Epstein: Cubs’ record won’t play role in Sveum evaluation
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 18, 2013 10:48PM
Updated: September 18, 2013 11:37PM
MILWAUKEE — When it comes to the things that will determine whether Cubs manager Dale Sveum sticks around for a third year at the helm, about the only thing that won’t be included is his .395 winning percentage, team president Theo Epstein said this week.
“That’s more a reflection of the roster that we’ve put on the field as a baseball operations department,” Epstein said.
As for the rest of the criteria list, Sveum’s boss would offer an opinion on only one: “As a whole, Dale’s had a nice, calming effect on the club [and] established a level of professionalism there that’s admirable.”
The other categories on which Epstein will be judged raise more questions:
◆ “Development of young players.” This is the biggest red-flag area for evaluation, considering it is the prime directive of the rebuilding process. When Starlin Castro (seven years, $60 million) and Anthony Rizzo (seven, $41 million) both struggle nearly all season, and young Gold Glove second baseman Darwin Barney takes a step back in his offensive development — all after adopting changes offered by the staff — it’s hard not to take a close look at a manager who is a hitting coach by trade.
◆ “In-game decision-making and other shorter-term strategic issues.” Donnie Murphy bunting with two on and nobody out in the ninth against Pittsburgh last week, trailing 3-1? Murphy’s had a career year in six weeks and owns the Cubs’ top slugging percentage since joining the team last month. Pitcher Mark Melancon is a late-inning beast, but it’s not a percentage move in general, and the Cubs have few threats in the lineup on a given day. That’s just a recent head-scratcher among a few this year. It’s hard to be too critical in this area without nitpicking, though, especially given the roster.
◆ “The way [he] uses the roster and other longer-horizon issues.” Epstein might have been referring in part to James Russell, the young, club-controlled lefty who has been allowed to tie for the major-league lead in appearances the last two seasons (150) and has shown signs of wear in the second half.
◆ “The ability to develop solid, trusting relationships with players so that you can get through adversity together.” This seems to be an area of strength for Sveum with at least most of the players, who privately say they respect his open-door policy and honesty. It’s also another area hard to judge too critically considering the 88 players shuttled through in two years — the extreme minority of whom have any job security of their own.