MORRISSEY: Cubs’ manager is getting a raw Dale
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org | @MorrisseyCST September 19, 2013 8:38PM
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:06PM
You know the drill: A bad season is mercifully reaching its end, and reporters ask the general manager whether the coach/manager will be back next year. The man in charge responds that everyone in the organization will be evaluated after the games are over.
Just once, I’d love for a GM to surprise us with his evaluations.
“After analyzing everything, I have found myself lacking,’’ he would say. “There are a lot of words to describe me right now, but one will suffice: fired.”
I have a sneaking suspicion that Theo Epstein is not going to can himself for the crimes his Cubs have committed against baseball the last two seasons. I’m not suggesting he should, but the idea that manager Dale Sveum deserves to be sent packing because of this mess is laughable. Blaming Sveum for the Cubs’ hitting, pitching and fielding would be like blaming a director for Paris Hilton’s rendering of Lady Macbeth.
Epstein, the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, won’t yet commit to his manager for 2014. It has taken a lot of people by surprise, considering what Sveum has dealt with as the franchise undergoes a rebuilding process that is doing a fair imitation of a meteor crater.
The speculation is that Epstein’s failure to commit publicly is less a reflection on Sveum and more a nod to the possibility that some big-name managers could be available after the season. The contracts of Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire are expiring.
The Cubs lost 101 games last season and will likely lose 90-something this season. Next year doesn’t figure to be much better, if at all. Cubs fans are hoping that 2015 will be the year they wake up and see sunshine streaming through their windows, but who really knows? Let’s put aside the question of why someone like Girardi would want to take on a team that is A) not going to be very good next season and B) not guaranteed to be good after that.
When it comes to building their farm system, the Cubs are dealing in volume, the idea being that if they focus on amassing talented prospects, some of the kids will turn out to be good major-leaguers. There are no givens, though, leaving Cubs fans with minor-leaguers’ stats and faith in Epstein for nourishment right now.
Sveum has received his fair share of criticism for the backward steps that Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have taken this season, though it’s interesting to note the manager gets little credit for Rizzo’s 2012 numbers: .285 average, 15 home runs and 48 RBI in 87 games. Castro’s average has taken a dive, but that has something to do with the organizational emphasis on hitters seeing a lot of pitches rather than swinging early in the count. Epstein admitted as much this week. Castro is an aggressive batter, and when he was hitting well, he turned bad pitches into base hits. Now he looks lost.
As for Castro’s mental wanderings at shortstop, I’m not sure how that’s the manager’s fault. The bigger issue is whether Castro should be a shortstop at all.
The scary part for Cubs fans is the possibility that Castro and Rizzo simply aren’t as good as people have made them out to be. The two are supposed to be the big-league foundation for the franchise, something real and substantial until Epstein comes up with the goods. The Cubs have committed significant money to both players.
Sveum knew what he was in for when the Cubs hired him in late 2011. I’m guessing it didn’t occur to him that he might not be back for 2014 until Epstein was so noncommittal the other day. Surely he thought Epstein would see the hand his manager had been dealt. What Sveum has coming is called “combat pay.’’
My backing him for at least another season might strike some of you as being terribly cruel to the poor guy, and you might be right. No one should have to lose like this.
But whatever shortcomings Sveum might have as a game tactician or talent developer are about Nos. 93 and 94 on the list of what’s wrong with the Cubs.
And do you really think Girardi is the answer right now? A manager who has spent the last six years with the Yankees, a franchise that dishes out money with a win-now mentality?
If he comes here, he’ll grow his hair long just so he can pull it out.