Dale Sveum gives it to ’em straight
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com March 9, 2012 9:40PM
New managers Robin Ventura and Dale Sveum chat before the White Sox and Cubs squared off Friday in Glendale, Ariz. | Mark Duncan~AP
Updated: April 11, 2012 8:08AM
MARYVALE, Ariz. — One version of the story says Ryan Braun broke his bat in anger after a strikeout and part of it landed on Dale Sveum. Braun thinks he threw his helmet. Sveum says the different versions might be separate incidents.
But all parties agree that when Braun reacted the way he did during that game last summer, Sveum, the Milwaukee Brewers’ hitting coach at the time, had a swift, equal and opposite reaction.
Sveum got in Braun’s face and made it clear to the startled All-Star that what he just saw wasn’t going to happen again.
“Absolutely,’’ Braun said. “He’s the first guy to tell you. As players, you respect that. You want that, and you need that at times.’’
Even if you’re a $105 million player in the middle of an MVP season.
“I’m not the guy that lets something go,’’ Sveum said. “It doesn’t matter who did it. I’m not that guy that treats a rookie different than a veteran if something doesn’t make sense.’’
Braun regrouped and, in his next at-bat, hit a home run.
“It’s just the heat of the moment that happened,’’ Sveum said. “There was nothing spectacular about the moment, besides him hitting a home run.’’
But it was the kind of moment that Brewers players say was indicative of Sveum’s personality, which made him a rare impact coach in the clubhouse the last six seasons. It also made the players believe that Sveum would make a strong manager.
They get their first look at Sveum as an opposing manager Saturday, when the Cubs face Brewers.
“When I first got here, there were times we didn’t have a lot of winning attitude,’’ Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks said. “The whole thing changed pretty much when he got here. He knows players, and he knows everybody’s not the same. He’s a big loss for us. He’s a bigger loss inside the clubhouse.’’
For all of Sveum’s reputed strengths — work ethic, video analysis and insistence on doing the little things right — his personality might be his most important strength in his new clubhouse.
Critics have claimed for years that the Cubs’ clubhouse has been in need of an enema. Anyone still skeptical about whether Sveum can carry the same big stick at Wrigley Field that worked in Milwaukee, just ask Braun.
“There’s certain people that say things one way and do them another,’’ Braun said. “But everything he said he meant. He lived his life that way, he coached that way, and as players we certainly respected anything that he had to say.
“He’s one of the most knowledgeable baseball men I’ve ever been around. And he just brought a certain energy, intensity and focus to the ballpark every day that was infectious to everybody else. Certainly, the Cubs’ gain is our loss, and it’s going to be a challenge for us to replace him.’’
Said Brewers right fielder Corey Hart: “He’s kind of your old-school, get-in-your-face kind of guy. For whatever reason, it works. People listen to him. And he’s fun to be around.
“For that team over there, with a lot of young guys, [the Cubs] needed somebody like him.’’