dale sveum haz a sadOn the back of an ugly 5-13 start to the season and a handful of losses that could have been avoided if not for some fundamental lapses, it’s understandable that Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum would be receiving some heat (even if that heat is irrational). And when Sveum, himself, starts talking about job security, it opens the floodgates for the “fire the manager” discussion.

You can read about Sveum and job security here, and here … and here and here … and here and here.

Don’t read that line as a criticism of the media, mind you. As I said, it’s an understandable topic, and Sveum brought it on himself by saying things like, “we’re all [accountable] in this. I’m [not] exempt [from] being fired, so is my coaching staff. We’re all in this together as a team.” And things like, ““I’d be lying if [I said] you didn’t think about [your job] through some of this stuff, too.”

So, we talk about it. Is it reasonable for Sveum to be worried about losing his job at this point? It’s an easy no, right?

The Cubs’ struggles this year were pre-ordained by a roster that never looked like a .500 team, let alone a playoff contender. No amount of managerial massaging – even if you subscribe to the school of thought that says the quality of a manager can account for as many as five to eight wins per year (seems extreme to me) – was going to make this team competitive. Take it up with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer if you’ve got a beef about that. (I don’t.)

That all said, simply because we don’t expect the Cubs to be a winning team does not mean Sveum and his staff are above evaluation. If the players seem unmotivated, are underperforming in surprising ways, are playing decidedly un-fundamental baseball, are getting into fights, and are expressing a general lack of desire or interest in playing the game, then you could start to wonder about Sveum’s fit for the organization. Further, if Sveum’s in-game tactical decisions were repeatedly head-scratchers that cost the Cubs games, I think you could make a case for firing, too.

But, to me, we simply aren’t there yet. We’re not even that close.

For one thing, I’ve generally found Sveum’s game management to be excellent. After years of Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella and Mike Quade, maybe my standards for lineups, bullpen usage, substitutions and shifts were unreasonably low. But it’s hard to argue that, as an in-game manager, Sveum doesn’t blow those three guys out of the water.

As for the fundamental and defensive lapses, eventually, some of that will fall on the coaching staff. It’s always going to have a personnel component, and Sveum can’t do much about that. But we’ll see how the fundamentals issue plays out over the next few months.

As for the peripheral and off-the-field stuff, I don’t have any reason to cast aspersions. The players all seem to have a good attitude, and seem to be approaching the game the right way.

All in all, I’ve got to believe that Sveum is still the guy that Theo and Jed wanted in place for this transition period, and there’s no reason to dump him just yet.

  • Stu

    Sveum is not to blame. Just look at Dusty Baker. He did just as poor with little talent. You can’t change the talent that you have as a manager.

    The Cubs need an OF/3B that have better than average OPS to score runs. They need a bullpen that can hold on to leads. That will turn a team that loses 2 out of every 3 games to winning 2 out of every 3 games. It really doesn’t get anymore complicated than that.

    So the question is when they will have these players? If you just wait for the farm to produce it, the chances are that you will have to wait a long time since most prospects will not make it. If you get a new one to contribute each year, you are probably standing still. For every Castro, you get at least 2-3 Felix Pie’s. And that is from your best prospects.

    They will add more PROVEN players when they have to financially. It might occur in this off-season if as I predict that attendance is going to start to crater. It will occur by next off-season if the caliber of baseball is still dreadful and the speeches and handwaiving starts to fall on deaf ears.

    The Cubs are drawing down on the emotional capital that is built around the mystique of losing for 100 plus years. The wizard of Theo might have his curtain pulled a little sooner than he might feel comfortable with.

  • Sosa23

    Why don’t we just bring up Baez, soler, Jackson and vitters? We suck so bad that we have nothing to lose(except sending lillibridge, Sapper, Gonzales, and Hairston to AAA, oh no!) honestly is would give them expierence and could let them get their feet in the water on the big stage. Maybe not all of them put possibly one of them? Who knows? Let the kids play!

    • @cubsfantroy

      I bang my head off any hard surface I can find when I read dumb stiff like this.

      • http://www.twitter.com/jslip1 JSlip1

        Ain’t nobody got time for that.

  • Sosa23

    And also the quicker soriano and has horridly awkward batting stance can’t get off the field the better.

  • bbmoney

    Do we really need to talk about this 18 games into the year?

  • Cheryl

    Brett, I agree with you that there isn’t much to work with on this team but I think Sveum has to take another look at his platooning. I know I’m in the minority in the way I look at it and the way I use the term “a feel for the game” and that a player needs to establish a rhythm and that he needs to play consistently to establish that rhythm. That is where I would fault Sveum. There are players like Castro that play almost every day and I think it helps that player in terms of how well he does at the plate and perhaps to a lesser extent in terms of his fielding.

    • ajbulls23

      That is very true Cheryl.

    • wax_eagle

      if he had players who were worth playing every day, he would play them. As it is, he feels like the best chance they have at success is to face opposite handed pitching. Yes you sacrifice some “feel”, but I’m not sure you benefit sending these guys out to go 0-3 until a reliever comes in.

      • Cheryl

        Lets say you bring up a rookie to play in the outfield or third base. Should Sveum pull him in and out of the lineup depending on pitcher or should he give him say 20 games in a row to face both lefties or righties? If the rookie fails in those games then Sveum would be justified in putting in someone else. I’ll give an example. Say you bring up Rock Shoulders (You won’t he’s only in A ball.) Do you let him sit and observe and maybe play him in four or five games of the 20? I would play him in the 20 games to see how he adjusts, handles himself in the field and at the plate. We know tht there have been times when a rookie comes up and just sits on the bench. That isn’t a fair way to judge the player.

        • Cubbie Blues

          You only platoon players when they have established splits. 20 games does not provide a large enough sample size to establish those.

  • CBP

    I think Dale has done a solid job. He isn’t a miracle worker obviously but this is still his first go around as a coach. Even coaches go through funks. But it’s not his fault that he has 6 or7 players total that would play quality amount of innings on elite teams.

  • Kyle

    I like Sveum. I don’t agree with every little thing he does, but most of it is in the margins where any decision is defensible.

    The worst thing I can think of is it seems like he was the one lobbying for Mather, lobbying for Lillibridge, and lobbying for Vitters and Jackson’s premature callups, all of which should have been nixed by his bosses rather than letting him have what he wanted.

    The last thing this team needs going into 2014 is the distraction of a new manager search to pull resources away from the offseason itself.

  • Farley Flash

    I do not blame Dale for the team he has been given. However, Sandberg is the man and will remain the man for the CUBS!

  • willis

    He’s in a tough spot. I’m sure the pressure from above to show case certain players is a pain in the ass to deal with and his roster isn’t the best. Saying that, he does make plenty of in game mistakes that drive many of us nuts. I wonder what type of manager he would be with a little more of a hands off FO and a talent rich roster? Too bad we’ll never see that. He’ll lose 100 games again this year, and close to that again in 2014. Then what do you do?

    I don’t like him really. But I would like to see him with a chance to compete. But that’s what, 2015 at the earliest, if then? Does he stick around that long?

  • North Side Irish

    Keith Law just posted an article on ESPN Insider talking about Rizzo being a candidate for demotion to the minors and lays the blame on Sveum. Law says he sees a change in Rizzo’s swing from last year and adds “I’ve been told this kind of swing reflects Sveum’s philosophy of hitting, but in Rizzo’s case, I didn’t think anything in his swing last season needed fixing.”

    Law also says that Sveum implying that Rizzo and Castro could get sent to the minors is “maybe a sign that the manager’s a little in over his head.”

  • Dustin S

    Truthfully as a longtime Cubs fan, this 2013 team is probably the #1 or #2 least talented Cubs roster in the last 30 years. I know there are some quality players on this team, so I’m just saying that as an assessment of the roster in total. I was looking back on some of the bad teams in the last 30 years…

    1986 – lost 90 games, but was more due to a lot of injuries rather than lack of talent.
    1994 – an absolutely awful team, but it also was the strike-shortened year and the team was thrown together quickly after the strike ended.
    1999-2000 – the fine Frank Castillo/Steve Trachsel era, bad but not quite 2013 bad.
    2006 – lost 96, but I still give the edge in talent looking at that roster vs 2013.

    I would personally put the 1994 team neck and neck with the 2013 team for least total amount of talent. It would be fun to see a videogame matchup.

    So how can Sveum be held responsible for this roster’s performance 3 weeks into his second season? They could have a team of LaRussa, Torre, and Phil Jackson managing this year and it wouldn’t help. I know people want quick fixes and firing the manager is always the knee-jerk response. If this were a team of stars who were all just underperforming like the Angels or Dodgers I could see that possibly helping. But a new manager isn’t going to dramatically improve the talent level on this roster, which is the real problem.

  • Frank

    As much as I hate to say it, Sveum is following orders from above. If your given a turd sandwich, it doesn’t matter how pretty you try to make it look, it’s still a turd sandwich.

  • Dynastyin2016

    Whether Sveum’s game management is good or not, it would serve NO purpose to fire him right now. But, in his defense, it would be nice to see a player perform for him. You can make the best decisions in the world, but someone has to execute, and that’s not happening.

  • ajbulls23

    Not again with this right handed lineup. When is Sveum going to learn. How many runs has this right handed lineup scored? Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Albert Einstein.
      Although he would look at the past history of numbers and agree to stay with it and not bend the the small sample size that is this young season.

      • ajbulls23

        He would also take into account that things change and wouldn’t be so set on repeating past failures. What do this years numbers show as far as runs scored for this lineup?

        • Cubbie Blues

          That we don’t have very good players, but over a proper sample size using the L/R handed splits will bare out better results than ignoring thousands of PAs.

          • ajbulls23

            When you have depth yes, the left/righty match ups can pay off. But when you don’t, it costs them wins. Even if it’s one or two, it still costs them. The fans deserve the best product they can put out and benching two of their better hitters isn’t cutting it. The starting rotation deserves the best hitters be on the field when they pitch. How many runs has this line up put up this year? I know it was 3 runs in the first 3 games and one of those was a pinch hit home run by Navarro. I think the next game they put up 2 runs after they brought DeJesus and Schierholtz in the game late. How big a sample size do we need before we realize this lineup isn’t doing them any favors? How big a sample size do we need to realize Marmol isn’t our closer?

            • Cubbie Blues


    • BT

      I know, it sucks. He’s got so many great options, and he just refuses to use them. With proper lineup usage, we probably would not have lost a game this year. Lineup construction, and not the players in the lineups themselves, are clearly the problem.

      • Cubbie Blues

        By changing to the best lineup from an average one will only win 1-2 games a year.

        • TWC

          I think BT was joking. I thought it was funny. If he was serious, I think it’s still funny, but for different reasons.

          • Cubbie Blues

            Oh, he was being very sarcastic. I was actually agreeing with what he meant when he was being sarcastic. Which as I’m thinking about it is kind of confusing. Basically, I wasn’t arguing. I was agreeing with what he was actually thinking and not typing because, you know, he was being sarcastic. So, if I agreed with what he said I wouldn’t actually be agreeing with him. Got it? Good. I’m not sure I do. KThxBye. 😛

  • Spriggs

    Uh, ya know, I like Dale. Ya know, he’s just so, uh, ya know, articulate. Uh, he’s got to be, uh, ya know, a pretty smart guy. Those, uh, ya know press conferences. Those press conferences. Ya know, those are, ya know, awesome.

  • Ivy Walls

    It all is related to ticket sales. Ryne Sandburg

  • cubmig

    Last night’s game was a heart-breaker. It had all the makings of redemption for our struggling team. It held a promise of a restart at a time when one is sorely needed. As it is, the loss continues to make us bottom-feeders where weaker prey seems nowhere to be found.

    How is it that our Cubs outhit the Brewers and Reds and can’t win? How is it that our starters excel to provide the window for the offense to take hold and end up licking inflicted wounds?

    It is more than weird that when a lead has us out front, relievers can’t hold or save that lead. In short when we have good hitting, good pitching goes AWOL. Conversely, when we have good pitching, good—- and timely —-hitting goes AWOL. It’s as though “never the twain shall meet” kind-of thing. On top of that misalignment, the in-game management grows more suspect when decisions prove ineffective to stop any bleeding being addressed. It’s a damned-if-you-do”—- or —-“damned-if-you-don’t” dilemma with the same outcome….being haunted by trying to do the right thing.

    I liked Sveum when he was brought in as skipper. He was absent the baggage of an ML record; one that could hang around his neck if ‘”bad was there to be found. I could be objective and come to my own conclusions w/o others’ “I told you so” reminders. I saw and see what I do and find he doesn’t have the “fire” I expect from a manager. He follows instincts that ignore my perceived “warning” signals when the game is teetering. Why does he do that? Could it have everything to do with his experience. He knows baseball not to be taken in by emotional reactions. He also knows who is doing what when. He knows his players well enough to draw his limits of trust on them. He’s no fool, and yet I have been a critic. My only defense is I want to see wins, and so far they are not coming.

    This is a tough year for every Cubs fan. This has to be an even tougher time for those in charge of anything Cubs. There is enough misery, fault-finding, bitching, finger-pointing and calling-of-heads to go around. Our cup runneth over in that department.

    I hope this team finds its footing and can pivot themselves into a winning streak of some sort for all our sakes—–like, with a win today as a start. Everyone of us needs that kind of reprieve.

    I am hopeful, in spite of my anger and shit-slinging around here. I am a Cubs fan. We may lose more, but as one Cubs fan I refuse to concede that this young season is a total lost. What kind of a Cubs fan would I be if I tossed in my chips without playing the hand I was dealt to the end? Moreover, what would happen to my masochism? So… “No”… to surrendering now. Play and let play and see where the chips fall…….onto whose team’s lap.



  • Fastball

    I was at the game last night in the front row. I personally don’t think Sveum could motivate flys to land on a pile of crap. Leadership by example is a hell of a lot more than making defensive shifts and so on. He breeds no confidence in this team. These guys look like losers and it’s shows the way they stand around. I fire the guy now because he doesn’t bring any life to this team. They play like Quade is still the manager. Do we wait until he is 20 games below .500 next month or still say its the roster. These players are professional ball players. Yes this is Theo’s hair bag mess. He put it together so he owns it! Why did I sit and watch that entire game and after we went ahead just new we would still lose. I’m going back today and tomorrow with hope. Go Cubs Damnit

    • RoughRiider



  • http://Isa Voice of reason

    Wow… Some doozie questions here today.
    First valbuena or Stewart and now should sveum keep his job??? Holy cow!

    The answer is:

    The cubs will be lucky if sveum decides to stick around for the year. This is a sorry excuse for a major league roster. Sveum should get a raise half way through if he decides to stick it out.

  • RY

    If after 50 games, when we are 15-35 or worse, hell yes he should be fired. With each week this team continues to take giant steps backward with no end in sight. My question is if he gets fired, who would be the best potential candidate out there to lead this team from the embarassment they are to at least some shred of respectability?

    • willis

      See, this is where the job performance is in question. This team seems to be getting worse and playing fundamentally worse day to day. Yeah yeah yeah, crap roster blah blah blah. But the players don’t seem to respond to him and his teaching. I don’t for one second think they guy isn’t working to try and make these kids better, but the results are stunning in that it’s steps backwards every day vs. forwards.

      He may have a bad roster, but effort and execution seems to be lacking, which is the concerning thing that has people wondering about this guy’s managing ability. No he’s not on the field and he can’t sprinkle magic dust to help things out, but a team is a reflection of their leader/coach/manager…this is pretty poor and getting worse.

  • willis

    Running Sappelt out there, tonight, after his stellar start to the year and dumb assery last night is one reason I dislike Sveum. Sappelt is terrible. DeJesus may not be all that great against lefties, but he’s damn sure a better option that Sappelt.

    This righty lineup is pretty sad.

  • dvs1313

    Sappelt does not run well, play defense well, and can not hit….. Great option for tonight. As for sveum well last year he had runner on first. Castro at the plate o e out. He had castro sacrifice, lahair was after him and he and castro werw the o ly two guys on the team hitting. So with castro sacrificing they walked lahair to get to an ice cold sori, who struck out. He took the bat out of the two hot hitters hands to get to the ice cold guy. That is not a baseball guy that is an idiot.

    • Cedlandrum

      Actually Sappelt has good speed, he is not a base stealer, but he is a good runner and he plays a very good outfield. Last night he gambled and it didn’t pay off but he is a good outfielder. I don’t know if he will hit enough to be a big leaguer, but the rest of his game is big league ability.

      • http://Isa Voice of reason

        Wow, you like sap pelt and you think valbuena is above average.

        Stick to your day job kid!

        You’re future is not in evaluating baseball talent!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          And yours is not in writing correctly or being polite.

          • Cedlandrum

            His writing is not his major problem it is his comprehension. Why does everything have to be all or nothing for some people.

  • Rcleven

    I find it funny this is even being discussed. I have been waiting for Sveum to throw up his hands a say WTF, I don’t need this.
    With such little talent Dale has been given I feel sorry for him.
    Dale can only pull the strings. He can’t make the puppets preform.

  • Big – O

    I usually have no beefs with your post and love the website. That said Dale has done a brutal job of in game managing. I believe there are 2 types of coaches those who coach to win and those who coach not to lose, Sveum is definitely the latter! Take last weeks game against Rangers for instance. Wood was pitching a great game went into the 8th inning with 80 pitches gets one out and then walks a guy and Dale pulls him. We all know what happens next! In 3 weeks we’ve seen a lot of this type of bad coaching.

  • Die hard

    Players don’t respect Sveum because he’s Theos guy… Sandberg is not which is why he should be hired

    • TWC

      “Players don’t respect Sveum”

      Prove it. Or, alternatively, provide one scintilla of evidence.


  • Dumpgobbler

    I dont think Sveum should be worried about his job. However, when he has Castro bunting again, he should then remember that thats a bad idea and not do that.

  • ajbulls23

    Another great move by Sveum. Couldn’t you give Villanueva a little more slack.

  • ajbulls23

    great move by Sveum. Couldn’t you give Villanueva a little more slack.

  • Timmy

    Sveum isn’t even close to the problem. You can’t give a chef rotten produce and expect him to make a julienne salad. If they fire Sveum they should fire Theo at the same time, because he hasn’t made ANY good moves whatsoever since he got here.

  • The Dude Abides
    • hansman1982

      Eh, reading it, it doesn’t sound like the typical “Full Support” line. Hoyer heaps plenty of blame on him and Theo for the woes of the team.

      GM’s that are about to fire a manager typically don’t do that (usually because they are fearful for their job).