Dale Sveum brings toughness, but Cubs could use muscle
By Joe Cowley firstname.lastname@example.org November 18, 2011 9:00PM
“We have a great relationship,” new Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Prince Fielder (above). “I love Prince to death.” | Mark J. Terrill~AP
Updated: December 20, 2011 8:09AM
Dale Sveum is tough looking.
Not so much ‘‘Sons of Anarchy’’ tough looking. More like New York City doorman tough looking. Throw a black Armani sport coat on him, a pair of black Berluti shoes, jam an earpiece on his right lobe and a list of names in his hands, and he’s the guy working the door at some swanky Upper East Side nightclub in Manhattan, making you and your three guy friends wait in line for an hour while the three hot girls in short dresses walk right past the velvet ropes with a wink and a smile.
Sveum is tatted up and looks like he could still knuckle-up.
In most places, that would be enough.
But this is the North Side. This is a place that has allowed boom boxes to dominate the clubhouse. A place where highly paid players don’t always feel the need to run out fly balls. Where no dugout cooler is safe from assault and battery.
While the hiring of Sveum to work the clubhouse door for the Cubs as their 52nd manager has appeal, this clean-up job feels more like a two-man gig.
Including someone with even a little more muscle.
Fielder a heavyweight
Specifically, about 285 pounds of muscle — at least that’s the lie told in the Milwaukee Brewers’ media guide. Let’s call Prince Fielder a 300-pounder and be done with it. Let’s also call him a great fit for the Cubs, and then hope that Theo Epstein and the rest of the Brat Pack aren’t close to being done with it.
‘‘If it ever came to Theo and the Ricketts Family thinking that was the right fit at the right time for this organization, I think me being here would definitely help the process,’’ said Sveum, who worked with the free-agent first baseman in Milwaukee the last six years. “We have a great relationship. I love Prince to death.’’
What’s not to love?
Forget the power numbers. Forget that Fielder’s lowest home-run total since 2007 is 32 in 2010. Overlook the 93.7 RBI he has averaged since 2005. It’s what Fielder would bring to a clubhouse that needs a tough-guy leader.
Not only a swagger, but a foxhole mentality. Fielder has sat out just one game the last three years.
“It’d be nice to have him at first base, the way he plays and what he brings to the table every single day,’’ Sveum said Friday. ‘‘I think he’s that guy that I talked about in the press conference. When you can have three and four of those guys on your team, then guys start to follow.’’
And follow in the right direction.
Epstein was not only hired as president of baseball operations to end 103 years and counting of losing, but to give the culture on the North Side an enema. Sveum was hired to administer it.
That was obvious when the former Brewers hitting coach was asked about dealing with veteran players who have untradable contracts.
‘‘In all my dealings in baseball, 99.9 percent of all players want to be looked in the face and told to get their crap together, so to speak,’’ Sveum said. “Whether it’s a singled-out incident or just not getting it done, they appreciate that, and a lot of times if they’ve done something not so good, they’ll apologize. But if you just keep saying they’re big-leaguers, it doesn’t work.
‘‘People want to be motivated. It’s just the way society works. You man up and you look them straight in the face and you tell them, ‘Look, you’ve got to get your crap together. Simple. Bottom line.’ ’’
If Sveum needs a star pupil as the example, having the 27-year-old Fielder in the classroom for the next six to eight years would seem ideal.
I get the plan that the Brat Pack has in store, and adding a big-ticket item to a product that is not close to contending would seem like same old Cubs. But this is different. This is a coach and a player who have a long-running respect for each other in a new culture where respect was never a two-way street.
“I’ve been here 24 hours,’’ Sveum said before laughing. “I’m not sure how much influence I have.’’
Hopefully a lot. You never know when there’s going to be trouble at the door.