Doug Padilla reviews the Cubs by position. Today he focuses on the manager and coaches.
CHICAGO -- First-year Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum says he prides himself on his patience. It will be interesting to see if he has any remaining heading into year No. 2 of a poise-crushing rebuilding project.
Sveum was at the helm during just the third season of at least 100 losses in the long history of the Cubs and the first since the club lost 103 games in 1966. The club also lost 103 games in 1962.
Yet judging Sveum’s guidance isn’t so simple. Based on wins and losses, it was an epic disaster, but it isn’t so black and white for a manager in his first season while his organization is tearing things down to the foundation.
In fact, Sveum was told during his interview that he wouldn’t be judged on victories, but rather his ability to teach and to forge a unified clubhouse.
In that sense, Sveum, along with bench coach and right-hand man Jamie Quirk, delivered exactly what was expected.
But was everything perfect? Not exactly.
Sveum insisted on going to his right-handed hitting bench over and over again, even though it showed early in the season that it was having difficulty against left-handed starters.
He and pitching coach Chris Bosio let Jeff Samardzija run wild with an ineffective curveball for a month, although the argument could be made that by letting him see that it wasn’t a good pitch for him, Samardzija was able to strengthen his resolve around the pitches he does throw well.
And Sveum was quick to jump on young shortstop Starlin Castro for his mental gaffes, even though there were plenty of other issues from players up and down the roster.
He clearly had the respect of his players, though, establishing a no-nonsense attitude that prevented infighting in the face of all that losing.
In the process, the Cubs now feel they have something to sell to players that might otherwise ignore a club that was just trying to hold it together this past season.
“I think there are lots of ways to sell the Cubs to free agents,” club president Theo Epstein insisted. “I think players want to play for certain managers. I’ve seen a big difference from 10 or 15 years ago. I think now the word gets out on who you want to play for really quickly because players all know each other and text to one another and they understand.
“I guarantee you … through the whole winter, players will be talking about how great it is to play for Dale Sveum and to be a part of this clubhouse here. I think that’s not an insignificant thing.”
Sveum wasn’t alone in his leadership, though. Outside of letting Samardzija take on a little water during a short stretch, Bosio’s work was borderline miraculous. Samardzija inexplicably blossomed into a upper-rotation guy, while the starters carried the team for their only winning stretch and Carlos Marmol revived his career.
New outfield coach Dave McKay got Alfonso Soriano to feel comfortable about himself in the outfield and the renewed confidence translated to all parts of his game, especially on offense where he had some of the best numbers in the National League.
And outfield coach Pat Listach turned Darwin Barney into a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. Curiously, though, Listach was informed at the end of the season that he won’t be back in 2013.
Listach wasn’t the only coaching holdover that departed this season. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo was fired in June. James Rowson took over the job on an interim basis and was named to fill the spot permanently on Tuesday.
As Sveum moves forward as a manager, wins and losses will start to become more important, but the plan for 2013 might still be to focus on his abilities to be a teacher.
“There was a lot of teaching and still will be a lot more in spring training because we'll have a lot of these same guys back,” Sveum said. “Spring training is a lot easier to teach and to work, especially when you're a manager. You have a lot more time, a lot more daylight to do things whether it's before, whether it's after. So you're always teaching. That's part of the game. That's what I love to do as much as anything.”
WEDNESDAY: Front office.