Last week was just one giant clusterfuck for the boy geniuses (geniui?) that run the Cubs. Theo Epstein claims his remarks that no decision had been made on bringing Dale Sveum back for the 2014 season that he’s contractually obligated to manage, were just a case of him “answering questions honestly.”
His honesty started speculation that the Cubs were going to wait and see if Joe Girardi and Ron Gardenhire become available before they tell Dale if he needs to take down the Slayer posters in his office.
When Theo decided to clarify things he pointed out that Dale is not being evaluated on wins and losses (good thing for Dale), but on player development and communication.
Then a few hours later, mongoloid reliever Kevin Gregg started up a much bigger shitstorm than any mediocre closer should have rights to, when he blamed another disastrous outing on Dale taking his closer job away from him and giving it to Pedro Strop. The only problem is that Dale not only didn’t do that–he simply said he’d try to find a save opportunity or two for Strop before the season ended to see how Pedro would handle it–but Dale says he told Gregg that.
Realizing that the disappointing seasons from supposedly “core” players, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo already had half of his supposed evaluation metric looking like dung, Theo was not too happy to have a pitcher with an 18 pound head casting aspersions on Dale’s ability to do the other.
Theo threatened to release Gregg…with eight games left in the season. It seemed out of character and red-assed for Theo.
Dale’s run of bad news continued when the Phillies announced they had taken the interim tag off of Ryne Sandberg and gave him a three year deal. How could this be bad for Dale?
If the Phillies hadn’t done that, there’s no doubt it would have given Theo pause about opening the Cubs job again with Sandberg not only back on the market, but with more games managed in the big leagues than Sveum had when the Cubs hired him.
Now, Theo’s no dummy, and he’s not going to let the moron chorus prevent him from doing what he thinks is best for the team, but it’s a headache he would have wanted to avoid if possible.
If Dale doesn’t come back it’s going to be because the Cubs think there’s somebody available who can work better with the prospects the team is going to be bringing up next year. At some point next season both Javy Baez and Kris Bryant are going to start their big league careers. Those are two guys the Cubs can’t afford to have not pan out.
Dale no doubt gets too much blame for the bad seasons Starlin and Rizzo had this year. (In fact, if you throw out Rizzo’s batting average he didn’t even have a bad year. Castro? He had a bad year.)
Dale has correctly pointed out that this was Rizzo’s first full year in the big leagues, and at 23, it’s not a shock that he wouldn’t yet be a finished product. What he is, is a good defensive first baseman, and a lefty stick with good power and (gasp!) patience. Rizzo’s going to be fine.
The Cubs screwed Castro up by trying to force him to become a more patient hitter. It seems unlikely that the damage will be permanent, and it was worth the attempt. Castro’s worth a lot when he’s hitting .307 with a .341 on base average like he did in 2011. He’s worth even more if he hits .300 with a .365 on base average. Trying to change his approach to see if that was possible was a worthy experiment. It didn’t work. Castro will show up in Mesa in February swinging at anything he can get to, and he’ll hit again.
Dale should also get credit for Castro’s improved defense. It was same old Starlin for the first 75 games or so, but he showed real, visible improvement over the past three months. He made two errors in the June 23 game against Houston, which gave him four errors in his last three games. He made only five errors in the next 79 games.
Other dopes complain about the way Dale handles his bullpen, but the truth is that his bullpen has been a revolving door of suck the last two years. Dale and pitching coach Chris Bosio did a good job with Hector Rondon this year. Hector was a hot shot prospect with the Indians who got hurt and missed basically two full seasons (six apperances in two years). He’s got talent, lots of it actually, but he needed experience, and frankly he just needed to pitch, but as a Rule 5 pick he had to do it with the big club. In 25 first half appearances his ERA was a whopping 6.14. In 18 second half games it’s 3.47.
It’ll be interesting to see what they do with Hector. My guess is he’ll start next year in Iowa as a starting pitcher again.
Strop was much better for the Cubs than he’d been in Baltimore this year. Forty strikeouts and only 33 baserunners in 30 innings, and his ERA was FIVE runs lower with the Cubs.
So has Dale proven he can handle young prospects? I have no idea. The Cubs have been largely drama free the last two years, which most fans see as progress, but honestly when your team is full of guys just happy to be in the big leagues, you don’t get much bitching. We know he can manage the shit out of Donnie Murphy. Whatever that means.
If Dale has a downfall that costs him his job it’s that the Cubs are big on communication, and Dale can barely talk. He’s more of a grunter.
I really don’t see any way that Sveum is the manager when this team thinks it’s seriously ready to contend. Sveum reminds me of a tattooed Grady Little. Good with the players, a steady hand for young players, but as Theo found out the hard way, not a guy you want making pennant-deciding decisions. Grady got launched after a disaster in favor of Terry Francona. Dale’s departure will be more pro-active.
It’s basically decided that Ron Gardenhire is staying in Minnesota. As for Girardi, he’d be insane to leave the Yankees, and it might be a year or two too soon for him to be a fit with the Cubs. Joe’s Marlins tenure was short and successful (he got 36 saves out of sweaty Joe Borowski!) at what the Marlins felt was the expense of player development. He got fired because Jeffrey Loria is a crazy person, but it wasn’t necessarily the wrong call. The straw that broke Joe’s tenure with the Marlins was his decision to bring Josh Johnson back after an 82-minute rain delay (shades of Don Baylor and Jon Lieber). Johnson suffered forearm tightness and didn’t pitch again the rest of the season. The Marlins were only 1.5 games in the Wild Card race at the time of the game (likely the reason Joe had Johnson play catch during the rain delay instead of sitting him down), but went 5-12 after the injury.
Anyway, it’s not like Joe hasn’t learned anything since he was a 41-year old rookie manager. But if he’s looking to move, the Nats are a much more attractive landing spot than the Cubs, Northwestern ties be damned.
Odds are that Dale is back for 2014.
And not for 2015.
But hey, managing’s good money, and them dually tires don’t pay for themselves.