Crosstown will have to manage with Robin Ventura, Dale Sveum
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org May 16, 2012 10:50PM
White Sox manager Robin Ventura and Cubs manager Dale Sveum are low-key leaders. | Rick Scuteri~AP
Updated: June 29, 2012 9:31AM
The Cubs and White Sox will begin battling for the BP Crosstown Cup on Friday, and you know what that means.
It means BP is still paying for the naming rights to a trophy that has been in existence lo these three years.
Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of meaning to the showdown this time around, especially on the managerial front. The boisterous days of Ozzie vs. Lou are long gone, and now we have Robin vs. Dale, which sounds like something from “Nature’’ on PBS.
Many people seem to be happy about the peace and quiet post-Ozzie Guillen, but if that’s what you’re in it for, I’d suggest checking out a still-life art exhibit.
Nothing against Dale Sveum and Robin Ventura, but this weekend could be something of a comedown in the “fun’’ department. Guillen delighted in aggravating Cubs fans by describing the rats he said lived in the bowels of Wrigley. Ventura is more likely to describe the intricacies of the hit-and-run.
Five years ago, Lou Piniella used the Cubs-Sox series to announce to reporters that he was going to have a surprise for them. The surprise turned out to be Ryan Dempster’s move from closer to the rotation. Piniella understood the moment and the stage he was standing on. It was Cubs-Sox. It called for more.
Even the under-the-radar Jerry Manuel raised his game for this series. In ’03, he had his pitcher walk Corey Patterson and load the bases to face Sammy Sosa. Gutsy move. Tom Gordon came in and struck out Sosa. Excellent theater.
See? Cubs-Sox demands more.
“The only thing I can compare it to was when I was in Boston, Boston against New York,’’ Sveum said. “When we played the Yankees, it was like a World Series atmosphere. The fans, it just takes everything to a whole different level.
“… The players and everybody know it. In 162 games, you look at the schedule, you know exactly when you’re going to play those games. It’s a whole different atmosphere. It’s like playing playoffs without being in the playoffs.’’
But you get the feeling that if edgy NATO summit protesters ran past Wrigley on Friday, they’d immediately be calmed by the managers’ soothing presence.
It feels wrong.
There are some good stories on the North Side — Bryan LaHair’s journey to the big leagues, Jeff Samardzija’s transformation to starter and Starlin Castro’s continued excellence — but a skipper with a steady hand on the tiller isn’t one of them. Sigh.
This weekend should be part of the honeymoon period, with two new managers being introduced to the rivalry. But it’s not. Reality has set in, and the second-guessing has begun, especially of Sveum. He was criticized for having Castro, one of his best hitters, bunt with two on and no outs Monday in St. Louis. Castro bunted into a double play.
In a way, it means that Sveum is now a manager. The milestones that came before — the first game, the first victory, etc. — were the easy part. You know you’re finally a manager when you get second-guessed. Welcome to the job.
He has a way of dealing with the scrutiny: He doesn’t deal with it.
“I don’t read the papers,’’ Sveum said. “I’m not a guy that tweets or whatever you call that thing. I’m not a big computer guy. I don’t read the news. I watch the NFL channel … for fantasy [league] reasons.’’
Even if there are no expectations for the Cubs this season, there’s still scrutiny on the manager. It’s a little less intense on the South Side, but it’s still there. The Sox’ bullpen has been a mess, and Chris Sale’s job title seemed to be a mystery to everyone involved for a week. On Tuesday against the Tigers, Ventura kept starter Jake Peavy in the game too long, paid for it and heard about it afterward. Welcome to the job.
“It gets that way when you have games like [that],’’ Ventura said. “People get frustrated. That’s fine; I knew it was coming. That’s just part of this job. If everybody likes you, the players are playing well. Some guys wish they were hitting better, but I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be.’’
All the noise is around the managers, though, not from them, and that’s too bad. Maybe over time, both will work into the job and become more alive. In the meantime, it’s quiet around here. Too quiet.