Dale Sveum managing from the hot seat
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 18, 2013 10:37PM
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Updated: September 18, 2013 11:37PM
MILWAUKEE — Could the Cubs be making a play for the Yankees’ Joe Girardi to be their new manager — or Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire? And what about Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux, who declined because of family issues when Theo Epstein tried to hire him two years ago?
Epstein, the Cubs’ team president, set smoldering speculation about Dale Sveum ablaze this week when he refused to say whether he planned to bring his manager back in 2014 for the final year of his contract, deferring to an “evaluation process” that somehow remains uncertain with less than two weeks left in the season.
Whether he was putting his manager and coaching staff on notice or whether he has an imminent change up his sleeve, Epstein effectively assured that Sveum will be managing on a hot seat — whether that’s the next 10 games or the next year or more.
“We have these jobs to some day [get fired],” Sveum said Wednesday, addressing the issue with trademark cool and matter-of-fact tone. “Hopefully, you get some length out of it, but we all know how baseball jobs, in general, come and go very quickly. It’s just the nature of the beast.
“Obviously, those things are going to be said when your team’s not doing well. It is what it is, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
But in the last two days alone, these things also were said by baseball bosses in other cities about their managers:
Kevin Towers on Kirk Gibson’s disappointing Arizona finish: “I still fully support Gibby.”
And Jon Daniels on public cries for Ron Washington’s job as the Texas Rangers have blown a big wild-card lead down the stretch: “I fully expect” Washington to return.
On the conspicuous lack of a vote of confidence from the front office, Sveum said, “Hopefully, that comes in 12 days from now.”
Until then, he’s been thrown to the wolves — who spent most of Wednesday filling the Chicago airwaves by ripping Sveum over everything from game management to player development and calling for the next piece of meat to push through the grinder.
Sveum shrugged off all the criticism and speculation and said he believes he’ll be back next year.
“I would hope to think so,” he said. “I’ve been around the game long enough to understand how the whole process works. … We’ve been in good communication through all this and understand that they go through what they have to go through on their end of the evaluation of myself and the coaching staff.
“I’ve been happy with the way we’ve done things. And obviously some things haven’t gone too well, and some things have gone really well. But like I said, that’s up to them and they’re the bosses and they make those decisions and they evaluate.”
Epstein said on Tuesday that Sveum won’t get judged on wins and losses — Wednesday’s 7-0 loss to Milwaukee was Sveum’s 190th in two seasons — and that the front office takes the blame for a waiver-wire roster that has sent a franchise-record 88 players through the door over two seasons.
He praised Sveum for his demeanor and success in maintaining a professional environment, strong work ethic and across-the-board effort from players through the shortcomings.
But things such as game management, development of young hitters and roster management with a long-term view all will come into play, Epstein said — with the struggles of cornerstone players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, along with Darwin Barney, being most apparent.
“Obviously, we’re all accountable for people’s production,” Sveum said.
Wherever that accountability falls, it certainly has added some tension and intrigue to the final few games of the season.