COMMENTARY | It's now been one week since the Chicago Cubs flushed the toilet on Dale Sveum, relieving him of his duty.
Cubs president Theo Epstein laid out the reasons for the team's decision and lauded Sveum's strength, commitment, and dignity while calling for a "dynamic new voice."
At the same time, Epstein (a card-carrying member of baseball's intelligentsia) talked about "[Sveum's] own authentic and understated way," and said, "We must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level."
"Today's decision … was not made because of wins and losses. Jed [Hoyer] and I take full responsibility for that." I can just imagine George Costanza sitting there fuming as he heard Epstein deliver the "it's not you, it's me" line.
I'm no genius, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but it sounded a bit like Epstein was describing Sveum as the girl with a really great personality. So if it wasn't the record and it wasn't Dale's attitude, why is he now plying his trade as a coach with the Kansas City Royals?
I want to examine three reasons for Dale Sveum's departure:
Math and verbal
It was too difficult for Sveum to make the change from the imperial 20/80 scale to the cybermetric system. Perhaps he should have gone online and searched saberspace for the conversion tables. While it's true that pobody's nerfect, Sveum's Freudian slip illustrated a fundamental disconnect with the vision and direction of team leadership.
Dizzy Dean, another well-known enemy of the spoken word, once said, "Let the teachers teach English and I will teach baseball." Dale might have been dizzy, but it was due more to the roster's revolving door than his resemblance to Dean.
So while it's evident that Sveum could have used some more of the first half of Dean's quote, the Cubs felt that he didn't do nearly enough of the latter. As a result of this perceived deficiency, he slid out of favor with the front office.
Theo found a prettier girl
Epstein and Hoyer have always been willing to trade a known commodity for a bevy of prospects, but one thing they're not is reckless. They would not have sent their manager packing were they not relatively certain that a bigger prize would be available.
At this point, Joe Girardi appears to be the apple of the Cubs' eye. I wrote an earlier piece about the likelihood of Girardi leaving the New York Yankees to run the show in Chicago, and it appears that we may soon learn his fate.
This situation is a lot like Brad Hamilton wanting to break up with his girlfriend Lisa before his senior year at Ridgemont High. Girardi is the Phoebe Cates to Epstein's Judge Reinhold, and Joe's getting out of the pool right now. But should the situation in Chicago play out like it did in Brad's bathroom, Cubs fans had better hope the front office has several other candidates lined up.
If necessary, you may want to take a moment to wash that unsavory image from your memory before you proceed.
It was his destiny
Or maybe, as George McFly put it, his density. Whether it was his exceptionally high mass-to-volume ratio or a predetermined outcome, Dale Sveum was not long for the Cubs. Given the Cubs' strategy to focus on acquiring minor-league talent at the expense of the big league product, a large number of losses over the past couple years was a given.
Also a given was the growing unease of the city, the fans, and the players with the labor pains of a long-gestating rebuild. While Epstein and Hoyer are adamant that the Cubs are about 50% effaced and starting to dilate, they also know that the Cubs aren't quite ready to deliver a winner.
That said, Dale Sveum was simply hired to be a nurse in the birthing suite, helping things along before the doctor arrived. I have written about this before, sans pregnancy analogies, but Sveum was indeed brought in as a scapegoat, despite what Epstein has claimed.
I'm not sure any of these reasons weighed more heavily than another in Sveum's firing. While I have held firm to the belief that he was hired to be fired, I also believe the timing of it was largely a result of the other two reasons listed.
At this point, the Cubs are in need of a facelift. Regardless of where you point the finger of blame, neither Starlin Castro nor Anthony Rizzo made strides toward becoming "The Man." The new manager either needs to be the face of the team or to develop a player who can be -- and soon. If that happens, it'll be a huge win for the Cubs.
Of course, there are more than just these three issues. So why do you think Sveum was fired and who is your pick to become the next manager? How many pop culture references is too many? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.Evan spent his formative years on a farm and a sleepy town in Northwest Indiana in the days before Wrigley Field was illuminated. As a result, every summer afternoon was spent watching or listening to the Cubs on WGN, a practice that ingrained the team into his DNA. His kids are named after the team and years of frustration have made him a self-loathing, yet still unapologetic, Cubs apologist. And, yes, he knows that that is contradictory.
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