The Top 50 Prospect series will return later today but right now the manager situation and how it’s being handled is on my mind.
Dale Sveum’s fate is to be decided on Monday and I have to admit I have some mixed feelings on the matter. While the rallying cry from the media and many fans point to his dismissal, the people I’ve talked to consider that an unlikely move. Keep in mind thought that I’m not talking to inside sources on this. I was just talking to some industry people on the thought process involved in these kind of decisions.
So, I’ve been debating myself and it goes something like this…
On the decision day
Take 1: That means he’s being fired because if they were going to keep him, why keep him guessing for the last few games of the season? If they were going to keep him, why not tell him now?
Take 2: This is normal protocol. The Cubs have a process where they don’t address staff evaluation until after the season is over. The reason the focus is on it this year is because the question is being asked for this time.
Are they really waiting on Joe Girardi?
Take 1: Yes. The Cubs have reason to be confident that Girardi will leave New York and they are making this decision early to give themselves enough time to go through their interview process, which as we know is quite lengthy.
Take 2: The Monday decision day shows the Cubs are not waiting on Girardi since they don’t even know if he’ll be available. If they fire Sveum, it has more to do with how they evaluated his performance than looking to hire a specific manager.
Was Sveum treated fairly?
Take 1: No. Sveum wasn’t really given a fair chance. He’s been given two rosters that weren’t designed to win but to accumulate long term assets. He competed reasonably well in both first halves but any player who had short term success and a short term deal was traded for a player or players with long term value. Firing him would mean he was essentially set up to fail — hired to be fired. Would Sveum taken this job if he knew this considering the more ready-to-win Boston Red Sox were also in hot pursuit?
Take 2: Yes. Sveum knew this was a job that entailed the tough job of rebuilding and developing players at the MLB level. It’s a challenge to be sure, but a challenge he felt he could handle.
The Media’s Role
Take 1: The media never really took to Dale Sveum and when fans started to blame Sveum for the Cubs failures, they jumped on the story and it picked up momentum from there.
Take 2: The Cubs front office may have misread the Chicago media, thinking it was more like the Boston media rather than a New York style media. Sveum never seemed comfortable with the constant barrage of questions — some of which were on target, but he showed obvious disdain for the more inane questions. There was also the issue of miscommunication, particularly in the cases of the Castro/Rizzo demotion fiasco and the recent Kevin Gregg flap. Joe Girardi has demonstrated he can handle the New York media quite well and it seems logical he could handle the press here in Chicago too.
What does the Sveum decison mean going forward for the organization and the front office?
Take 1: Firing Sveum and hiring someone like Girardi (or anyone for that matter) turns the focus back on the front office’s rebuilding strategy. It speeds up the timetable. For one, Girardi isn’t likely to come on to a long term rebuilding project and secondly, if Girardi doesn’t win in two years, the blame could well shift to the Cubs front office. It’s a huge risk on the front office’s part and it must mean they believe they can win by at least 2015.
Take 2: The front office has reassurances from owner Tom Ricketts that they will not be held accountable if the Cubs rebuilding project carries on into 2015. This would imply some input from Ricketts if Sveum is fired. A front office isn’t accountable to fans, but ownership is. Fans are becoming impatient with the rebuild after just two years, an unfortunate side effect of playing in a large market, and one way to quell fans without directly derailing a rebuilding strategy is to fire the manager. But it makes me a little uneasy if ownership is in any way involved in baseball operations. That hasn’t worked well for the past 100 years here on the north side.
So what’s going to happen?
I honestly don’t know. I can see some merit to both takes and I was more sure that Sveum was going on to stay until the past couple of days. If Sveum does get fired, then I would say that this would be the front office’s first major failure no matter how you slice it. They’ve made some mistakes to be sure, but whether you think Dale Sveum was meant to be a point A to point B manager or whether he was hired for the long term (which I believe is the case based on the front office’s history), they certainly didn’t think he’d last just 2 years.
And while firing the manager buys some time to keep their rebuilding plan in tact, it will likely only buy them another year, maybe two. They would have obviously preferred to buy that extra time a year from now rather than in the 2nd year of the rebuild. Indirectly, it artificially speeds up the process and that can’t be something they’re happy about. Still, it’s preferable to speeding up by sacrificing long term value for short term gain in terms of their roster. It’d be a compromise, but again, they probably didn’t expect to be making compromises at this relatively early stage.
If they keep Sveum, it means the rebuilding strategy remains on schedule according to Theo’s original plan. I think in a perfect, rational world this is what they’d prefer to do. But as we all know, things don’t always go according to plan.