Cubs’ coaching staff in limbo, stays upbeat
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter September 28, 2013 9:50PM
Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Dioner Navarro
CUBS AT CARDINALS
The facts: 1:15 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
The starters: Jeff Samardzija (8-12, 4.33 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (7-8, 4.67).
Updated: October 30, 2013 7:00AM
ST. LOUIS — Ever since team president Theo Epstein threw their futures into doubt last week, Cubs manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff have been publicly trampled by fans and media in a rush to identify the next great managing hope.
Whether any in the Joe Girardi, Ron Gardenhire or Mike Maddux fan clubs get their ways after a decision comes down Monday, the coaches under Sveum seem unified in their belief that much of the criticism is undeserved and that progress they see is worth staying the course.
“As long as I’ve been in baseball, it’s one of the best staffs I’ve ever been involved with,” said assistant hitting coach Rob Deer, one of two additions last winter that completed what amounts to a first-year staff.
“Everybody talks about being in a rebuilding situation, and we’ve made a lot of progress in a lot of different ways,” Deer added. “Unfortunately with some of the acquisitions from the trades that have bettered our organization, we’ve also lost some pretty valuable veteran pieces.
“It would be nice to be able to keep everybody intact and come back, now that we’ve all had a full season together and all know everything going on here. It would be great to be a part of this, because we all feel that it’s a very special situation and we’re not that far off.”
Epstein has said repeatedly over the last week and a half that his front office must complete its evaluation process this weekend before informing Sveum and his staff whether any or all will be asked back for the 2014 season.
Communication issues and player development philosophies come into play, with the struggles of some young hitters getting the most outside attention.
In addition to Deer being new to the staff, hitting coach James Rowson (promoted from the farm system to replace Rudy Jaramillo last season) is in his first full season as a big-league coach.
“We’ve worked hard here,” Rowson said. “We’ve had some ups and downs throughout the season with some of the players offensively, but overall like we’ve made some progress. And that’s the goal: to stay with the process and continue to make progress and see what happens.”
“Ultimately, we’re talking about having guys understand having an approach at the plate consistently. And there is a learning curve in that,” said Rowson, whose success with Anthony Rizzo in the minors was cited as a factor in his promotion. “I’ve seen a lot of bright spots, and I’ve seen some spots where we need to continue to work.”
Bench coach Jamie Quirk — who, like Deer, had a lengthy big-league playing career — said he hasn’t seen anything to merit blowing up the staff after one full year together.
“I think we’ve done everything that has been asked of us,” said Quirk, who joined the staff when Sveum was hired last year. “We were hoping to come into this with more than a two-year run at it, to give it our best and our all and see what happens.”
Quirk said Sveum has done a “great job” at the helm, as evidenced by the effort and overall professional tone of the clubhouse he and the staff have been able to maintain despite a club-record 88 players shuttled through over two seasons.
It’s the same point Epstein makes when praising Sveum.
“The players have never been a problem, and that’s due to the way Dale and our staff conducts ourselves with them,” Quirk said. “It’s constant discussion. We’re a very verbal staff. And it’s not just on the field. It’s in the clubhouse and all that.
“It’s a phenomenal job of keeping the club together.”