Epstein: No decision on Dale Sveum until Cubs’ season ends
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 17, 2013 10:23PM
Updated: September 18, 2013 12:16AM
MILWAUKEE — Less than two weeks are left in the Cubs’ season, but team president Theo Epstein won’t commit yet to manager Dale Sveum returning next year for the final year of his contract.
‘‘That’s just something that gets addressed after the season,’’ Epstein said Tuesday, about 20 hours after Sveum and $52 million pitcher Edwin Jackson were caught on camera in a heated dugout altercation.
‘‘No alarm bells to ring,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘That’s a subject that gets addressed as a matter of process, as a matter of routine, after the season, after a period of evaluation, which we’re in the midst of right now.’’
The subject has gained traction on the local airwaves and Twitter as the Cubs close in on what’s fast approaching the worst two-year stretch in franchise history for losses. This season also has seen several young hitters take steps back in their offensive development.
Critics have picked at game decisions, including bullpen and bench moves, with a roster that has been severely flawed and unstable since Sveum took over last season. A club-record 88 different players have been used during that stretch.
‘‘I’ll say that Dale’s been given a difficult hand to play at times by us,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘I think there’s certain categories in which it’s hard to evaluate him.’’
Epstein, in Milwaukee with other front-office officials for end-of-the-year meetings with Sveum and the coaching staff, praised Sveum for his ability to maintain effort from the players and a mostly incident-free environment.
“[The Jackson incident] is really the first incident in two very difficult seasons, which I think is a feather in Dale’s cap,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘Obviously not everything’s gone the way we wanted the last two years, but as far as incidents and tempers flaring and conflicts, there really hasn’t been that many. Teams sometimes take on the personality of their manager, and Dale being so even-keeled and calm has rubbed off on the atmosphere.
‘‘Considering it’s a big market and that there’s been some brushfires in the past here, I think you have to give Dale a lot of credit for that.’’
One area in which Sveum won’t be judged, Epstein said, is wins and losses. That’s on the front office.
But everything else is in play, from development of young players to in-game management, following an organizational plan for use of the roster, creating a ‘‘culture of accountability’’ in the clubhouse and developing relationships and long-term trust, Epstein said.
Sveum is in the second year of a three-year deal, with a club option for 2015. If a change is made with him and any of his staff, it could be part of larger changes — especially considering the Cubs were just five losses short of matching their highest consecutive-year loss total entering Tuesday’s game in Milwaukee. (They lost 193 in 1961-62 and 1965-66.) They were just eight losses short of their worst three-year stretch (1964-66).
‘‘I think anytime an organization suffers back-to-back potential last-place seasons, you have to evaluate every single aspect of the organization,’’ Epstein said. ‘‘So we’re looking at our own decision-making process in the front office, and we’re looking at the players and evaluating the players. And we’re evaluating the coaching staff, and we’re evaluating Dale.
‘‘I think as a whole, Dale’s had a nice, calming effect on the club. I think he’s established a level of professionalism here that’s admirable, and he’s held his head up high in difficult circumstances over the course of two years.’’