McKay insists he ‘kept up my end of the bargain’ under Dale Sveum
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter April 21, 2014 10:45PM
Updated: April 21, 2014 10:54PM
Three regular-season weeks into the Cubs’ first managerial change under Theo Epstein, and the only thing that’s changed is some faces in the clubhouse and voices on the field staff.
Same inability to score runs, same ninth-inning pitching woes, even the same win-loss record and last-place standing through 17 games.
So why was it again that the Cubs changed the manager and most of the coaching staff two years into a rebuilding process in which they said the staff wouldn’t be judged on winning and losing?
Dave McKay still doesn’t know and isn’t trying to figure it out. But the longtime respected coach, who won championships with Tony La Russa in Oakland and St. Louis, believes Dale Sveum’s staff did what it was asked during the two years he was with the Cubs before he landed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after Sveum’s firing last fall.
“I know what I’ve done over the years, and I know what it took to do my job,” he said. “I tried to do my job well, and I kept up my end of the bargain.”
McKay, who was credited with Alfonso Soriano’s late-career defensive renaissance, has no problem with how he was treated and praised the Cubs’ decision to keep pitching coach Chris Bosio and catching coach Mike Borzello — and also praised Epstein’s rebuilding plan and his honesty with McKay about it.
But he stands behind the work Sveum and his staff did the first two years executing that plan and believes they left the process in better shape than they found it.
“You’ve got a team that I heard never ran hard,” he said, “That team ran hard — and they played hard [the last two seasons]. I don’t think anybody could say if you came to the ballpark that they dogged it on the bases or dogged it [in the field]. They went hard.
“We kind of set the table, where if you’re a Chicago Cub, you play the game hard. And anybody that doesn’t is going to stand out. He should stand out.”
McKay was as surprised as Sveum and others on the staff when Epstein’s sudden “no alarm bells” foreshadowing of the firing was raised with two weeks left in the season.
For all the rationale about Sveum’s communication issues, the business department’s behind-the-scenes pursuit of — and promise to land — then-free agent manager Joe Girardi played a role.
What McKay knows for sure is the same thing new manager Rick Renteria acknowledges about the process he inherited midstream:
“I don’t know if I’m starting over,” Renteria said. “The one thing I know is that I’m sure that along the way a lot of the same things that I’m addressing or speaking to have probably been talked about before. I’m sure I’ll benefit from that.”
McKay, who found a good landing spot with a team near his Phoenix-area home, has no hard feelings about his two years in Chicago or how it ended.
“Theo explained it to me real well, that if you catch lightning in a bottle, we’re going to push and going to add to the team and try to better the ballclub,” he said. “If not we have this game plan where we’ll move somebody and bring in some prospects and build up the system. Which is what’s taken place. …
“Whether it’s a four-year plan, a five-year plan. I think there was mention of a five-year plan. …
“I believe he has a real solid plan. Everything he talked to me about what he’s doing, he’s done.”
NOTE: Jake Arrieta (shoulder) pitched 5 2/3 innings for advanced-A Daytona on Monday in what the Cubs say might be his final rehab start before rejoining the rotation. He gave up three homers among five hits, striking out seven with two walks. Rick Renteria said swingman Carlos Villanueva will get at least one more start.