Dale Sveum’s undoing: Mixed signals to young stars
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter September 30, 2013 10:09PM
Chicago Cubs Introduce New Manager Dale Sveum
Updated: November 2, 2013 6:21AM
Dale Sveum stood in the Wrigley Field parking lot Monday, saying two weeks ago he “never would have imagined’’ his job as Cubs manager would be over.
That was when team president Theo Epstein first publicly said Sveum was being “evaluated’’ before his final contract year, setting off a wave of speculation about his possible firing.
“It got the ball rolling’’ about doubts for his future, Sveum said.
But Epstein said, in fact, the front office began having doubts about Sveum in the first half of the season.
That was when Sveum made statements about young stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro not being exempt from demotions to the minors, a stance that set off an internal firestorm.
It likely was one of the things that led to what Epstein on Monday called a “brutally honest’’ meeting with Sveum soon after the All-Star break about the organization’s “concerns about whether [Sveum] was the long-term guy’’ for the team.
“We told him about areas he had to work on,’’ Epstein said.
Epstein said he met with Sveum again “for two hours’’ before his comments two weeks ago in Milwaukee, telling the manager he had been “hiding from the media’’ to avoid questions about Sveum’s status.
He said he told Sveum “we’ve been having meetings about you and your coaches’’ and said the same issues of concern were arising the last two weeks of the season.
Epstein said he “went out of my way’’ to make things clear to Sveum. “Dale was treated fairly. He wasn’t blindsided,’’ Epstein said.
Epstein said incidents between Sveum and Edwin Jackson and Kevin Gregg didn’t influence the decision. Rather, the concerns were about handling young players and sending mixed messages.
“It’s tricky to develop young players at the major-league level,” Epstein said. “They have to be supported fully. Along the way there has to be tough love. But there has to be love before there’s tough love. You have to be patient with them. You have to be clear and unified in your message. You can’t be getting different signals from different directions. Collectively, myself included, failed to provide that.”
Epstein met Sveum on Sunday night to dismiss him.
“We talked over some beers, got some things off our chest,’’ Epstein said.
Epstein praised Sveum’s stoic nature through two losing seasons and said he “grew’’ in the job, “but he will be a better fit … elsewhere.’’
Sveum, who worked with young players while coaching in Milwaukee, defended his ability to work with them.
“Whatever perception people are going to read into, or whatever, I’ve done this,” Sveum said. “I’ve produced a lot of good young players and developed them, and obviously it just didn’t work out here.
“You hope you’ve changed people, whether it was turning boys into men or teaching then how to deal with adversity,’’ he said. “You do the best you possibly can. You hope you get through to some guys.’’
Sveum said while the team’s losing was hard to take, “you understand the process’’ the organization was undergoing.
“It wasn’t frustrating because I knew that was going to go on,’’ he said. “The organization is much healthier than it was two years ago when I got this job. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer and closer.
“That’s the biggest disappointment,’’ he said. “You have this vision of when it will happen and being part of a world championship. The biggest disappointment is you didn’t get to see it through.’’
The only coach who might return is pitching coach Chris Bosio, who is credited with helping put the starters and relievers on more solid footing.
Epstein said the coaches were told they were free to talk to other teams, but he added he would give “strong and clear messages’’ to the next manager about some he would like to keep, presumably Bosio.