CHICAGO – Former Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum had nothing bad to say Friday about his time on the North Side, but did suggest that his candor wasn’t always appreciated.
Back in Chicago this weekend as the hitting coach for the Kansas City Royals, Sveum said his time as Cubs manager was a good experience and he still sends text messages on occasion to both team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
But Epstein and Hoyer might not have always appreciated Sveum’s tendency to speak his mind about his players during his two-year stint as manager, which ended after last season.
“I’ll take the fifth on that one,” Sveum said with a chuckle before Friday's game against the Chicago White Sox when asked about his tell-it-like-it-is style.
Nevertheless, Sveum said he wouldn’t have changed anything.
“That’s the way I am,” Sveum said. “Players know when you change and you’re not yourself. I am what I am. Maybe I would have left a pitcher in an inning more or took him out an inning earlier and all that, but I don’t think how I managed, and managed people and the communication, I’m not going to change that way.”
Sveum started this season as the Royals’ third-base coach, but when the offense struggled he replaced hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who was moved to catching instructor.
Under Sveum’s tutelage, the Royals’ power-strapped offense has delivered at least six runs seven times in the past 14 games.
With Sveum as Cubs manager, key players such as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo failed to produce as expected, which likely was one of the reasons Sveum was let go. He doesn’t see it as an indictment of his leadership abilities that both players have been better this season.
“People grow into being better hitters,” Sveum said. “You guys heard me say that many a time. It’s age and learning and getting all these major league at-bats, it’s all different things. Don’t forget, I was the one to ask Rizzo to finish low and lower his hands. So you can mix apples and oranges, but I wish them all the best. I got fired, but they’re still people I care about.”
The entire experience with the Cubs hardly soured Sveum on managing. Asked if he would like to manage again, the 50-year-old emphatically said he would. He said that’s why he immediately jumped at the Royals’ offer to be a coach instead of sitting out a year knowing he was still getting paid by the Cubs.
So how long did it take before the Royals reached out to him?
“The phone did ring pretty quick; I was on the way back to my apartment [after getting fired],” Sveum said. “It didn’t take too long to get a new job, which was great. People thought just because I was getting paid that I was going to sit around for a year, but that’s not the way I am and I know how hard it is to get back in this game as well. I enjoy it, and I enjoy being on the field in any capacity.”
Sveum might not show a lot of emotion, but that is much different than being an unhappy person. He might have been taken aback over his firing at the time, but he has no hard feelings at the decision made by the Cubs’ front office.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “You wish them all the best. We all have these jobs to get fired someday, and there’s not a lot of [longevity] for most people. It was a great experience in a great city. This is the best city in the country as far as I’m concerned.
“Managing every day in the National League, obviously the game gets going a little bit in the seventh inning on. So you have all that under your belt that you’ve done it and you’ve done it to the best to your ability. It’s a great, great experience and I’ll always thank Theo and the Ricketts family for giving me the opportunity.”