Cubs Sveum not afraid to give answers

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.


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  • I know we have talked about the lack-luster media here in Chicago when it comes to pure baseball knowledge. Do you think that just by analyzing Sveum's quotes, in place of the ones that came out of the mouths of Lou and Dusty, will have any positive effect on the quality of the content in the articles written by guys like Sullivan, Rogers, Rosenbloom, etc?

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    Not Rosenbloom. His job is to troll from the pages of the Trib. He's the spiritual successor to Jay Mariotti, and I've given up even glancing at his column because it's nothing but potshots and bad puns.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Concur on your Rosenbloom/Mariotti reference.

  • I think so. I actually think the media has had to raise their game a bit because they respect Theo and the gang more than the previous regime, at the very least on a communicative level. I think that goes for Sveum too, he isn't playing anyone's dummy and he gives you straight answers.

    On the other hand, I hope not. I'm sure we can steal some more readers if they keep putting out lackluster stuff :)

  • Guys Phil Rogers is a piece of he even has a job covering baseball for the Trib and previously with ESPN as well is beyond me...even his rumors or speculation are miles off base..Tom I only really listen to you, John, Brett and Kap..the rest are a joke!!!

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Personally, I'm jealous that Phil gets to write for Baseball America. I've been reading that magazine since I was 12.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, it's been so long since I read Baseball America and it might be even longer before I read it again knowing that Phil writes for them..After hearing that he thinks Dempster gets dealt for Youkilis I wanted to break something...I hate bullcrap rumors and it's almost like he does it to get read...I won't stoop so low

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    That rumor made no sense to me either. Not sure why Cubs would want Youk as he's going to be a FA. Also not sure how long he can stay at 3B. If they want him, they can try to sign him on a one year make good deal or something, but even that seems unlikely unless maybe Stewart flops and none of the prospects are ready.

    Strange rumor to say the least. I think its likely Dempster gets traded if Cubs drop out of contention (or if someone blows them away), but it's going to be for prospects and/or cost controlled players that can be a part of the future.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I think it's a better bet that Demp gets moved than Matt Garza at this point, especially since he's been awesome except for one inning this year..but like you said, for prospects..It's like that rumor that floated around about Soriano vetoing the deal to the O's for Brian Roberts..Theo and Jed would not make a move like that at this stage..In Demps case, if he can string together 5 or 6 more solid starts like he has been, the Cubs will get some really nice young pieces back I think.. I was really hoping htat Woody would have built upon the scoreless 2 inning stint against Milwaukee but no such luck..Do you guys think he would just walk away if this continues??

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    Thanks, Hendry told me a lot of funny shit. One of his best was when someone asked about a Rogers piece right in front of me and he said your wrong for two reasons and your first mistake was reading that effing shit.

    Oh my Rogers is starting to sound like the old man at the end of the bar with some of the crap he comes up with. It sounds like someone calling the Score from his garage with those trade ideas.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Tom, I think us true Blue Cub fans are above that garbage and even moreso now than ever before.What other Hendry stories could you tell us about?

  • Ja, Rogers has been beating that Youkilis stuff to death the past few days. Not so much Cubs as for the Sox (in exchange for a bullpen piece). Maybe he has a man-crush on Youks. Whatever.

    I really do not think that Rogers' and Sullivan's of the world are going to change their approach. They write for the layman, who is more-or-less simply interested in who won or lost, who hit the dinger, which bullpen guy lost the game and why hasn't Theo gotten rid of Marmol yet, that guy's a bum! These people aren't going to know or care about Volstad's xFIP or interesting prospects at Peoria (or the Dominican Summer League - what's that?).

    We faithful readers of Cubs Den are what I affectionately call baseball (and especially Cubs) geeks. We are interested in the details and nuances and the processes of our team. I suppose I could segue this into a piece on how the 'Net is stratifying the media, but that is probably not necessary (or even wanted) here. But because of our interests and thirst for baseball knowledge of all things Cubs, we roll our eyes at some of the mainstream stuff and come here to find out what is really going on. I would be surprised if that changed in the foreseeable future.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Thanks for the kind words, Norway!

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    That was a brilliant observation...if I don't read it here, I don't give it any merit whatsoever. John and Tom are my only source for all things Cubs.

  • In reply to copinblue:

    Thanks copinblue!

  • In reply to copinblue:


  • I think it's sad that a great city like Chicago has such a dearth of good baseball writers. In football we have people like Dan Pompei , who's nationally recognized but in baseball? a joke. The sad part is that smaller cities like Denver ( Tracy Ringolsby) and Houston ( Richard Justice) have writers who are much more respected than our Chicago writers...sad.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Glad you like Pompei, he is a friend. As far as baseball guys go here yeah nothing to read from my view wither. Miles always was very honest and solid but I haven't even glanced at the Herald since they started to charge for online access.

  • Aside from that anyone have anything to say about the post or way Sveum has been so vocal?

  • I like Sveum and think aside from the Castro bunt has done a great beats the crap out of Dusty and Lou's bullshit...I think he will be a great manager in time.

  • Has Sveum given an answer on why he would chose to pitch the the Cards most clutch hitter, as opposed to going after a rookie? Sveum has cost the Cubs more games than he has won for them.

  • Since we're on the topic of crappy media coverage, I thought I'd offer this idiotic essay in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that advises the Cubs to tear down Wrigley Field, because it's (wait for it...) cursed:

    The writer's trying to be cute, I guess. But it's just stupid. Not quite Rosenbloom stupid but almost Rogers stupid.

  • Your Morning Idiot:
    Talking about how refreshing it is to have an honest and smart guy at the helm while hoping Rogers gets canned.
    Lou Pinella moved Soriano down in the order, hurt his confidence. Then he replaced him late in games. Sweet Lou didn't command respect.
    Quade didn’t do a damn thing and let the inmates run the asylum.
    Sveum calls players out without calling them out. He seems to have a way of impacting change and getting player buy in even if they are a part of the change. Players are willing to give up themselves for the team. Plus the team is fun to root for, from ownership, to their coaching staff, down through the players. I pull for the guys on the field. This probably won’t be known as “The Year.” But it certainly has all the elements in becoming “The Year it all Began.”

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Great points curse. That is what I'm trying to say he has a really developed a knack for calling players out without throwing them under the bus.

  • Tom,

    Good article. I like Sveum's "no b.s." approach, particularly because (at least so far) it seems that his players still like him. It seems that all too often you'll either get a manager liked by the players or a manager who commands respect, but not both. Here's to hoping we have both.

    Question -- how has everyone felt about Sveum's managing from a tactical standpoint? I'm guessing this is one area where you probably improve over time. Do you think we have a solid guy here?

  • In reply to mosconml:

    Thanks and I like Sveum all around so far. Now he has to probably manage a bit differently with a power challenged club, but I think you give him time to develop as well.

  • John
    Did he ever explain bunting Castro? I must have missed it.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    I would've asked if Castro got fined for not running instead of questioning the strategy. Ok... we got that it was a dumb move so he probably would've gotten all defensive over it. No need to ask about The Bunt.

    Follow up... was there a discussion about the not running?

  • In reply to eaton53:

    maybe. i can't read his mind. but isn't accountability for a "dumb move" a good thing to demonstrate anyway?

    i didn't see the game but i agree with you that if a player doesn't run hard there should be accountability there as well.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    I think he would've defected the question, although I sure wouldn't mind knowing what his derailed train of thought was at the time.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    Also... there is no question that Campana got a talking to after missing a sign that got DeJesus thrown out on a would be hit and run. It was on-camera.

    IMO, Castro not running was every bit as egregious because it possibly cost an out. Need to nip that stuff in the bud.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    He did. I think he just said something about that Castro isn't a prototypical #3 hitter and he'll be asked to bunt.

    The point to me, though, was twofold. 1) Why bunt with one of your 2 best RBI men and 2) Why would you move runners to second and third so they can walk LaHair?

    That, and I don't like bunting as a strategy in general.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I AGREE with All the above. Here's my thought on why he had Castro bunt. Prior to that play, I had been noticing Castro being overanxious with men in scoring position.,trying too hard if you will. I just thought he was trying something new,as he probably had talked to Castro about it already. It surely didn't work., and Sveum probably learned a little something as a new manager. Your thoughts???

  • In reply to rakmessiah:

    That crossed my mind, actually. His approach with men on base has been bad at times, despite the nice RBI total. Maybe you're right, this was his way of trying something different. I just hope he doesn't try that again :)

  • sorry Tom. Didn't read who posted this one.

  • In reply to walrus310:

    No prob, thanks for commenting.

  • I am going to reserve judgement on Sveum. There is a lot to like, but I liked Quade early.

  • Actually, I liked Dusty for a while as well. My favorite was Lou even though that did not end well.

  • What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks do they need Youkillis for?
    Stewart is starting to swing the bat.
    Totally dopey!!

  • I think the key with Sveum is that he is direct and honest, but he doesn't seem give negative comments but offer positive constructive criticism which I think the players can handle and appreciate. In other words, he's not saying "Soriano is a terrible ballplayer" or "Soriano can't hit worth a lick" he just says "Soriano needs a lighter bat." He doesn't say "Dolis' pitch selection blows," he says "Dolis should use his slider more. It's good." To me it's the big difference between throwing his guys under the bus and just being frank but helpful.

    Also, I see that Rogers gets a lot of flak here (deservedly IMO), but Sullivan is the one who annoys me the most because in his mailbags, instead of informing readers, he seems to delight in teasing them or point out flaw in their questions or flat out make fun of them. I'm so thankful that I've found this blog because I don't think I learned much of anything from any of Sullivan's mailbags or articles. It's really pretty pathetic that he even got to be the beat reporter. My dog could do a better job... and I don't have a dog.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Right on Vida on all accounts.

  • I'm liking Sveum, can't deny I havent scratched my head more than once but it seems he has a real reason for what he does (though we may not be privy to it ), at least that's my thinking. Quade was / is a whole different animal in my book, never from the start did I think that move was panning out, Ricketts knew it as well, needed a "fill in" for a year so he sort things out on how to get Theo.

  • It's still early, but I like Sveum. He seems to have a good mind for the game, and also for motivating players. I've read that Milwaukee has been one of the leaders in terms of shifting the infielders for more than just homerun hitters, and also talk that he was one of the drivers there. This is leading-edge thinking, imho.

    There is a little growl to his demeanor, too, which I definitely like. He reminds me of (I hate to say it) La Russa. He combines old school with openness to new ideas.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    I like him as well. I'm not as focused on the tactical side right now. I think managers have more value for the tone and identity they set for the team -- and so far I like where it's headed. Others are more into tactical decisions, which also have value, but I think those things get better as managers gain experience. I hope that's the case with Sveum.

  • I like Sveum so far. Seems like mistakes players make in games usually only happen once. Like that LaHair ball where he stepped on first allowing the runner to get in a rundown allowing a run to score. Same ball was hit to him a couple days ago and he threw and got the lead runner instead. And christ do I love the shifted defenses. I bet all teams will do it eventually, but I hope not because it's a big advantage. I like how everyone's buying in, LOVE the baserunning, dig the coaching staff he assembled. Really, if he hadn't had Castro bunt there, and would stop being outguessed by Matheny on pitchouts, he'd get an A+. :)

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I do not like that Sveum has pinch hit Campana off the bench to sacrifice bunt. I would rather see him pinch run and steal second saving an out. Let a pitcher sacrifice bunt if needed.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    You know I thought that exact same thing in that game versus Milwaukee. Save an out. Plus the guy's so fast he can steal even on a pitchout, especially against Lucroy.

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