At the end of the 2008 season, a wholly unremarkable thing happened to Dale Sveum. He got passed over for a managerial job that many people – himself included, probably – thought he had rightfully earned. This is unremarkable because this is exactly what happens to men who want to be baseball managers.
The remarkable thing in all of that was that after 2008, we were able to keep Dale Sveum for as long as we did.
That all changed yesterday, of course, as word spread around baseball that Dale Sveum had accepted an offer from the Chicago Cubs. It’s going to be strange seeing Dale in blue pinstripes next season, but he’s more than earned the privilege. He also may have found the perfect opportunity to begin his managerial career.
This article, and Dale’s future in managing, puts a lot of Brewers fans in a strange position. Number one, I should be happy for his success. He is a hard-working, well prepared, and passionate person. Number two, any success that he has will be with the Chicago Cubs. That ought to suck all the fun out of saying that Dale Sveum is or will be a great manager.
The truth is, every Brewer fan who knows his or her stuff ought to be nervous right now. Dale is going to do a great job in Chicago, and he’s going to be given all the tools he needs to do it. We all know that when Sveum was a base coach, both here and in Bean Town, he was an aggressive presence who did not mind taking risk to get a run. More often than not, it paid off. Evidenced mainly by the fact that all those runs ended up in a 2004 World Series Championship for Boston. He continued his aggressive strategy when he took over a sinking ship in Milwaukee in 2008. He took chances, he wasn’t afraid to shake things up, and in being Yost’s foil he proved that Milwaukee could be a part of he baseball conversation again.
Why is he so successful at what he does? Preparation.
Sveum does more video and stat work than probably any other hitting coach to be certain, and I’d be willing to bet he does more preparation than most any other coach in the league. He understands hitting – mainly seen in Yuni’s strange and delightful journey to actual hitting in the postseason – but he also understands how to use the numbers to his advantage. This is probably one of the main reasons that Theo Epstein wanted him so badly.
Theo comes from the Billy Beane School of Front Office Management. He knows that what’s important to some people in the free agent and farm system markets are not always as valuable. He understands that certain statistics, when applied appropriately, can give you a huge advantage. Lucky for him, he also has a ton of money, which is still the most important thing in baseball. He also has a manager in Sveum now who isn’t opposed to using those systems and statistics to try to convert them into wins.
Winning is something that Dale will also do, but he won’t do it in spades for at least another year or two. Dale is in the very lucky, and very unique position that he has a front office who understands that. Epstein himself has said that this a long-term plan, and there is a different benchmark for how the progress is moving along. That means that some of the qualities that made Sveum so good as a bench coach will help change the culture in Wrigley. Sveum is renown around the league for the dynamic relationships he creates with his players. They know they can be open and honest with him without him throwing them under the bus. They also know that he knows his stuff, and the more you listen to him the better your performance is going to get. It’s the perfect mixture of mentor, teacher and leader.
It’s the kind of attitude that, given the right amount of time, can make a lasting impact of the culture of a clubhouse. And that’s really what Chicago needs is a group of leaders who will help to create a culture of aggressive and progressive personnel who can create a lasting culture of success. Dale will help them do it. That is exactly why everyone in Milwaukee should be very, very nervous.
So, it’s with a heavy heart that I wish Dale Sveum a very fond farewell from Milwaukee. We wish you all the best on your future coaching career. Even though we’d never admit it, and we will probably insult you for the rest of your tenure as a Cub.