Stay With Sveum?
It's tough to blame Sveum
At the end of a pregame interview Wednesday, I asked Darwin Barney -- he of the woeful slash line of .209 AVG/.268 OBP/.305 SLG -- what he thinks about the Dale Sveum job speculation.
"I can't talk about that, it's not for me to judge," he said.
Then he quickly added, with true honesty, "I like Dale. I support him."
I asked rhetorically, "Who doesn't like Dale?" Barney smiled, because everyone likes Sveum, who has handled two god-awful seasons better than any manager should.
How do you evaluate Sveum as a manager when he was given the reins to a team unfit for legit major league contention? Not by wins and losses, Sveum said Wednesday.
Rather, it's the development of the players, specifically the young players with promise.
With that in mind, Sveum could be the scapegoat for the Cubs' individual and collective failures.
I don't think he's to blame, and believe Sveum should get to fulfill his three-year contract. Frankly, I think the Cubs will be better off for it. He's honest, tough and empathetic to his players about the difficulty of this game.
What the Cubs have done, focusing more on their minor league system than on the major league product, is a necessary evil, but it's produced wretched baseball. Sveum has soldiered on through it all.
Sveum said he knew exactly what he was getting into when he took the job. Of course, he wants to stick around when the Cubs finally contend.
"You take these jobs when you know things aren't going to be all that good in the beginning," Sveum said. "And hope you're around for when things turn around. No question."
I find it tough to blame Sveum for the struggles of his team. He can only make suggestions to players, he can't do their job for them.
While these Cubs never had the talent or depth to win, and were looking at selling off players like Matt Garza even from spring training, the biggest disappointment of the season has been the lackluster player of so-called "core players" Castro and Rizzo.
Castro has regressed the last two years, while Rizzo failed to build on a promising 2012 season.
I think the losing has affected them, something a Cubs front office executive agreed with earlier this season.
The question for Theo Epstein & Co.: Is Sveum part of the reason why the Cubs are losing? If the answer is yes, he has to be fired. But as an observer, I don't think it's his fault.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
No real cause to fire Sveum now
Answering the question in a vacuum, Dale Sveum should return to manage the Chicago Cubs for the final year of his guaranteed contract. He's done nothing as gatekeeper for the rebuilding club to say otherwise. This isn't a major long-term endorsement of Sveum. Like many, I believe he was hired as a transition manager, but that transition isn't over. To fire him after two years would be arbitrary. The Cubs may as well have done it after one.
The idea that some young players haven't advanced under his leadership is incomplete, at best. Anthony Rizzo's batting average is down. Same with Starlin Castro. Big deal. Both have been better in the waning months so maybe something is clicking, especially on defense. Rizzo is in the discussion for a Gold Glove and eyes aren't rolling anymore every time a ground ball heads toward shortstop.
And if you're worried about Javier Baez or another prospect coming up midyear next season, how much damage can Sveum do in half a season? It's worked out pretty well for Junior Lake.
The steps catcher Welington Castillo has taken are well-documented, as are the ones by pitcher Travis Wood. And lately Sveum has been dealing with a younger, more inexperienced bullpen, which hasn't performed all that badly. This may not be a ringing endorsement of Sveum, but it's not an indictment, either. And with another mediocre year seemingly on the horizon, there's no reason to change managers.
And please don't plan to fire him on wins and losses. None of that matters. If it did, the Cubs wouldn't have traded half their roster the last couple of years. Sveum's record is meaningless, and it would be better if the Cubs wanted it to be.
Things may change next week if Joe Girardi declares he's a free-agent manager and would love to return to Chicago. Or if Joe Maddon has had enough of small-market Tampa Bay and quietly looks into the Cubs. Of course, there are scenarios in which Sveum doesn't return, but they involve someone obviously better coming in. That person has to be the long-term answer.
Sveum deserves to stay mostly because he has a contract. He's the gatekeeper.
It's a whole other story a year from now.
Jesse Rogers covers the Cubs for ESPNChicago.com.