For the most part, I’ve found Dale Sveum to have done a fine job thus far as manager. He was injected into an impossible situation, and he’s done the best he can. Although I know some don’t agree, and with a few exceptions, I haven’t had much quarrel with his lineup choices or his pitcher management.
His reviews from fans so far have been mixed. Managers are typically the fall guy for a crummy roster, so it’s understandable that the guy in charge of a 25-48 team isn’t going to have hoards of fans screaming his name with glee. But, at the same time, you don’t hear a *ton* of “fire Dale Sveum” type of rabble (“www.firedalesveum.com” has been registered, but not built). You just don’t really hear a whole lot of impassioned opinions on his performance one way or the other.
His reviews in the media have similarly been kind of silent. You feel for the guy as he has to try and answer the same (reasonable) questions game after game, and you feel for the media for having to ask those same questions game after game. It’s a dance that, to date, hasn’t yielded a whole lot of interesting bits, and, indeed, we still don’t really have a great sense for what the media, collectively, feel about Sveum. Maybe I find their opinion/impression more interesting then most, given my job, but I figure that they’re as close to him as anyone else outside the organization, so I’m quite interested.
And, in a recent mailbag, Paul Sullivan offered the first clear opinion.
When asked about his impression of Dale Sveum so far this year, Sullivan turned curt pretty quickly:
It’s difficult to judge Sveum based on this particular team, but yes, he is pretty rigid in his lefty-right matchups, and no, Starlin Castro shouldn’t be bunting because he’s their best hitter and not a very good bunter. I think he’s getting more comfortable as the season goes on, but he needs to be a little more forthcoming with the media when it comes to dispensing information, like saying the Cubs would probably carry three catchers, or that Marmol wouldn’t close again until he regained his command, or hiding Kerry Wood’s shoulder issues in spring training. Stuff like that shouldn’t happen, and wouldn’t under Lou Piniella, whose honesty was always appreciated.
That feels like the kind of shot that’s been percolating under the surface for a while, and one I’m surprised Sullivan expressed so openly. Obviously Sullivan (like me) is an interested party on this issue: the more information Sveum openly and accurately dispenses, the more information he can pass on to his readers. His reaction is understandable.
Sullivan is right in pointing out that, in those particular instances, Dale’s words proved to be misleading with what actually happened. But has Sveum been intentionally hiding the ball?
Even if he is, he could have a very good explanation each time. Maybe the three catcher thing really was on the table, but was scuttled because of some other roster situation that developed. Maybe Sveum really didn’t want Marmol to be the closer again so soon, but was overruled by the front office. Maybe Sveum is hiding things, generally, for the good of the organization. Who knows?
Ultimately, it’s an interesting issue, and something to keep an eye on as the year proceeds, and tensions, inevitably, grow as the losses pile up. And it’s a reminder of the delicate balance that pro sports franchises walk while trying to win: you want to win because that’s what your fans want. But your fans also want to like your team, and feel connected to it. So your fans want access and information. But what happens when that access and information might make it incrementally less likely that you’ll win?