New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:24AM
Next victim, please.
The Cubs axed manager Dale Sveum on Monday, presumably because they have somebody bigger and better in mind. If they don’t, I’m not sure what the point is of firing a guy who was asked to oversee the paint job on a building that is being razed.
If Theo Epstein gets Yankees manager Joe Girardi to take Sveum’s spot, it will be quite an achievement.
If Girardi takes the job, he’s out of his mind.
I know, I know: Whoever brings the World Series to the North Side will be a hero. We’ve heard it a million times from all the managers, free agents and traded players who have come to Chicago and said, “Why not me, why not now?’’
Because it’s the Cubs.
And so we look on as another management team takes a swing at doing what has been impossible for so many people. This group is led by Epstein, the club’s president of baseball operations, and its approach has been to demolish everything and rebuild it in the Red Sox’ image, if only Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts would take his death grip off the purse strings.
This is where Girardi and his possible insanity come in. After all those victories in New York and after all the money spent on players, why would he come to a team that figures to lose spectacularly again next season?
Because some of the Epstein’s minor-league players might — might — turn out to be good major-league players?
I don’t know if this is the kind of challenge that attracts someone such as manager-to-the-stars Girardi, who, other than his year with the Marlins, has been more Phil Jackson than Ron Gardenhire.
On the other hand, he’s from Peoria, went to Northwestern and played for the Cubs. You would think having had his hand so close to the flame in the past, he wouldn’t want to stop, drop and roll in Chicago. But who knows? There have been scads of managers who were convinced they could be the one to win a World Series for the Cubs. All that’s left is their haunted, hollowed-out looks when they left town. Grimm, Durocher, Zimmer, Baker, Piniella — the list goes on, thanks to Sveum’s firing Monday.
The consensus around baseball is that “the Cubs are coming fast and strong,’’ Epstein said at a news conference Monday.
Perhaps, but as far as I can tell, they just left Papua New Guinea.
It was hard to know whether to laugh or cry during the recent public debate about Sveum’s role in the back-to-back 101- and 96-loss seasons. Talk about taking your eye off the ball. Talk about paying no attention to the man behind the curtain.
That’s not to say Epstein doesn’t have the acumen to find a way to turn this mess around. It’s simply too early to tell. But know this: Given the “weapons’’ Epstein handed his manager, it’s not Sveum’s fault the Cubs were atrocious the last two seasons.
Don’t feel bad for him. He knew what he was in for when he arrived two years ago. He wasn’t brought in as a long-term solution. He was brought in to be the man sitting over the dunk tank. He did his best with what he had. Ultimately, it was his fault that Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro regressed this season, but only because everything is a manager’s responsibility. But it wasn’t Sveum’s idea that the free-swinging Castro needed to be more selective at the plate. It was Epstein’s.
Enough of the blame game. Let’s not argue over who’s responsible for the listing ship. Point the finger at the iceberg, because that better explains the scope of this. If you haven’t won a World Series since 1908, you might be dealing with something a little bigger than the wrong manager or a few misses in the farm system.
A number of media reports have Girardi interested in the Cubs’ job, but nobody knows if it’s a bargaining ploy or if it’s real.
If he comes, it will be another experiment in how an otherwise successful, intelligent manager deals with the full weight of the Cubs’ sometimes cloying culture. We saw it when Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella came to town. We’re excited, they said. We’re not here to talk about the past, they said.
Sorry, but the past runs the show on the North Side. If Girardi doesn’t know that, he indeed needs the services of a mental-health professional.