're still learning, they're young, etc.) for any of those players, and here's why.

    Castro is a two-time All-Star who collected 200 hits in his first two full years up here. This year is a SIGNIFICANT drop and a hitch in his development.

    Rizzo was developed in the Red Sox and Padres systems, not the Cubs. He's had time to succeed, and moreover, he's already had his "tryouts", both with the Padres briefly and with the Cubs. This year is a bad year in terms of hitting for him.

    After years of pitching, Shark should be improving from pitching year one to year two, not under-performing like this. I'm guessing it's mental for him, as he has the abilities. That's at least a good part on the coaching staff.

    I don't want to dismiss everything here and go all negative on Sveum. I know peripherals make Shark and Rizzo look better, and we need to acknowledge Wood and Castillo's development. But right now there isn't one big area to me where the coaching staff has hit it out of the park, and I count Wood and Castillo as core pieces #4 and 5. #'s 1 -3 were hurting this year. I think at the beginning of the year many people would have said "development by the core" as being this year's priority above anything else that could happen. Well...

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    That's true and there is reason for concern, but Sveum doesn't have much to do with Samardzija (or Wood), so it comes down to Castro and Rizzo. But we don't know if they just took a step back as they adjusted on a fly -- that would not be unusual. It's too early, in my opinion. Let's see what happens next year with those two.

    The fact that Rizzo struggled with the Padres too may tell us there were inherent flaws there that they tried to fix. Maybe that's not on them either. But I lean to the side that this is a one year adjustment period. Let's see what happens.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Matt... Castro has 147 hits in 148 games. If he finishes in the neighborhood of 160 that a 20% drop from 200. I'm not sure that qualifies as 'significant' and would refute that it's a hitch in his development.

    It's just my opinion, but the most important line in the piece is " My answer to that is that you hope that these players come to the majors more prepared for the big leagues than their predecessors, so that they won't need big changes once they arrive in the pros."

    Hendry rushed Castro to the bigs ridiculously early. Yes, he had the hits - and the errors. They've tried to infuse more patience; he seems to be more patient.

    As to your comment about 'well..." Well what exactly. Castillo has worked his azz off; Wood is developing as a core piece. I for one would never have believed that. Rizzo is in his first full year. 22 HRs, and an OBP 100 pts higher than his average.

    I'm neutral on Sveum; I'm bullish on 13, 30 and 44. Neutral tilting to positive on Shark.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    I think John's and MB's points are fair, and obviously I hope that this is just a one-year adjustment period. I honestly don't know how common it is to have a big sophomore slump (or junior slump, for Castro) in the MLB.

    MB, to the Castro point -- I admit I haven't looked recently, but he went from something like a 3ish WAR last year to a negative WAR for at least a good chunk of this year. That's bad. The overall point I was trying to make was that I'd guess that 80% of folks out there would have expected a jump in performance from him and Rizzo this year, and the reverse has happened.

    To the "Well..." point -- What I meant was I think if you asked at the beginning of the year what the top priority was for the Cubs this year, it would have been to see progress from Castro, Rizzo, and Shark. Yes, Castillo and Wood are good developments. Absolutely. But I would not pin the future hopes on them as much as I would 13, 30, and 44. The Cubs have already banked on Castro and Rizzo performing via long-term contracts, and they've at least tried to sign Shark to an extension.

    I'm really not looking to get rid of Sveum quite yet. It's just that to me I've seen more to inspire concern than confidence. Like John said, we'll wait and see. If Castro and Rizzo come back next year looking like (or close to) the studs we hope and expected, then Theo and Dale will come off like geniuses, especially because their big improvements will coincide with (hopefully) the Cubs getting closer to being a winning team. But if we see more of the same as this year, I fear that the window to competitiveness becomes a little bit farther out, and that's a tough pill to swallow after the couple of years we've recently endured.

    Someone mentioned this on a post somewhere, but I pretty much agree with the idea that if you can grab a stud manager with a track record of player development, then OK, do it. If not, give Sveum his chance to show improvement next year and make the call at the end of the year.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    I'm not ruling out a change down the road but my main argument here is that while I think the Cubs have their eye on this, I don't think they are ready to make a change just yet. Now if Rizzo, Castro and others struggle again next year, all bets are off.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think you probably nailed it. Though I'd be very curious to see Theo's response if the Girardi camp came to the Cubs and said they're interested, and at a reasonable price. I'd actually guess they'd still say no, for financial reasons, but I'm not sure.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Fair points, Matt. I understand your 'well' much better - thanks.

    About Castillo and Wood - John has emphasized just how much the FO views the middle of the diamond. Much has been made of Beef's improvement in many critical areas; likewise Wood.

    He and Shark will both go over 200 innings - pretty sure 1st time for both. The number of quality starts is also impressive. A WHIP of 1.11 is pretty impressive - and a southpaw to boot!!

    Sveum - I side with John. I'm sure they'll kick the tires. But if EH&Co feel like John does about mgrs, I'm not sure they make a real play for Girardi.

    I appreciate the informed, reasoned discussions in the Den!!

  • As well as "regression" of Rizzo and Castro, to me he has failed with Barney. He, Barney, was a better hitter when he first came up. The numbers will bear this out that he, like Rizzo and Castro, have regressed under the current Cubs mngmt. In reguard to Shark the blame for this season goes to Bosio more than Sveum. Although I think Sharks own head gets in his way.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    Barney was also nowhere near a Gold Glove defender under the old regime...

  • In reply to Lee Smith HOF:

    I wonder what the effects of a three headed batting coach (Rowson, Deer and Sveum) has on the players? I'm curious if they all have input into a specific player or they assign a playe rto a coach depending on their needs?

    In Sveum's defense, I wonder how much input he had, if any, in the hiring of Deer or Rowson.

  • I appreciate your reference to confirmation bias, John. I've had an open mind regarding Sveum as a manager and aside from some of the nuances generally agreed upon (re: Russell, Castro, Rizzo, etc., I've seen nothing to lead me to the conclusion he is not right for the position. OTH, as a KC Royals follower, I have fallen into the trap of seeing Ned Yost as a "terrible manager," being able to point to his being fired with 12 to go and his team in first place in 2008. Not that I think he is a good manager (he's not), but is he really as terrible as my confirmation bias leads me to believe? Back to the Cubs and Sveum (who ironically replaced Yost in that 12 game stretch in '08), I may be suffering from positive confirmation bias because I want the new regime to succeed. Ok, now I'm really confused! Thanks for the thought-provoking article. Good discussion as always.

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    LOL! Now I'm confused too.

    I tried to take a balanced look and I do acknowledge there have been mistakes and there are things to be concerned about, so I tried to avoid bias one way or the other.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John... I'm happy to join the chorus. The line about the kids getting better teaching at the lower levels is *part* of what separates EH&Co from the previous regime.

    This was a wonderful, balanced piece!!

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Thanks MoneyBoy.

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    Great article, John. I agree with every word.

  • In reply to João Lucas:

    Thanks Joao.

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    This is how I see it. If the Cubs can get a proven great manager like a Maddon or Girardi, you have to let Sveum go and sign them. If not, stick with Sveum and let him go one more year. If the team is still like this next season, he goes.

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    I agree with you here. If Girardi is available, I think management will at least talk with him. He's the perfect guy for what they're trying to do. Battle tested in the AL East, stats oriented, and an exceptionally strong presence in the clubhouse.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Also knows how to deal with big media market. I don't think Sveum is very good at that. He allows the media to bate him into answers, while Girardi won't.

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    In reply to Demarrer:

    Actually, that's one place where I think Sveum is underrated. The job destroyed Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella. Dale has managed to stay relatively even keeled through the chaos around him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Why would they? The front office has shown they conduct extensive managerial searches. They research and they choose carefully. And you think they're going to throw that all away if a brand name like Girardi becomes available. I'd bet you a good bottle of scotch that it doesn't happen.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    I feel like Sveum was their second choice to Maddux to start. I'm not sure they're all that pleased with him -- both for his destruction of Russell and his insulting Castro to the media. If they're planning on releasing him at the end of his contract, and a perfect fit is there, I think they talk to him.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Are you saying you'd like to bet a bottle of scotch on that? I like Aberlour Double Cask Matured, by the way :)

    I think that would only be true if a) it was a guy they already knew and liked and b) the current manager was a complete disaster. The closest scenario I can think of that is the Red Sox hiring Farrell after Valentine turned out to be a joke (and not the GMs choice at all). That was an extreme circumstance. This is not.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    But that's not to say he's on a long leash either.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I can't afford to bet an ice cube.

    I think that Russell is really important here and, even if Dale does come back, there will be severe restrictions on him. Russell looks worthless, which is a nice stunt for a guy we almost traded to the Rangers for a promising shortstop. And, even worse, Dale is showing signs of using Strop as his new security blanket. The very real danger is that with another year of Dale Strop will be just as bad as Jeff Russell. It's impossible to build up a bullpen if the manager keeps destroying the best arm in it every year.

    But, to a go a bit further, they may not even hire Girardi. It could just be a secret meeting at Wrigley that Joe ruins by running into Starbucks. But, because of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry, we know Theo is very familiar with him. As I've said, I think if you could craft a manager out of thin air that is perfect for this job, he looks an awful lot like Joe Girardi. The conversation may go something like: "Well, we really appreciate your time. What's your timeline look like? We may have an opening in 12 months. Be sure to call us before you do anything, we want to at least be able to consider making a better offer."

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    *James Russell

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    LOL :) Me neither.

    I think this management is pretty thorough when it comes to hiring employees and I think it would take more than just knowing him from competition. It would have to be a situation like Farrell where they already knew him, put him through their process, and had the chance to evaluate him from up close. I don't think they make these kinds of decisions on a whim. I could always be wrong, but I just don't see it. It would seem so uncharacteristic of them.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i ll bet ya a simple bottle of Hennesey if Girardi publically pines for the Cubs job Sveum is gone unless joe asks for 10 mil a year

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    That's a bet with a lot of stipulations and i don't drink cognac. But I'll give you a break and you can save your money. The inherent flaw in the bet is that Girardi won't publicly pine for the Cubs job if Sveum is still there. That's just not how it's done. It'd be incredibly disrespectful.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    On the other hand, I think Mike Moody's scenario is more plausible, where the Cubs privately gauge Girardi's interest before coming to any decisions. Unlikely to me, but plausible.

  • I think that next year will be the deciding year for Sveum. There isn't a manager in baseball who could have added 10 wins tops over the last two years with this roster, and the FO knows it. The reason I believe next year is so important is because of the players that will be coming up at the end of the season. If Rizzo and Castro continue to struggle, some of the blame must be put on Sveum, and I don't think the clubhouse will stay as positive as it is now if next year is a repeat and your core is not producing at all. This will have a significant impact on the players who are in line to be called up. Do you bring Baez, Bryant, and AA into a clubhouse that is frustrated and a core that is even more frustrated with taking steps sideways rather than forward? If they are struggling still, do you want Sveum instructing the new talent? In this case he is gone at the end of next year and the new manager gets to play with the new toys.

    This is of coarse assuming Rizzo, Castro, and Shark struggle again next year, which I don't think will be the case at least for Rizzo and Castro. If those two take steps forward next year, the bullpen improves, and the clubhouse stays positive, I think that Sveum will be here for the long haul.

  • In reply to nmu’catsbball:

    Exactly on the mark with the 'adding 10 wins tops' comment (IMO) nmu'catsbball.

    Look at the record this team had (especially with all the blown saves in April/May) where despite an anemic offense they were even or had a small lead before handing the ball off to Camp/Dolis/Marmol/Rondon and watching that lead evaporate. Add to that the disaster that was the infield defense before Barney came back from the DL,.... and consider,...

    No manager - 'blessed' with that bullpen and that erratic a defesnse, coupled with the options he had on offense could expect to to much better.

    Is Sevum a long-term answer? Got me - before we all ride him out on a rail - maybe we could see how he does with a better team not constructed of cast-off waiver-wire adds, career AAAA players, and a couple of underachieving slumping youngsters like Castro, Rizzo, Barney, Shark and (until midseason anyway) Castillo.

  • Like most managers, Sveum chose his coaches through the crony network. He hit it big with Bosio and McKay. The hitting coaches will surely be sacrificed at the end of the season. Castro's decline almost directly coincides with Rowson replacing Jaramillo. As for Rob Deer, the Cubs' home run or strikeout pattern is disturbingly similar to his major league numbers. Finally, Bell is the second coming of Wavin' Wendell.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    i can see something like that going down.

  • One of the best Cubs articles I've read all year...anywhere. Nice job.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Thanks baseballet! Appreciate that very much.

  • Agree mostly with what you say here although I think the tactical side has become almost underrated. Tough to watch Sveum blow a few no-brainers and then have people be all apologies for the lack of talent.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I really think you can find fault with any manager's decisions if that's what you are looking for. If we were Pirates fans, would we have criticized Clint Hurdle for leaving Liriano in too long and allowing that game tying two run HR to Welly? Why didn't he bring in a righty? Liriano had thrown a lot of pitches, he was clearly tired. Luckily the Pirates are better than the Cubs and they won anyway, but I think this sort of thing happens all the time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm not looking for mistakes, they're jumping out at me. I like the guy and want him to be the guy. But when I watch Francona or some of the greats like Cox, Larussa, etc I could always see where they were coming from. Sveumm just leaves me wondering what the heck he is thinking.

  • In reply to TheMightyGin:

    Maybe not, but I guess we think differently on that. Other than a few things (not a fan of overusing Russell. the earlier calling out of Castro/Rizzo -- which he has learned from), I don't see anything but a guy tinkering and trying to find long term solutions on a rag-tag team.

  • I would assume that Theo and Jed already know in their minds if Sveum is a long term answer or not. The last day of the season may be his last managing the Cubs.

  • I do not think Dale is to blame for this season. We simply don't have the horses to win this race. I agree it is up to the players to perform. Dale never walked anyone , gave up a home run, made an error, or struck out. I get that. But if you ask the question: How has Dale done? I think a majority of cub fans would say Dale id a poor job!

    It is obvious that the cubs didn't have the talent level to compete. I accepted that back in March and April, but there are certain things I did expect from him and this team and they didn't meet the standards. I did not agree with the hire from the start, but once I heard him speak and say how bad the cubs looked and had no fundamentals and they will be held accountable for mistakes, I thought ok I like the sound of that. Where are these fundamentals? Every spring we have a march madness style bunting contest that Dale was so proud of. I have not seen the rewards of that yet.

    Dale's responsibilities as a manager: 1. is to deal with players and personalities. I do not think he has handled players very well. He just doesn't have the personality it seems to mesh with players. 2. Develop talent. Nate was had a nice year and Sweeney too, but these 2 have never played before for Dale. They came in hitting well and you could say the longer they've been around Dale the worse they got. Castro, Rizzo, Shark and Barney have not progressed in my eyes. No reason the 3 should be hitting below .240. Wellington had a ok year on a bad offensive team that makes it look better then it really was. Still not sure if he'll be the catcher of future. 3) Is in game strategy, and he has been terrible at best for the moves he has made. So many games I am left scratching my head and thinking what the heck Dale.
    I knew going in we'd struggle but still was looking for progress from players in mlb and all progress came from minors or trades. Dale can not be around when we are ready to compete in next 2-3 years.

  • This is my opinion on managers/coaches in any sport:
    There are a handful of good ones that consistently get their players to overachieve or at least consistently achieve to their talent level, a slightly larger group of bad ones that will fail in nearly any circumstance, and then a big pool of guys that will succeed/fail solely based on the talent level of their players.

    I am not ready to say Sveum is a bad manager, but I am ready to say he his ceiling is that of a guy that will succeed to a level based on the talent he is provided. I don't pay enough attention to the Yankees to know if Girardi is one of the handful of good managers, but if he is and you have a chance to get him or any of the premier guys, then you make the move. If Girardi isn't that kind of guy then there is no point on paying him what he will demand when we could hire any number of guys to get the same result.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I can buy that. Maybe he's not a difference maker and in that sense it's not the worst decision if he doesn't make it through his contract. At the same time, it probably means they aren't all that eager to bring on somebody new either. I can't emphasize how shocked I'd be if the Cubs dumped Sveum to hire Girardi.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Like I said, I can't speak to Girardi, but I do consider Sveum replacable. At the same time, continuity of message is a big part of successful organization, so change for change sake is detrimental. If the Cubs deem Dale to be a guy they can with once he is provided with talent then there is no reason to replace him.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'll go with that. I do think he's replaceable though I do think that doesn't come up this offseason. Maybe next one.

  • I personally think that the biggest role of a major league manager is to keep his team focused and motivated.

    We are talking about mostly 20-something year old kids, who often times have more money at their disposal than they had ever seen before. These kids are playing a game. Although many of them can keep focused mostly from a love of the game or a drive to play well, no one can keep themselves focused 100% of the time. This is where you need a manager to say or do the little things, unique to each player, that will keep heads in the game.

    Lets not kid ourselves. The Cubs had nearly a zero chance to be a good team the last two years. In fact, not too many people gave them a chance to even be average. However, Sveum has managed to find a way to get players to buy in.

    How do you convince a kid like Castro to keep his head in the game when he has never struggled before in his life and his team has no chance of even making the playoffs.

    How do you get a seasoned veteran like Soriano to care at all about a team that has a fan base than has made him out to be an albatross.

    I have no idea how Dale has managed to gain the respect of his players and keep their heads in the game, but he has done it. I know Castro has had his moments of mental absence, but those have been immediately addressed by Dale.

    Obviously we would all like to see Castro and Rizzo be superstars, but there is also only so much Dale can do. These players have been hearing all the advice there is available for many years. Its not like Dale is going to magically tell them so cool trick that they've never heard before. I wish people would give Dale a chance to manage a good team, which we will be soon enough.

    If you think Dale is a bad manager because he makes bad pitching changes using a bullpen that might struggle in AAA, then turn on a Cardinals game. Watch the decisions Mike Matheny makes with his bullpen. He has a phenomenal bullpen, but he really really really doesn't know how to use it. Yet, Matheny and his Cardinals might be on the way to winning a World Series. The Cardinals respect Matheny and they play hard for him. When the Cubs are good, Dale will have the respect and motivation to lead. The fans just need to bide time until he can prove it with a ring on his finger and the city of Chicago exploding into the biggest party anyone has ever seen.

  • In reply to noscbs:

    I concur. Good stuff.

  • In reply to noscbs:

    Dale's bad moves are not always bullpen moves. To me it has gone more to the situational hitting or bunts, doing anything he can to produce runs.

  • As an aside, I will note that my father has disliked every manager the Cubs have had from Leo Durocher to Dale Sveum with no exceptions in between. So I didn't get my philosophy from him ;)

  • Admittedly, I haven't watched as many games this year - but my overall concern lies with the player development / 'mentor' role. There are other coaches that can come alongside a player (McKay comes to mind), but Sveum doesn't seem to have the greatest interpersonal skills. We are a team of two halves - older / journeymen that likely wont be with this team in 2 years and the young core, that will likely be around for 4-5 years (or longer). We are likely to continue to get younger as our prospects mature (I understand that they won't all make it) - especially with the likely call-ups of Bryant / Baez in 2014. 'Shepherding' / developing these guys is critical given their age, the likelihood they will will join an awful team and the expectations they will have with the call up.

    Young players make mistakes. Andy Bryant / Baez will certainly make their share - and the last thing I want is Sveum criticizing them to the media.

    Sveum can constructively criticize his players in private in an effort to build them up and enhance their game, but what we shouldn't see is a reporter walking up to Baez after a game and saying 'Sveum just said that you need to get your head in the game...that you are a 'collector of hits'......you need to act like you belong....would you care to comment?'. I don't want these guys babied by any means, but the manager needs to know how to push the right buttons (for a 22 year old...)

    Theo is putting a lot of eggs in the prospect basket, so I assume he is comfortable with his guy.

  • As much as people have ripped Sveum for Castro, Rizzo and Samardzija, lets remember that Castro has improved his defense considerably over previous years, that Rizzo is going to hit 25 HR's and Samardzija is going to pitch over 200 innings and record over 200 K's. Stepping stones for all 3.

    Then there is Castillo who has made remarkable strides. How about Travis Wood. The Reds had given up on him and the last 40 starts he has been a TOR kind of a guy.

    Then there is Soriano, not a core guy, but somehow he got an aging millionaire veteran to buy in and work on a skill that hadn't been worked on in 20 years.

    Junior Lake? Does he get credit for that? I think he has handled him well and results, though very early, are promising.

    I have no clue if Sveum can lead us to a WS title. I just think it is comical that some people can judge his worthiness on a team primarily made up of AAA players.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Great stuff Irwin and it really shows that there are two sides to this thing. I don't think he's been so bad to warrant getting fired -- and like you, I don't know yet that he's so good that he'll be the guy to take the Cubs to the next level, but I do think he deserves the chance.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Really good points Irwin. John... if you're even close to right on Baez and Bryant getting a taste next year, along with any other additions ::cough Tanaka cough::, Sveum could be dealing with a much different quality of talent than he had the 1st 2 yrs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Have to agree with you John. But how long of a leash do you think the FO gives Dale. Also like the sound of your Dad. I haven't really cared for many of the Cubs managers since Leo the Lip.

  • In reply to kansascub:

    I wasn't around just yet for old Leo...but 4 HOF's and no playoffs? What went wrong there?

  • Completely agree that most of
    Svuem's critic's are suffering from selective vision/hearing issues and reinforcing their negative view of him with every move that turns out poorly and ignoring the right decisions. Even the player development seems to work that way. Not too many mention Castillo's vast improvement when they go on an anti Svuem tirade regarding Castro and Rizzo. I for one would like to see Dale get a shot at managing a talented roster. His ability to keep the clubhouse together the last two years has been great. Yes I wishe he would rest Russel more too, but you can't have everything. I think he brings a measured and calm approach to the team. Something some more highly thought of managers never learn to do.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Castro's offense took a dip - to be sure,....

    But look at his defensive progression as well,....
    2010 - 27 errors in 123 games
    2011 - 29 errors in 158 games
    2012 - 27 errors in 162 games
    2013 - 18 errors in 146 games,.... AND many fewer since midseason,....

  • Let's see how Sevum does with a better roster, not constructed of Waiver-wire pickup & castoffs, career AAAA players, Utility Infielders playing full time (or most of the time) at 3B, and a couple of developing youngsters,....

    Is Sevum the manager we want to see when this team is ready to contend? Maybe,... but do we know as yet what he is capable of?

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    That's pretty much what I think as well. Let's see what he can do. I think he should have enough talent next year to be a .500 team -- and he approached that this year. I don't want to blame him, but I want to see what he can do with a bit of talent.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed. Assuming that the current rotation, bullpen, and position players are what we start with next season (or at least form a temporary core). We should see adequate to good starting pitching, an at least average bullpen, solid defense, and a comparable offense.

    Would love to see them figure out a more permanent solution to cover 3B in the offseason than Valbuena/Murphy. Also they have to make a play to resign Navarro (I was admittedly wrong when I stated this Spring I thought that was a bad signing), or get a solid defensive catcher to complement Castillo and get him some days off. Also - they really need to get a RH-hitting OF/1B to use to get Rizzo some days off - and to platoon with Schierholtz/Bogusevic if their weaknesses from one side continue.

    But I don't see a wholesale reconstruction needing to be done this Winter - unlike last season.

  • Good stuff, John. As I said the other day I'm firmly in the neutral column when it comes to managerial impact, Dale Sveum, and him deserving to stay on. I do not place any "blame" on Dale for the team's struggles. On the other side of the coin I'm not in a hurry to give him a whole lot of credit. Here's how I would evaluate him based on the criteria listed above:

    1. Managing his players and their personalities---I'm not going to bother giving him a grade on this. This one is for PBO's and GM's to evaluate. Any evaluations from fans and the average baseball pundit (there are some exceptions) are just hearsay. Its hearsay because fans and writers for the most part don't personally know the players therefore they cannot accurately comment on whether or not their personality was managed the right way. They don't know who's wife left him, who's not sleeping well because their two year old has mono, who ate something yesterday that made them sick, who's prone to exaggerate an injury, who's prone to hide injuries, who's an asshole, who's a guy you'd want your daughter to marry, who has a cell phone just for the road so his wife doesn't find out that he sleeps with girls in multiple cities, etc. We can speculate all we want which is what makes blogging fun but its really hard to have any kind of truly accurate opinion on that. Most fans (not all of the educated fans on Cubs Den!) think a manager manages personalities well because they've heard it on TV.

    2. How he distributed playing time and putting his players in the best position to succeed--- I'll give him a B- on this one but, as you said, this is largely a function of the roster at his disposal. The roster is sub-par overall and he hasn't had a ton of reliable options in the bullpen for most of the year. I'm sure he'd find more rest for guys if he felt like he could.

    3. Player development during a rebuild--- Yikes. I can't give him anything better than a C- here. Welly is a bright spot. No doubt. Wood is another one. Castro, Rizzo, Barney, and Samardzija have not gotten better. Period. Is that Dale's fault? Probably not but I have not seen a whole lot to suggest he's doing anything to help those guys. Calling them out earlier in the year was dumb.

    Overall, I think Dale Sveum is the very definition of 'replacement level' as a manager. I'm not calling for his head. I think he deserves another year even though he hasn't done a whole lot to earn it other than wear two bad seasons like a champ. It seems like the players like him well enough personally. He seems like he'd be a good dude to be around if you were a young major leaguer. Then again, you can shake a tree and find a young "baseball guy" who could manage in the bigs and "get guys to play hard".

    Personally, IMO, all the "get guys to play hard" and "keep guys motivated" stuff is bullshit at the big league level. That stuff plays at the college and high school levels. Counting stats, money, and job security are what keep guys motivated. By and large the players know in spring training whether or not they have a real shot to win it or not. If not, you better play hard if you're in your pre-arb years and hopefully the team will win some ballgames. Is it a coincidence that the lackluster performances of Castro and Rizzo have come on the heels of them becoming multi-millionaires? Maybe. Or is it a case of the payday hangover?

    I think its important to remember that its the players that make managers famous and not the other way around. A manager has two or three really good teams in a row and all of a sudden he's a "great motivator". I think Dale Sveum would take Cargo or Stanton in right field for 2014 over the in-house options in a millisecond. I'm sure he'd take Tanaka or Price (or both!) over any of the in-house options for 2014. I'm sure he wants the FO to get all four of them! That way he might become that great leader and motivator that "everyone thinks he can be." Lot of quotation marks in there. Sorry.

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    My opinion on Sveum is... he's okay. It's hard to say he's a good manager at this point -- Rizzo, Samardzija, and Castro have regressed, Russell was overused, his lineup order and makeup sometimes confuses me -- but there are also a lot of things to like. You mentioned how he's maximized his player's production with platoon's, and despite consecutive 90+ loss seasons, there haven't really been any fights/conflicts in the clubhouse.

  • Another thought on Sveum.

    We don't know how his performance is being judged by the FO. Clearly, they didn't put expectations on him in terms of Wins and Losses, and even if they did, it would not have been as high as some fans thought at the beginning of the year (cough, Cubs Talk, cough).

    I am sure they laid out detailed items that they were looking for in his handling of the team in general and the youngsters specifically.

    He may have been instructed to keep Samardzija and Wood in the games longer than he normally would have because management wnats to test these guys and let them learn how to get out of a jam. They may want a pitcher or a batter to have a certain matchup that normally Sveum might not utilize just to see how a player reacts. Maybe the FO thought it would be a good idea to have Sveum rip Rizzo and Castro early, just to see how they react.

    We don't know. The FO may totally love Sveum based on their criteria. Not mine. Not John's. Not anyones. And certainly not Paul Sullivan's.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I think we have a pretty good idea what they are looking for, actually, and I loosely based my list on that. We can simply go back and listen to what they said when they hired Sveum... why they liked him. It gives us a pretty good idea of why they hired him and what they want from a manager. As for specific criteria (benchmarks, goals, ratings), that's one of their internal things, like any other company, so we aren't privy to that -- but that's what this forum is for ;) T

  • John, A good article. It's hard to keep it all in perspective and I realize that there isn't the talent available that he'd like but how far do we bend with him? Just in terms of the lineups - Castro is not a number 3 or a number 5 hitter. Yet Sveum doesn't seem to recognize that or maybe he does now. I am more inclined to go with a sacrifice bunt or a squeeze play so in that sense I'm old school but I'd draw the line with your 3, 4 or 5 batters doing it. Sveum has a tendency to keep playing the same players even tho it's evident that a change is needed. A good example is Russell. I cringed at his use of the media to criticize players. And whenCastro is guilty of something that calls for him to be immediately removed from the game Sveum isn't consistent. Castro knows by now that Sveum wiill never seat him for a transgression two days in a row so he can ignore him. Yes, he hasn't had a good team to work with but its hard for me to give him an incomplete grade.

  • In reply to pricewriter:

    Thank you pricewriter. I think incomplete is actually the best grade for him right now. But just because you have an incomplete, it doesnt necessarily mean the range of grades you can get go from A to F. sometimes the most you can make up to get is a B.

  • John, long time reader and first time commentator. Let me say that I LOVE this site. It's my first source for Cubs news and really appreciate the balanced commentary.

    I do think, though, that the criticisms of Sveum are fair.

    He weakens himself as a manager when he makes threats and doesn't follow through.

    He has a tendency to overly lean on formulaic LH/RH splits and ignoring the facts at hand, even removing guys who seem to be unhittable in the game to get the right matchup.

    I also worry about his mis-/non- handling of Samardzija. In watching it seems that he lets Shark decide when to take HIMSELF out of the game. Aside from creating the high pitch counts that most say have led to him being worn out, it strikes me as reminiscent of the pitcher abuse criticism levied against Dusty and whether it contributed to the Wood/Prior injuries.

    On the other extreme, he seems to have a very quick hook for guys that he doesn't seem to trust yet like Rusin. Maddon, on the other hand, is noted for leaving young pitchers out there to build their confidence.

    Somewhat on that front, what's the point of bringing a guy like Logan Watkins up only to keep him rooted to the bench? Are they trying to evaluate young prospects in a lost season? If not, why not leave them in the minors where they can get the experience of playing?

    Finally, I do have an issue with his constant line up changes. Why is Barney sometimes #2 in the order and other times second from the bottom? Why is Castro all over the lineup? Again, in a lost season why not help people get used to their roles?

    In a nutshell, I don't feel like his moves are in the Cubs' long-term, player development interests but more in his trying to manage every game like it's the 7th game of the World Series.

  • In reply to Deacon:

    Thanks Deacon.

    I think there's room for criticism here. I don't want to say that. I think some of the criticism is unfair, such as selectively using hindsight. I also don't want to say there shouldn't be any concern with Sveum. There should. He hasn't done anything yet to prove himself and there are issues, such as some of those you outlined, that deserve some scrutiny. But I also think he deserves some time and some benefit of the doubt -- as well as acknowledgement that he does do quite a few things well. The point isn't so much that it's been unfair to criticize Sveum, just that their needs to be balance and a bigger picture perspective.

  • Interesting discussion on both sides. For me, the bottom line is this: if Girardi becomes available, sign him. If not, another year of Sveum is OK. Just get rid of Rowson, Deer, and Bell.

  • In reply to clarkaddison:

    Agreed. Good discussion, but I don't see the Cubs going after Girardi under any circumstance to be honest. I think that possibility could become the story this winter. But I'm not buying it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    what i am saying if Joe goes public about wanting the Cubs job giving the job or lack of Sveum has done how can Theo not listen real hard? If Joe stays mute then i really dont think Theo makes a move till end of 2014 when Sveum WILL be fired .

  • I never thought sveum was really the right guy for the job and I honestly can't tell you something that he's done particularly well. I would understand if we let sveum finish up his contract but I think that gives up the chance to do something exciting next year. This team is at the point where it needs to explore every non-prohibitive option it has to become a more productive organization. You're lying to yourself if you think sveum is a better option than Girardi, regardless of what seems fair. Girardi, not only has the experience in a manager that we need to compete in an all of the sudden elite baseball division, but the reputation, recognition, and respect among players, fans, locals, and baseball people. If there's even a chance to lure him to Chicago, every step should be taken in order to land him.

    May help landing a former Yankee to help the team offensively.

  • In reply to northside disciple:

    Cano would look horrible in Cubbie blue, see sarcasm :) Give me Girardi, Cano , Tanaka and lets have some fun in 2014 , all without giving up 1 prospect !!

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I'd 'take' Cano but I've got granderson on my mind.

  • In reply to northside disciple:

    I'm not saying Sveum is better than Girardi. I'm saying I'll be very, very surprised if the Cubs are involved in that. But hey, what would I know? At any rate, I think it'll be the media pet story this offseason (just like Fielder and Bourn in the previous two seasons) but I'm not jumping on this bandwagon just like I didn't jump on those.

  • I believe that coaches and managers have to be measured on their records over a period of time. All other criteria are subjective or speculative. However, when adding roster talent into the equation, which is objective, once again the record holds precedence. For example, if you compare managers before giving one the benefit of the doubt over the other then look at Ron Gardenhire vs. Dale Sveum. Gardenhire has a track record of success prior to his recent failures with a bad roster and Sveum has a short sample size of failure with a similarly bad roster. In this case, a fan base would feel more comfortable continuing on with Gardenhire rather than Sveum. That's because when evaluating, most fans and media would look at records first and come to an easy conclusion, Gardenhire is a better manager than Sveum. The fact that Gardenhire has had many more seasons to ply his trade only adds to his credibility. Likewise, if you compare Sveum to Bo Porter, based on their records, fans and media would say either they haven’t had enough time to be evaluated, or neither one has made much of a difference record-wise, so it really doesn’t matter if you keep them or let them go, because the next person in can only do the same or better, likely not worse.

  • That last point is exactly what I've been thinking re Starlin: you have to assume many of these previous regime guys are unfinished products, therefore Dale and Co MUST tinker, even if results aren't ideal.

  • This is a fascinating topic, but as pointed out in the article, one that is impossible to have a fully informed opinion. Plus so much of a manager's ability to stay in his job involves his relationship with the front office and managing to their goals and expectations. So when Sveum sounds publicly dubious of certain "cyber"metrics is that a tweak of his bosses? Maybe, maybe not. Even John's point that he bristled at public criticisms of young players. This made John bristle, but were these comments knee-jerk comments, only made after repeated private conversations, made with encouragement from FO? We don't know. Heck, even over-the-top compliments of certain young players could have been hyper-corrections made in the positive extreme after other young players' agents complained to the FO. And if that was the case, that isn't good either because it showed how agents influenced his management of the team. But we just don't have enough information. My guess is if the Cubs can make a significant long-term upgrade at the manager's position, like any position, the Cubs will this off-season. Having a more veteran, respected manager would lessen complaints by agents to the FO, but also give the FO less control. But because the manager's seat is "cost controlled" for the next year, I don't expect the FO to be in any hurry. They no doubt have their dream list of managers. If none are gettable this off-season, then they have the luxury of another year on Sveum's contract to see how things go.

  • Dale Sveum has been a complete, total failure. He is very unprofessional, and the way he handles pitchers is atrocious.
    He was promoted to his level of incompetence. After the season ends, he needs to be terminated.

  • In reply to ELAN:

    I agree.

  • fb_avatar

    "I barely heard a peep out of Twitter when Sveum made a series of correct bullpen moves that ensured a Cubs one-run victory against the Pirates om the last series (though our guy Felzz was on top of things there) -- but the very next day when his reliever gave up a run, the anti-Sveum contingent was out again in full force."

    That sounds familiar

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