Dale Sveum’s stock has exploded, but so has the Cubs’
By Rick Telander email@example.com November 17, 2011 10:34PM
Chicago Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer watches new manager Dale Sveum put on a Cubs jersey with help from Cubs President Theo Epstein at Wrigley Field. Friday, November 18, 2011. | Brian Jackson~ Sun-Times
Updated: December 19, 2011 8:27AM
Let’s get a couple things straight.
First, it’s Sveum, as in “Swaim,’’ the way anybody would pronounce it. That is, no “v’’, “e,’’ or “u,’’ just an “a’’ and an “i.’’
Second, we have entered the era wherein the Cubs get everything they want.
Their new manager, Dale Sveum, the former batting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers, was coveted by the Boston Red Sox up until the moment he signed with the Cubs on Thursday. And as we know, the Red Sox rule the universe.
So the Cubs, who are full of defectors from that haughty, self-absorbed death star (Sveum himself is a former third-base coach for Boston), have become a virtual baseball destination.
Is that possible?
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and the entire boy choir from Boston, by way of Sabermetrics, Yale, “Casablanca,’’ and God knows what else, seem to have brought good fortune with them, like the popular boy in class who takes a lousy locker in the basement and then all the kids want to be in the basement near him.
To be fair, this popularity thing must be credited to new Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, who has aligned himself with the best and brightest the way a lamprey aligns itself with a school of lake trout.
Paid his dues
That is, these are the best and brightest, aren’t they?
Did you hear anybody hollering his unpronounceable name until the Brewers exited the 2011 playoffs shortly after getting on the cover of Sports Illustrated?
All of sudden, the 47-year-old became the flavor of the day — the man to survive the Cubs endless managerial interviewing process that included Terry Francona, Sandy Alomar, Mike Maddux and others — and he is supposedly the straw to stir the Cubs’ 103-year drink of doom. Maddux, a highly paid pitching coach, backed out of the race earlier, so maybe you could say Sveum is second choice.
But it doesn’t seem that way.
Though he hasn’t been a major-league manager, Sveum has paid his dues as a big-league player, as a minor-league manager and as a big-league bench coach.
That he was an infielder — often at shortstop — is a quality thing, too. Shortstops should have their wits about them, on and off the field. This is something Sveum can impart to oft-drifting Cubs shortstop and potential superstar Starlin Castro.
Sveum is said to be a guy who can understand computer printouts and also be a friend to less-than-brilliant players who might a need a helping hand.
It’s for sure Sveum has been to the top and then seen how the big hand of fate can flick away anything you’ve done in an instant. A former high school All-America quarterback from California, Sveum was a first-round pick by the Brewers in 1982. He had a stupendous season in 1987, when he hit 25 home runs and knocked in 95 runs while almost always batting last in the order. Then in 1988 he terribly shattered his tibia in a fielding collision in a game in Pittsburgh and was never the same.
The baseball gods giveth. They taketh away.
Oh, and Sveum once led the American League in errors, too.
People say he’s a nice guy, not too cocky, not to humble. Given what he’s been through, that’s appropriate.
Some Cubbie dreamers have said that, golly, since he’s so close to Milwaukee’s slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, maybe Sveum can entice the rotund free agent to come to Wrigley Field in some kind of BFF deal.
You bet. If agent Scott Boras gets paid a fortune, sure.
By that logic, why shouldn’t the Cubs have interviewed Cardinals batting coach Mark McGwire for the top job? Then the Cubs could sign Albert Pujols!
So let’s not go crazy here.
After the cult of managers with big-league histories and some decent credentials — from Don Baylor (OK, at least he had managed in the bigs for six years) to Dusty Baker to Lou Piniella — the Cubs will have had two managers with no big-league credits. And odd last names.
What, you knew how to pronounce Quade before being told it was “Kwod-dee?’’
Sveum has a three-year deal, with an option.
He’s looking at a Cubs back story so frightening that it could make his busted leg tale seem like a fairy story.
Cubs manager No. 52, come on down! You’re the hottest thing around.