President Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs shakes hands with Dale Sveum, the new manager, before a press conference at Wrigley Field on November 18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Don't expect glib and funny postgame news conferences for the next three (or more) years. That, among other things, was what we learned this morning at Wrigley Field, where new Cubs manager Dale Sveum was introduced to the media as either the 52nd or 58th manager in Cubs history (depending on whether you count the infamous College of Coaches as "managers"). He's very low-key.
The biggest laugh he got was when he was asked to explain his nickname "Nuts" and he said it had nothing to do with his "lower body". He never really did explain it except to say that it was from his playing career, early on with the Brewers.
Mostly, he stressed accountability. This would be a great thing, considering how much of a country club atmosphere has surrounded the Wrigley Field clubhouse in recent years, but I seem to recall Mike Quade saying pretty much the same things a little more than a year ago at a similar news conference.
The difference, I think, is that Sveum played in the major leagues for several managers -- Jim Leyland, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre -- who have combined to win multiple World Series. Sveum cited those three in particular as his managerial influences. He mentioned how those men never give away body language in the dugout. Take a look at this feature written by my Baseball Nation colleague Jeff Sullivan yesterday. In it are four video clips of Sveum that were run on ESPN yesterday when that network was discussing the hire. I'm reposting them after the jump.
Apart from a bit of conversation and a lot of chewing, Sveum barely moves. We should probably get used to this view of him. I doubt we'll see much movement at all from him, except when he comes out to change pitchers. The old-style, Piniella, cap-throwing, base-throwing manager seems to have gone out of style. This doesn't mean Sveum won't argue with umpires if needed (and I still wish they'd expand replay review to include enough plays that managers wouldn't even need to do that), just do so in a low-key way.
Sveum is reported to be a hard worker, and he insists that his players be well-prepared every day. He wants them to "control the things they can control" -- translation: work hard, run out ground balls, give maximum effort. Many current Cubs do that. Some do not. Sveum appears to be the type of man who won't play favorites among veterans or younger players -- he wants all his players to do the same thing, both play hard and play to have fun, while keeping "an even keel".
He stressed communication and "treating every player as if he were your own son". (Sveum does have a son, named Rustin, as well as a daughter, Brittane. They live in the Phoenix area.)
Regarding the use of statistical analysis, Sveum made a nod toward sample sizes, and stressed that their use gives you "options". That's all you can really ask; once you get into a certain situation in a game, all the numbers in the world aren't going to help you. It seems as if that type of analysis is going to be used more by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in helping put together a roster.
And speaking of that, Sveum said they are going to sit down this afternoon and discuss what to do with the 2012 coaching staff. They aren't wasting any time, certainly. Sveum and current Cubs bench coach Pat Listach just missed being Brewers teammates (Sveum left after 1991; Listach was AL Rookie of the Year with Milwaukee in 1992). It would seem like a good idea to hire a man with some major league managing experience as bench coach (I keep coming back to the idea of Jim Riggleman in this role), but Listach could possibly be retained as 3B coach, a role he performed well with the Nationals. This Carrie Muskat tweet says Hall of Famer Robin Yount, who was bench coach of the Brewers during Sveum's brief managerial stint there in 2008, will NOT be part of the Cubs coaching staff.
In any case, it doesn't seem as if Theo, Jed and Dale will waste any time getting the field staff together; perhaps it could all be done by the time of the winter meetings, which are a little over two weeks away.
Just don't expect any "You saw the damn game!" or "What kind of baseball do you play?" answers from Sveum at postgame news conferences. On the other hand, I wouldn't think there will be any cutesy nicknames for players, either. At least, we have grown up beyond that. I'll settle for boring, as long the team is winning.
Dale Sveum, new Cubs manager!
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