Today, after a long, exhaustive, and intense search process, the Chicago Cubs will introduce Dale Sveum as the team’s new manager. Sveum replaces Mike Quade, whose miserable 2011 season was his only full year at the helm. The shoes … well … they aren’t so big.
The press conference starts at 9 a.m. CT, and, as I did with the Theo Epstein press conference and the Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod press conference, I’ll be updating this post with salient points, bullet-style, as the press conference goes on.
Bonus fact: I was in a band in college briefly (by which I mean one performance, during which I offered a stirring, acoustic rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time), and the name of that band was “Dale.” This was always meant to be.
- The press conference is about to begin, and I can’t help but notice that the room is more crowded than it was for Jed and Jason’s press conference. I’m happy about Dale and all, but that doesn’t seem quite right.
- Three mics set up.
- First day on the job, and Dale is late. Bad sign.
- In they come: Dale, with Theo and Jed flanking him. Jed – not Theo – is doing the introduction.
- Jed laying out what the Cubs were looking for in a manager – communication, integrity, hard worker. “We created a process worthy of the Ricketts and the fans.” It was exhaustive and exhausting. Each of the candidates can be a Major League manager.
- But, in the end, Jed says Dale stood out in every way. And he was the man for us.
- Theo now complimenting Dale. Knows the game inside and out. Great combination of intelligence and instinct. Holds players to high standard and holds them accountable, while earning their admiration. Tough combination to pull off. He’s as prepared as any coach in the game, and knows the work you put in leads to wins. He’s often the first one at the ballpark. His personality is sincere and direct. Extremely comfortable in his own skin. He’ll be a very strong manager. Dale respects the game and expects his players to do the same, and emphasizes playing the game the right way. He’s the right person to grow the organization with.
- Dale puts on his Cubs jersey. Neat.
- Dale thanks the Cubs for bringing him in, and thanks everyone in Milwaukee.
- Being in the game for 30 years, you experience a great deal, and I’ve been around a lot of great people.
- First question asks what kind of team he wants to field, and what needs to be addressed. Dale says the game needs to be played a certain way every day – also need to address bad defense, lack of power. But first, this organization has to change how the game is played on a daily basis – like it’s the seventh game of the WS every day.
- How important is player development on the ML level? Dale says player development never stops – “I’m still learning.” If players do something wrong, they’re still in the “development” stage.
- How about your coaching staff? It’s a long process, and will be started soon. We have a list, and I’d like to meet with everyone here.
- Dale is asked about the Red Sox. His head was spinning over the last few days, but he ended in the right spot. The Cubs were a better fit.
- Did you ever envision being a ML manager? Dale says near the end of his playing career, he started paying attention to what game managers were doing. “Was fortunate to play for Joe Torre in my last season.”
- Culture change and accountability? Man to man communication, and if things get out of whack, you have to treat an individual the way you’d treat your son. Losing is not ok. Not running a ball out is not ok. You have to hold guys accountable for things they can control. If the work ethic isn’t there, you have to hold them accountable for that. It disrespects the owner, who’s paying you a lot of money, and it disrespects your teammates who are trying to win. You want the other team to know that you know how to play the game. You want catchers to fear you when you’re coming into home plate – you’re not going to take the easy way out.
- Dale strikes me as a bit nervous, which is, I suppose, understandable.
- The questions so far are wildly disappointing. Someone just asked about his disappointment in not getting the Milwaukee job – something he was asked about when he interviewed. He’s got the job, folks. Ask about his philosophies, strategies, plans, players, stats, etc. Come on.
- Asked about the rivalry between Brewers and Cubs, and how he’ll handle it. Dale says the rivalry is really fan-based, but it wasn’t felt the same way between the players and coaches. He says his friends all understand, and he’s a professional, so it’s not an issue leaving the Brewers behind. Knowing you’re going to be playing in front of the best fans in baseball helps.
- What did you take from your time playing under such great managers? The one common thread is their ability to motivate and not scream or yell at players. They never showed any emotion or bad body language, which helps to show players that they’re calm, and that brings an easy to the players.
- If you’re low-key, how did you get the nickname “Nuts”? “It has nothing to do with my lower half.” I’ve had it for a long time, and it started in Milwaukee. Maybe some stupid things at one time.
- Dale is asked about how you disassociate yourself from the past failures of the Cubs. The past is the past, wherever you are. When you take the field in ST, it’s a new year, and you try to establish a new winning tradition. Prepare to win a game every single day.
- Dale is asked about the communication skills of and with his players in Milwaukee. Dale says he never really thought about it – he just doesn’t like to let things fester. And he likes to compliment guys when they do something good. Sometimes they need a kick in the butt, though. I’ve just never thought about it.
- Are you an all business guy? Do you have fun on the field? In the clubhouse? Dale says it’s important to have fun, but a lot of the fun comes from winning. Winning creates a lot of good things, and losing can cause a lot of problems in the clubhouse. It’s my job to keep things level.
- The last question wasn’t mic’d, but Dale is talking about watching film on Cubs’ players over the last few years. That gives him an advantage (over whom? pass the mic around, people), but the pitching coach will have that, too.
- Finally, a good question (predictably from Bruce Miles) about playing at Wrigley, and how you deal with the different ways the park plays, and how you avoid complaining about those things. You have to use the ballpark and the day games to your advantage. They aren’t an excuse. Excuses are just a copout for your own insecurities. (Sigh, total non-answer.)
- Dale talks about his view on statistics: it’s a part of the game now. They can give you a lot of options; it’s not a “gotta do this.” It’s just about matchups and creating options. He talks about sample size (nice). You’re still making baseball decisions, but you’ve got the numbers to help you make those decisions. But, you don’t want to use them too much. Dale hasn’t seen or read ‘Moneyball.’ Dale says he isn’t a fan of giving up outs, but sometimes you have to do certain things to create runs.
- Beyond the physical, can players improve their concentration on defense? Dale says yes. Bad defense because of a lack of preparation is unacceptable. If you’re going to spend a bunch of time in the cage to work on your swing, you should also work on defense. It starts in ST. You don’t have to talk about hitting – they want to hit. You have to push defense and baserunning. You have to teach guys to pay attention to details.
- Did you respect the Cubs as a team that played the game hard? You see from the other side that the things that you have control over (in other words: no, they didn’t). I have to make guys accountable for things they have control over. It’s my biggest pet peeve to see guys not play the game hard on a consistent, daily basis.
- Press conference over. I suppose it’s a tall task, in terms of presence, to follow a Theo Epstein introductory press conference, and then a Jed Hoyer/Jason McLeod introductory press conference, but I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought Dale was no worse than you’d want, but I didn’t find his answers particularly illuminating. Much of what he said verged on “memorized platitude” territory. As I said, I think he was probably a bit nervous, which is understandable. The questions didn’t help, as they were almost exclusively fluffy softballs, which don’t really provide much of an opportunity to impress someone watching this thing with a critical eye. In any event, the next few months – and then the early part of next season – will tell us much more about Dale than a smiley, happy introductory press conference. I remain firmly exciting about the future – and the things Dale did say all sound right to me.