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Hall of Sveum: Cubs Name Their Next Manager

By Joel C. Reese in News on Nov 17, 2011 8:30PM

So it seems the Cubs have gotten their man, and that man is Dale Sveum.

On Friday, the Cubs will officially name Sveum (rhymes with “fame”) the successor to one-year-wonder Mike Quade. A 13-year major leaguer, Sveum was most recently the hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers. He also briefly served as the Brewers’ manager in in 2008, compiling a 7-5 record and losing in the first round of the playoffs.

Conventional wisdom says hiring Sveum is a good move. He’s widely respected within baseball, although his stint as the Red Sox’s third-base coach seems somewhat controversial. But he was there when the team won the World Series in 2004, so he’s undoubtedly familiar with the methods of Cubs’ prez Theo Epstein et al.

As Bleacher Nation notes, Sveum’s time with the Brewers means he’s very familiar with the pitchers within the NL Central Division. The Brew Crew also had several players who produced well beyond their previous stats, including Nyjer “Tony Plush” Morgan and Corey Hart. It seems likely that the hitting coach had something to do with that.

But even if Sveum is the second coming of Connie Mack, he probably won’t help the North Siders within the next year or two. A manager doesn’t pitch a complete game three-hitter. A manager doesn’t hit a bases-clearing triple in the bottom of the seventh. (Or, in the case of Alfonso Soriano, the manager doesn’t swing at a pitch four feet outside with the bases loaded.)

A team’s success largely comes down to the players on the field, and the 2012 Cubs won’t make anyone forget the ’27 Yankees.

So what does this hire mean, other than being bald seems to be a new prerequisite for managing the Cubs? (So my chances are still alive down the road — sweet!)

Well, the move tells us a few things:

First off, the Cubs are officially sitting at the grown-ups’ table. Sveum was apparently the Red Sox’s top choice for their vacant managerial position, yet the Cubs are ending up with him. This proves, if there was any doubt, how dramatically things have changed for the Cubs in just the last few weeks.

For decades, the Cubs were an also-ran — a sad-sack of a team that was as legitimate as Herman Cain’s Mensa application. In baseball’s grand scheme, they were a lovable non-entity in pinstripes. End of story.

Sure, the Cubs put together a respectable run in the 2000s, but by and large, they were persona non grata among the big boys of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and (ugh) St. Louis.

Anytime before now, someone deciding between Boston and Chicago would hesitate for about .0003 seconds before choosing Boston. After all, the Red Sox have hallowed Fenway Pahhhk! The Green Monstahh! Teddy Ballgame! Yaz! Everyone from John Updike to George Will has rhapsodized about the team and how it represents all that is good and true about this country… blah blah blah…

As recently as Wednesday, everyone thought Sveum was going to head east. And yet now, here he is at Wrigley. Boston, all your manager are belong to us.

While we don’t know much too about Sveum, we know that the new Cubs’ braintrust is crazy-smart. As the Score’s Mike Mulligan said, people view Theo & Co. like they invented science or discovered a new number.

And back in 2004, then-Boston GM Epstein had to pick a manager. As the Trib’s Steve Rosenbloom notes, Epstein narrowed it down to two candidates: Terry Francona, who went on to win two titles, and Joe Maddon, widely respected as one of the top managers in the game.

In other words, Epstein knows talent. So given his track record, I can’t help but think Sveum is the right call.

Slightly off-topic, it still astounds me that all of this has happened to the Cubs — and it probably wouldn’t have if the Boston Red Sox had made the playoffs. On Sept. 3, Nate Silver’s blog Five Thirty Eight put the odds of Boston making the playoffs at 99.6 percent.

But on Sept. 28, Boston’s closer Jonathan Papelbon blew a save to one of baseball’s worst teams. Minutes later, down to his last strike, Tampa Bay’s Dan Johnson hit this homer against the Yankees. The Rays won the game in extra innings, and Boston had completed an epic collapse and was officially out of the playoffs.

If either of those two things don’t happen, the Red Sox make the playoffs and Theo Epstein is still in Boston today. But they did, and he isn’t.

So now, another result of that incredible night means Dale Sveum is the Cubs’ next manager. Until we see otherwise, the belief here is that this is a good move.