Theo Epstein pays Dale Sveum a compliment
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 27, 2013 11:30PM
CUBS AT CARDINALS
The facts: 3:15 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The starters: Edwin Jackson (8-17, 4.74 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (9-5, 2.81).
Updated: October 29, 2013 6:17AM
ST. LOUIS — As Brad Ausmus’ name made the rounds Friday as the flavor of the day in the name-next-year’s-Cub-manager media tournament, at least one often-overlooked name remained more likely than that:
With barely two days before Cubs president Theo Epstein plans to announce personnel decisions involving his field staff, club officials insist the decision hasn’t been made on whether second-year manager Sveum will be back for the final year of his contract in 2014.
In fact, Epstein, Sveum and general manager Jed Hoyer spent hours before Friday’s 7-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals meeting with individual players for end-of-the-year evaluations.
“But there’s no clarity on my situation,” said Sveum, whose status was thrown into limbo more than a week ago when Epstein said the front office hadn’t decided whether Sveum would be back.
“I’m still being evaluated, and I’ll find out Monday,” Sveum said.
Meanwhile, Boston-based writer Peter Gammons, an old media pal of the Cubs’ brass from their Red Sox days, threw out the name of fellow New Englander Ausmus — much to the surprise of Cubs officials, sources said. And it was widely picked up as a “report” of Sveum’s replacement.
If the Cubs make a move, it’s much more likely to be a result of a proven manager such as the Yankees’ Joe Girardi being available.
Industry sources say Girardi — the Peoria native and former Cub who wanted the job in 2006 when Lou Piniella was hired — has sent back-channel signals to the Cubs he would be interested.
Club officials say they haven’t gotten that far in the process.
Epstein said Friday nothing has changed about the club’s feelings on Sveum since last week — and that, specifically, neither the dugout dustups in Milwaukee, nor the Kevin Gregg communication snafu last weekend were considered problems.
“Frankly, it’s been impressive that under Dale’s leadership we got through 11 months of regular season without something like that happening,” Epstein said. “Those things are to be expected. If you don’t want those things to happen, then don’t trade 40 percent of your rotation every year.
“Frankly the things behind the scenes are more important than some of the brush fires that sometimes become public.”
The bigger issues almost certainly involve how Sveum’s communication skills and development philosophies fit the larger rebuilding process into its third year.
The win-loss results might not look much better next year than this year, but it should be a key season for at least a few of the system’s higher-ranked prospects to transition to the majors — specifically, top prospect Javy Baez and possibly this year’s No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant.
With bigger stadium revenues a year or more behind expectations, getting the most out of the improving farm system might be even more critical to the Cubs’ process.
Epstein said that’s one big area of success in the overall process, with nine pitchers acquired in July trades, along with a strong draft and international signing season.
“We’ve gone from wherever we were,” he said, “to … I think it’s safe to consider [it] a top three — certainly a top five — farm system in the game.”
Longtime prospect analyst John Sickels listed six Cubs on his postseason prospects list released Friday, including four in his top 27: shortstop Baez (eight), third baseman Bryant (19), outfielder Albert Almora (22) and outfielder Jorge Soler (27).
Meanwhile, Sveum waits.
“It doesn’t affect me and it doesn’t bother me like people might think it does,” he said. “It’s just part of the process.”