If you’ve been following the Chicago Cubs ardently so far this year (God bless, by the way), you’ve probably started to develop thoughts about Dale Sveum, who took over as the team’s new manager in the offseason. And that’s fine – it’s impossible not to think some thoughts after a couple games, let alone 17.
That said, you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t offered much in the way of criticism or praise of Sveum. Like you, I have thoughts, too, but I can’t help but feel like 17 games is too small of a sample size to properly judge what kind of manager Sveum is. We’re not ready to say Geovany Soto is a terrible hitter based solely on the first few weeks of the season, right? (OK, well, for some of you, that’s probably a bad example.)
I don’t agree with everything Sveum does, but, for the most part, I haven’t seen too much to grouse about. But I’ve seen plenty of grousing in the comments, on the Message Board, on Twitter, and on Facebook. (By the way, you should go to each of those places.) I’m sure it’s just in the nature of what sports fans do online, but, given the almost unlimited support we offer to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, you’d think their hand-picked manager would get the same kind of leeway. Heck, most of us stuck with Mike Quade clear into June last year.
Just as I don’t agree with everything Dale Sveum does, I don’t agree with everything Phil Rogers says. But today, I think he’s got something worthwhile to offer on the subject. From Phil:
Dale Sveum’s lineups and substitutions have drawn a lot of criticism on message boards in the early season, with Cubs fans wondering if the new manager knows what he’s doing. The 3-2 victory over the Cardinals, the product of a lineup that had Joe Mather at third base and Jeff Baker at first base, should quiet that down for a little bit. Believe me, unless you’ve crunched numbers for an afternoon, you probably shouldn’t second-guess a Sveum lineup. The players who start, and the way guys are used off the bench, are as much (probably more) the result of the Theo Epstein/Jed Hoyer statistical analysis as they are the manager’s instincts.
Conventional wisdom does not apply, and you’re wasting your time trying to make it fit. There are situations in life where the usual logic does not apply, and the 2012 Cubs are one of those. One other thing to understand — these guys are in it for the long haul more than that day’s game. So when they let the struggling Geo Soto hit in a big spot when Steve Clevenger — you may love him now, but had you heard of him a year ago? — is available, they are thinking beyond the probable outcomes of the upcoming at-bat. They know that they have to give Soto time to work his way through the fog so they can decide how best to utilize Soto as an asset — either by pledging allegiance to him with a contract extension (unlikely) or trading him at some point between now and next January.
I mean, I just … agree with all of that. Well, except maybe the part about Joe Mather’s hit proving anything – the team is still 5-12, after all, so let’s not start pointing to results as proving anything in either direction.
Dale’s still got plenty of grace as far as I’m concerned. He’s got a rough roster to work with, and he’s still feeling it out. Today’s “terrible” decision might prove to be tomorrow’s genius move.