CHICAGO -- With criticism of Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum growing, team president of baseball operations Theo Epstein moved Thursday to blame a flawed roster for the club's current struggles.
Speaking on ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show," Epstein reiterated what he has been saying all along: A club in the middle of a roster-rebuilding project will get exposed at times.
"I think Dale is taking a lot of heat for the fact that we don't have currently a roster that is talented enough to regularly win baseball games," Epstein said, as the Cubs took a 29-41 record into Thursday night's game at St. Louis. "We just don't."
Epstein's comments were similar to those recently of general manager Jed Hoyer, who defended Sveum by essentially saying the team's inability to win on a consistent basis is roster-related and not because of lineups, in-game strategy or moves out of the bullpen.
The struggles of reliever Carlos Marmol are at the core of much of criticism directed at Sveum. And it isn't so much about when Sveum uses Marmol as it is that he uses the right-hander and his 6.08 ERA at any point.
"We're the ones who picked the roster," Epstein said, referring to the front office. "We're the ones who are trying to change the organization and grow the organization so we can get in a position to where the roster we hand over to the manager and the coaching staff on talent alone is able to go out and win baseball games.
"At that point, it's the manager's job and the coaching staff's job to maximize the effectiveness of that roster and make sure that we win our fair share and then some. But we just don't have that kind of roster right now. Hopefully we get to that point as an organization."
Epstein, Hoyer and Sveum all are in their second year with the Cubs, working on a plan to not only change the face of the big league roster, but to reorganize the minor league system as well. The goal is to make the organization successful for the long haul instead of going for a quick fix that might spark a successful season or two but would leave the club on unstable ground beyond that.
The plan includes getting high-priced players off the books. Marmol ($9.8 million in 2013) and Matt Garza ($10.25 million) both have contracts that expire after this season. Alfonso Soriano is making $19 million this season and will make another $19 million in 2014, the final year of his deal.
Sveum was brought aboard not only for his baseball acumen, but his ability to be a no-nonsense teacher to the Cubs' young players. He also has brought in an efficient, streamlined approach to daily activities, especially during spring training.
Another part of Sveum's appeal is his ability to stay the course when the team is struggling.
"The manager might take criticism and that's fine," Epstein said. "I think Dale can take it and that's part of the reason we hired him. We thought he'd be a good steady influence for those players as they continue to develop ... I was with Dale when he went through tremendous criticism as the third-base coach for the Red Sox. It didn't bother him or change him. We knew he could handle it here. When he says it's not bothering him, you can believe him."
Just because Sveum can handle the criticism, though, doesn't mean Epstein was going to let the manager take all of the blame.
"Dale is in a position where he's often left in a position to choose between imperfect options," Epstein said. "Regardless of what option he chooses, there is a chance of failure. And then when failure occurs, people tend to look at the manager.
"I think Dale is in a tough spot because of the roster that he's inherited. There is a lot of talent on the roster and he does a good job of putting the team in the position to succeed. But there is also a lot of evolution on that roster and a lot of players that are learning how to become successful big leaguers."