Theo Epstein on Dale Sveum’s Dismissal, and the Upcoming Search Process

epstein conference cubsTogether with the official release on Dale Sveum’s dismissal, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein included a lengthy statement explaining the decision and the next steps. It’s quite well said, so I think it’s worth sharing the whole thing with you:

Today, we made the very difficult decision to relieve Dale Sveum of his duties as Cubs manager. Dale has been a committed leader for this team the last two seasons, and I want to thank him for all of his dedication and hard work. I have a lot of admiration for Dale personally, and we all learned a lot from the way he has handled the trying circumstances of the last two years, especially the last two weeks, with strength and dignity.

In his own authentic and understated way, Dale always put the team first and never complained about the hand he was dealt. He and his staff helped us excel in game planning and defensive positioning, contributed to the emergence of several players, and helped put us in position to make some important trades. I have no doubt that – much like Terry Francona, whom we hired in Boston after his stint with a losing Phillies club – Dale will go on to great success with his next team. We had hoped Dale would grow with our organization to see it through the building phase to a period of sustained excellence; instead, I believe Dale, who felt the weight of losing perhaps more than any of us, will grow because of this experience and find excellence elsewhere.

Today’s decision to pursue a new manager was not made because of wins and losses. Our record is a function of our long-term building plan and the moves we have made – some good, a few we would like back – to further this strategy. Jed and I take full responsibility for that. Today’s decision was absolutely not made to provide a scapegoat for our shortcomings or to distract from our biggest issue – a shortage of talent at the major league level. We have been transparent about what we are, and what we are not yet. Today’s decision, which was painful for all of us, was made to move us closer to fulfilling our ultimate long-term vision for the Cubs.

Soon, our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, very talented club at the major league level. The losing has been hard on all of us, but we now have one of the top farm systems in baseball, some of the very best prospects in the game, and a clear path forward. In order for us to win with this group – and win consistently – we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level. We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game. And – even while the organization takes a patient, long view – we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club.

I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek. We will begin our search immediately – a process which will be completed before the GM meetings in early November and perhaps much sooner. There are no absolute criteria, but we will prioritize managerial or other on-field leadership experience and we will prioritize expertise developing young talent. We have not yet contacted any candidates or asked permission to speak with any candidates, but that process will begin tomorrow morning.

That’ll take some parsing, but the takeaway is largely what we’ve heard all along: it isn’t Dale’s fault, and it remains a transitional period.

The search begins tomorrow – and we’ll see if the Cubs already knew who they wanted, or if they simply knew they didn’t want Sveum anymore – and should be completed by early November.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

202 responses to “Theo Epstein on Dale Sveum’s Dismissal, and the Upcoming Search Process”

  1. josh ruiter

    My guess is they have 3-4 guys they like, and Girardi who they covet. They probably felt out Girardi, gauging his real interest in taking a year off (the end of Sveum’s contract) and then coming back to managing. And at the end of the day Girardi is a now or never kinda chance. and if not they will pursue some of the other guys they liked more than Dale anyways.

  2. CubChymyst

    I feel like Epstein’s last line about we have not contacted anyone yet is to keep any tampering charges from coming up about the Cubs talking to Girardi early. I liked Sandy Alomar Jr. from the first group of candidates and Asmus seems like an good choice as well. Feels like Maddox was the FO first choice 2 years ago though.

  3. On The Farm

    First Kiffin, now Sveum. When will the madness stop?

    1. Blublud

      I can’t think of 2 people in all of sports who deserved to be fired as much as those 2.

      1. YourResidentJag

        I can– Alex Anthopolous for the mess he created with the Blue Jays. The trades he made for young talent just weren’t good.

        1. Blublud

          Ok. Maybe I meant coaches/managers in all of sports.

          1. Professor Snarks

            Robin Ventura? The guy that coaches the Jacksonville Jaguars? Tom Coughlin? Mike Scoscia? There are a bunch, actually.

            1. Blublud

              Coughlin has 2 rings and a proven track record. Mike Scoscia has a ring, and a proven track record. Robin Ventura does not deserve to be fired.

              What has Lane Kiffen and Dale Sveum ever done?

              1. Blublud

                Kiffin.

              2. jh03

                So why does Ventura deserve another chance and not Dale? I’m simply asking, because actually, the White Sox were huge disappointments (based on public standards.. I didn’t think they’d be very good) and the Cubs were designed to be this bad. I’m just asking you, so don’t get all defensive.

                1. Blublud

                  Because he was 8 games over .500 last year with a team that honestly wasn’t that good to me.

                  1. jh03

                    For the record, I don’t think Ventura should be fired.

                    1. Eternal Pessemist

                      Cubs aren’t deciding Dale’s fate relative to what the White Sox did, of course. They are only interested in what is best for the Cubs.

                  2. Dudeski

                    That team also choked away the division to Detroit

              3. Cedlandrum

                about the same as Ventura?

                1. YourResidentJag

                  And the Mets manager? What’s he done to deserve an extension?

                2. Blublud

                  Right. So sveum led a not so good club to a winning record last year. I don’t remember that.

              4. Professor Snarks

                BluBlud, sports is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ entity. You know that.

                1. Blublud

                  I know that. I never said those guys don’t deserve to be fired(Ventura Doesn’t), just not more then Lane Kiffin and Dale Sveum.

      2. hansman1982

        Has Rex Ryan been fired yet? How about Scoscia? You could fire that twerp in Miami and not notice a difference.

        1. Blublud

          Rex Ryan has at least been to 2 AFC championship games in his first 2 years. Even more, he did it with Mark Sanchez as his QB. Yes, Mark freaking Sanchez. He deserves to still have his job.

      3. Tennessee Cub

        Amen, especially to Kiffin!!

  4. Blublud

    I think this had to do with Dale not being on the same page as the FO with how to handle players in the media. I also don’t think Sveum is as much a Sabermetric guy as folks here have tried to make him out to be. The arguments in the dugout, that eventually played out in the media probably didn’t help his cause, and may have been the tipping point.

    Either, good riddance. I doubt he ever gets another managerial chance.

    1. mjhurdle

      I actually would be surprised if he doesn’t get another chance somewhere else.
      There are many decent managers that started their careers poorly. And i think Sveum has the advantage of it being understood that his teams were never built to be competitive anyway.
      So if you don’t judge on W-Ls, then you are left with a guy that made some mistakes, helped some players and didn’t help others, kept the team relatively drama-free during obviously down times, and was able to handle the pressure of a big-media market team during a time of discontent.
      Im not saying he will definitely get another job, but i would guess that he would be on some teams short lists if they wanted a new, cheaper managing option.

      1. Blublud

        He definitely didn’t handle the media well. They could talk him into sayingbanything they wanted him to. For 2 years, he was a babbling fool.

        1. mjhurdle

          Do you have an example?
          For me, I can’t recall any huge incidents caused by Sveum saying anything to the media.
          The “worst” thing that i can think of is him telling the media that Baker was coming out of the BP, but then starting him. But now that seems like maybe a change put on him by the Front Office, and he never mentioned it or made an issue out of it.

          Im not calling him a great orator, but i think he held his own.
          I would certainly expect someone that felt the need to call someone a “babbling fool” to try to back up the statement and not just name-call.
          .

          1. Cubbie Blues

            He constantly was throwing Castro under the bus, he said Castro & Rizzo should be 7-8 hitters than Theo got a hold of him and they were put back into the 1-2 role and he said that Castro and Rizzo needed to go down to the Minors (which was never going to happen).

            1. mjhurdle

              If i remember correctly, he never mentioned Castro and Rizzo specifically. And his quote was more that no one is untouchable, and that anyone who isn’t performing has the possibility of being sent back down.
              Am i remembering that right?
              If so, i hardly think that qualifies as a mistake, or throwing anyone under a bus.
              As far as where Rizzo and Castro hit, that would fall under managing mistakes (if you felt that it was a mistake).
              I also don’t get this mantra of “constantly threw Castro under the bus”. I hear it all the time, but honestly i have no idea where it is coming from, unless it is referring to the incident where he benched Castro.

              1. Funn Dave

                Same here. I put comments about Sveum “throwing Castro under a bus” in the same category as comments about Castro lacking “between the ears:” people hear others say them & then they repeat them without giving real thought to what it is they’re saying or on what evidence it is based. Yes, Dale did bench Starlin that one time; and yes, Starlin has made some mental gaffes–but the majority of his errors throughout his career have been more than just stupid mistakes, and Dale showed an impressive amount of patience throughout the year with his alleged top two hitters underperforming.

                1. demz

                  What’s funny is that the same people who are (now) complaining about Sveum “throwing Castro under the bus” were the same was complaining at the beginning of the season that Castro is not being held accountable. It’s so silly.

            2. mjhurdle

              and im not trying to just argue for the sake of arguing. I keep hearing about Sveum being horrible with his players, and i really don’t remember anything.
              If there are incidents that i just missed, i would gladly change my opinion.

              1. Cubbie Blues

                I was just trying to give the examples I can remember. The Castro bit, if memory serves, was several weeks in a row where he berated him a bit in the press when talking about his play and approach. I could be mis-remembering the Minor league thing, but I don’t think I am and the lineup issue was more of a philosophy breakdown between the FO and Sveum.

        2. mjhurdle

          And for the record, i agree with them letting Sveum go, so im not so much trying to say Sveum did no wrong.
          But i do think that Sveum handled the crappy situation he was handled well, and the lack of any media storms to me shows that he was able to weather it fairly well as far as dealing with the media goes.

  5. matt

    I honestly think this is because he had one year left on his deal. They weren’t going to extend him, which basically means they go into another season with a lame duck about to be fired manager…..So they just axed him now. They sign the next guy for 2-3 years and continue on. You can’t keep everyone drinking the kool-aid if you know the guy isn’t going to be around after the season. This was the decision that made the most sense. Now they bring in an experienced guy that the team knows will be around when they turn things around, and they have to prove themselves all over again.

  6. Stevie B

    I saw Lou Pinella at the Starbucks off of Diversey this morning….

    1. Jim L

      So did I, but he got into a car driven by Joe Girardi.

    2. Professor Snarks

      Appreciated. :-)

  7. cubmig

    “Sveum got fired, but he’ll be alright. As I said in the other day’s post, he walks away with some hard-learned experience that will serve him well in his next assignment.

    The question that remains though, is: Will the FO get a pass if they hire someone whose fate ends up like Sveum’s?

  8. Seth N.

    I was a Dale backer when they hired him.

    Wouldn’t have been REAL upset if they kept him on

    but

    this was the right thing to do if our goal is winning/development. Can’t really point to the Dale years and say “that guy made a difference”.

    I would rather our FO be aggressive and judgmental than loyal and patient.

    1. ClevelandCubsFan

      I think that might be the closest to accurate portrayal I’ve heard. Add to that that they probably had ID’d several guys who wouldn’t be worse and might just really click (with JG as a wild card).

  9. Tennessee Cub

    Dave Martinez would be a good one to interview…….been with Joe Maddon a lil while now.

    1. JayPaul

      Nope…A possible PR nightmare. Might just be the fact that Ryno will forever be one of my heros, that i could never get behind this.

  10. BigPappa

    I think this sums up the reasons for Dale’s firing right here:

    “we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level. We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game.”

  11. Kramden

    Unless they had a commitment with a manager they REALLY wanted, I don’t think they’d have pulled the trigger firing Sveum. This seems like their one chance to grab Girardi, the cards fell in place with the Yankees now needing to rebuild with the Cubs already 2-3 years into it… So I think Girardi is seizing the opportunity to come home to manager what will be a very talented team. You could say that Girardi’s an opportunist.

  12. Blublud

    I’m starting to feel like the Cubs are going to go for it this year. This is probably (hopefully) the last year they plan to have a protected pick. So why not take advantage and underpay in draft pick value for a free agent. I’m not so sure Cano will be a target, but I’m almost expecting one of Choo or Ellsbury, Tanaka and a splash trade. This, with Baez (and maybe Bryant) ready to come up, the managerial change makes even more sense. The need a manager they feel they can win with.

    1. cub2014

      Blublud I am with you man! I think
      they need to make 2-3 acquisitions
      and resign a couple of guys and they
      are ready to compete in 2014 (a new
      manager will also be a big help)

    2. cubmig

      Blublud—-I’d like to offer a change to your last sentence so that it reads: They need a manager they KNOW they can win with.

      The list is too long of those who have come and gone because the FO hired who they “felt” they could win with. The FO confidence level needs to be absolute to convey the mindset of their decision. After all: “The speed of the Boss is the speed of the gang.”

    3. 1060Ivy

      Or Management puts blame on the last 2 seasons on Sveum and then states it couldn’t afford a big name manager, Girardi, as the organization is still paying for the last one and brings in Brad Ausmus, or another first time manager who is relatively inexpensive. h

      After the next manager is fired, the front office will lets out a rumor that Ron Gardenhire was the candidate the Cubs really wanted to hire but the Twins signed him to an extension prior to the position opening.

  13. Professor Snarks

    Let’s start the parsing:

    Theo said.
    “I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy…”

    dynamic new voice = manager with a pedigree?

    1. Professor Snarks

      Parsing, part 2:

      Theo said.
      “Today’s decision to pursue a new manager was not made because of wins and losses. Our record is a function of our long-term building plan…”

      =Hey, next manager, we’re still going to suck, but we won’t hold that against you.

  14. cavemencubbie

    Theo talked about the best possible environment. Does this also mean PHYSICAL environment, Theo/Ricketts?

  15. Scotti

    “In order for us to win with this group – and win consistently – we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level.”

    If Theo had been hanging out here the last couple of days he would have learned that it isn’t the manager’s job to create an “environment” where “young players” can “develop”.

    Theo today:

    “And – even while the organization takes a patient, long view – we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club.”

    Me last night:

    “In baseball, a good leader comes in with an expectation to win. Girardi talked about winning the World Series in Spring Training with the Marlins (and throughout the year). They failed to reach that goal but that striving made them better than they ever would have been without it (collectively and individually).

    “THIS team might not be ready to spend now but its fanbase needs it to TRY to win now. The team on the field needs to be all in. The managers and coaches need to hold the team, and each other, accountable for its every effort. We haven’t seen that since before Sweet Lou went back on his prune juice.”

  16. Aaron

    ” A dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek.”

    Translation: Former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus will be the Cubs NEW manager as he signs a 3 year contract in the near future. From what I’ve read he’s smart, has great communication skills and is great at game preparation. Sounds good so far.

  17. Bea Arthur

    Wasn’t Sveum really the second choice after Mike Maddux decided to stay in Texas to be near family?

    If the Rangers lose in the playoffs, will be available.

    An ex-catcher or catcher is ideal.

    No clue if Ausmus rumors are real, but the dude is super smart. He and Kyle HEndricks can be the Dartmouth connection.

    1. terencemann

      Yeah, I don’t know where they go from here. They need a strong leader and someone who is intelligent enough to understand how to make the most out of the players he has (aka NOT Ron Washington or Mike Scioscia). It seems to me that these two things describe a person who is not currently a manager.

      Also, can I throw Manny Acta’s name out there a dozen more times? Seriously, he deserves a medal for how well he handled Cleveland through a drought of talent.

  18. TheRiot2

    Ausmus and Alomar Jr. don’t have the experience that Theo now wants to guide this team.My short list is Mike Maddux and Joe Girardi with Ron Washington the wild card. Might as well learn to do the Texas two step.

    1. WGNstatic

      There is no way this front office would hire Ron Washington. That said, I would love to see them bring in Mike Maddux. When he stepped out of consideration from the Cubs and Red Sox searches 2 years ago, he cited that his daughters would be in school (college?) in Texas for 3 more years, so perhaps at this point he might be more open to making a move. Who knows.

  19. Paul

    I’ll do it for $10k per win up to 81, $20k per win over 81 with a $100k bonus for a wildcard, $250k for division title and part ownership for winning the World Series. That’s a better deal than Andre Dawson’s blank contract offer. And I’m super smart, so it’s a really good deal. :)

  20. jeff1969

    I thought Sveum did a decent job, considering what the Cubs were & are right now. President & GM’s don’t fire themselves for moves they make that don’t turn out so well. Is Theo taking a pay cut or in danger of being fired because of how the signings of Jackson & Baker turned out, or that Castro & Rizzo struggled, or that Mike Olt hit less than .170 for the Iowa Cubs? No. Managers are always sacrificed. In my opinion, one negative about Sveum was that it seemed like he didn’t fully have the respect of all of his players. Some of those players also seem to be seriously lacking in professionalism.

    1. BigPappa

      President and GM’s get evaluated by the owner. They get fired too.

      1. jeff1969

        But they don’t fire themselves. It’s written pretty clearly; second line, full sentence.

        1. Leo L

          Managers fire themselves?

      2. oehly37

        I would think Theo is being evaluated on the Cubs’ improved rankings throughout the minor league system. There have been gains made there. I’m encouraged.

        1. Kyle

          When literally every available resource has been diverted to that front, it’s not really all that big a deal that there’s been improvement.

          1. jt

            The Cubs are now 2 star position players, 1 star SP’er and a resign of Dioner from being a very good team.
            I don’t think the Big Club has been neglected.

  21. Matt

    I think he was ultimately canned because of the regression of guys like Castro and Rizzo, and Shark sort of just spinning his tires.

    I don’t know how fair (or accurate) that speculation is, but that’s just how I see it.

    1. terencemann

      I think the young player troubles jump out to me, too. I don’t think he’s to blame but maybe the front office just thought they could find someone who could do it better.

  22. Robert Johnson

    Bluebird, how about Epstein & Hoyer. They should go just for the Jackson deal alone. I liked Epstein better when he left the Red Sox in a gorilla suit than what he did today.

  23. Brian Peters

    The thing is this: the Cubs have had something like six managers since 1996. There’s been very little consistency where it counts. Whoever is chosen for the job, I hope it’s someone who the FO plans to keep. That doesn’t necessarily mean a “yessir” kind of manager. Brad Ausmus is an appealing option, but like Sveum, he has no major league coaching experience, so I don’t see how he doesn’t end up being Sveum 2.0. That said, it sounds like at least Ausmus would be good with the young talent….and he’s a former catcher and was known as a superb game caller….

    1. mr.mac

      It would definitely be nice to have some consistency in who the manager is. I just hope whoever the next guy is it is the guy to win a World Series.

  24. Troy

    Tebow Time.

  25. ssckelley

    They fired Sveum exactly why I thought they would, lack of player development. It was interesting to listen to Theo’s public announcement and him saying things like “lack of consistent message to young players”. He also mentioned how well some of the coaches have done and that they would get letters of recommendations if the new manager did not retain them. Theo did not mention names but if I had to guess the disappointing seasons of both Rizzo and Castro were a big reason why Sveum was let go today.

    But it was exciting to hear Theo talk about how soon the prospects were going to be playing at the MLB level, and that the talent at the MLB level was going to change. It got me excited, hoping, that they are going to take a shot at being competitive next season.

  26. mreverything

    It seems to me that you all are missing the most important thing Theo said. That is “Soon our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, a very talented club at the major league level.” This is IMO far more important than who they get to manage the club. Of course this was their plan all along. The question is when is soon?

  27. 8800

    What is Girardi’s experience with developing young talent? One year w/ the Marlins and the the rest with the Yankees. I do not think there has been young developing talent on the Yankeey for a long time. The yankees add pricy veterans through free agency and trades. Keep Looking!!!

    1. Scotti

      Girardi took a kid that Theo thought was an under-performer from Boston’s AA team and he wound up being ROY-1 that very same year. And Hanley Ramirez has gone on to a long career–something that is not commonplace in the industry but IS commonplace among the players Girardi has worked with.

      Dan Uggla was ROY-3 and has gone on to a long career.

      Josh Johnson was ROY-4 and has gone on to have a long career.

      Anibal Sánchez was ROY-9 and has gone on to have a long career and is now a rich man.

      Josh Willingham was tied for ROY-9 and has gone on to have a log career.

      Scott Olsen was tied for ROY-9 and tore his labrum several years later in WAS.

      Ricky Nolasco was also a rookie and won 11 games and has gone on to have a long career.

      And Miguel Cabrera had the best of his first seven years in his lone year with Girardi. Dontrell Willis (anxiety disorder) had the last of his successful years under Girardi.

      For all of this he was named Manager Of The Year for a reason. He was given lemons (four rookie starting pitchers, only two established position players and a duplicitous front office and ownership) and Joe Girardi made Pledge with them.

      He created an environment where his young players–the team AVERAGED 25.4 years old–were held accountable to work hard (and professionally) and they thrived. I followed closely what he was doing in Miami and then the next year (when he was a potential candidate with the Cubs) I researched what had happened even more deeply. Their success was no accident. Girardi is an exceptionally prepared individual who works harder than he demands from others and he demands a lot. That is exactly what the Cubs need.

      Will it happen? Probably not. Are there other managers who could do a good job? Certainly. But none have the pedigree or fit of Girardi.

  28. Carew

    Isn’t Davey Johnson a “free agent” now? I’d take Girardi any day, but I wonder if that’s an option

  29. Aaron

    Lack of player development against Sveum. Two main students. Castro isn’t exactly an ideal student as we have all found out this year. His philosophy of see ball-hit ball is tough to add to. As far as Rizzo has the potential to be an ALL-STAR, but this season exposed some flaws in his game, namely hitting against lefties, where he batted under .200. This was a concern going into the season and it proved to be a legitimate one. Rizzo needs to work on his plate approach against southpaws. No middle-of-the-order hitter wants the reputation of being easily neutralized by a lefty, especially when runners are in scoring position and the opposing team brings in their lefty specialist.

  30. clark addison

    The Tribune did its own bit of housecleaning today. Phil Rogers is gone. He’s going to be a columnist with espn.com. No way does that pay like a regular newspaper gig, even in these troubled times for papers. No question they are downsizing, and Rogers is a casualty.

    I never was a fan of his fantasy trades and made-up rumors. But apparently espn doesn’t agree.

    1. Brian Peters

      That’s because espn pretty much sucks, so they recognize other people’s suckability.

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