When Dale Sveum was introduced as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs (and in the months that have followed), he made a number of references to “playing the game the right way,” “giving effort on every play,” and so on, and so forth. He indicated that Cubs players will be held accountable for their effort – implying that they hadn’t been in the past.
Moreover, Sveum alluded to the way he perceived the Cubs’ effort last year when he was sitting in the other dugout, and suggested that, around baseball, the Cubs weren’t exactly known for their hustle.
At the time, it was all rah-rah, and easy to be pleased. But, after a few moments, it was fair to wonder: how would recently-dumped manager Mike Quade feel about hearing, essentially, that his team didn’t try very hard last year?
Not well, it turns out.
“It’s a beautiful day fishing in the sunshine — I appreciate you [messing] up my day,’’ Quade told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Sun-Times when informed of Sveum’s comments and asked for his thoughts (Quade laughed as it said it). “Maybe I’m being an idiot, but I thought we gave a pretty damn good effort every night. I don’t know, maybe that was [Sveum’s] philosophy or a backhanded shot. I didn’t hear that.’’
It’s always unfair to regard months of a man’s professional work with just a few faint recollections, but it seemed that, throughout the season, Quade was hard on the younger players when their effort came under fire, but was lax on the vets. Maybe it was just an attractive narrative that developed over one or two examples, and was then repeated throughout the year, but it’s a fair representation of the way I remember things.
For his part, Quade believes that Cubs players’ effort in 2011 was adequate.
“If comments are made … there’s no reason for anybody to do anything but look forward. I can’t be bothered, because I was pretty damn happy. Did everybody run out every ball? No. That’s going to happen with a lot of people [on a lot of teams],” Quade said before noting his thoughts on one of the more heavily-criticized effort-offenders. “I thought [Aramis] Ramirez gave a helluva effort last year. Maybe because it was contract year, I don’t know.’’
Ultimately, the whole “effort” issue has been overblown in my mind, and it certainly wouldn’t be among the top five reasons Quade was rightly let go. Of course Sveum was going to come in and say that his guys are going to work hard – that’s what fans want to hear, and that’s what managers say.
The proof will be in the pudding; though I suspect that, to our eyes, the biggest difference in “effort” will actually be a byproduct of a difference in the personnel, not the attitudes.