Following today’s announcement of Dale Sveum’s dismissal as manager of the Chicago Cubs, and the attending statement, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein met with the media answer questions. Among his (paraphrased) thoughts, with links to the Twitters and reaction/commentary:
- Although Sveum indicated that he was surprised that it had come to this and only two weeks ago (when Epstein made his noncommittal comments to the media) was the first he’d become uneasy, Epstein said that issues had popped up in the first half of the season and there were discussions around the All-Star Break. Epstein also gave Sveum a heads up that he was thinking about a change before he made those comments in Milwaukee two weeks ago. It sounds like, from these comments, as well as the prepared statement, that player development concerns drove the change.
- Sveum was informed of the final decision last night over a few hours and “a few beers.” I suspect Epstein really does think quite highly of Sveum personally – and maybe even professionally, at another time in another role – and I’m sure none of this was particularly easy.
- Epstein did not address (at least not in the blurbs I’ve seen so far) whether he feels like the front office made a mistake when hiring Sveum – it was a thorough process – but he did say that the first half of 2013 caught them by surprise (presumably, in terms of player development at the big league level), and he feels very confident that he knows exactly what the organization needs right now. I’m sure that latter part is quite true – after two years and this process, the front office is going to have a very clear picture of the kinds of things they need in a manager. Indeed, Epstein later added that he feels like they’re in a better position now to know what they need in a manager now.
- The coaching staff has been informed that the new manager will make the coaching decisions, but some of them will receive a strong recommendation from the front office. Epstein mentioned that the staff and the manager have to present a united message, which suggests there may have been some communication problems or “too many cooks in the kitchen” situations going on. Sveum was a former hitting coach, James Rowson was the Cubs’ new hitting coach, and Rob Deer was the Cubs’ new assistant hitting coach. I know nothing beyond what’s said there, but it does make you wonder.
- Epstein said that the Cubs will, first and foremost, be looking at candidates with managerial experience. Other criteria include track record, overall experience, leadership skills, and expertise developing young talent. That last one figures to be a biggy with a young roster laying ahead of the next manager, and a wave of prospects reaching the big leagues (everyone hopes).
- The Cubs don’t feel any pressure to hire a “big name” manager, nor should they. Neither is a Cubs background a requirement, but it helps. (Everyone simultaneously screams “Girardi, Girardi, Girardi!” after reading this and the last bullet.)
- Epstein feels like the talent in the organization, and the strong near-term future of the organization are going to be key selling points in bringing in the next manager. I’d certainly agree that I’d feel much better about becoming the manager of the Cubs today than I would have two years ago. That said, 2014 could be another rough season.
- Although he’s not opposed to a swift process, Epstein said that the Cubs would like to have the process completed by the GM meetings (usually in early November). Should the Cubs be interested in anyone who is under contract and currently in the playoffs, the Cubs will wait to ask for permission to speak until after that team is eliminated. Obviously the goal is the get the right guy, but the sooner the Cubs can get a manager in place, the sooner they can begin working with him on player development plans, the coaching staff, offseason acquisitions, etc. And, although I know they can juggle many balls, it would also be nice for their total focus to be on the players/prospects at hand as soon as possible, rather than the next manager.