On Sunday, I made the case why the Chicago Cubs should fire manager Dale Sveum. The reasoning for my suggestion was that Sveum did not contribute to the team’s successes during the 2012 season. The Cubs successes during the 2012 season were developed behind the scenes by the front office during the 2012 season. Meanwhile, Sveum was on public display during the 2012 season as he managed the Cubs to the third worst record in the history of the franchise with a record of 61-101. The public display of the Cubs did not appear to be successful, for that reason, the manager would be at fault. If the manager is at fault, then the manager should be fired at the conclusion of the season.
But, I bring you back to just before the 2012 season. Before the Cubs had even played a single game in the 2012 season, Chicago Cubs President Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer told reporters that they were not focusing on wins and losses during the 2012 season. Rather, the front office was focusing on the progress of the various prospects within the Minor League System in addition to the Major League team as well.
Knowing that evaluations of the 2012 season should not be based from the amount of wins and losses the Cubs collected, then it would be unfair to suggest that Sveum should be fired because of the Cubs’ 61-101 record this season. In order to fully determine whether or not Sveum is the manger for the long-term future of the Cubs, one would have to examine how Sveum contributed to the progress and development of the younger players within the organization.
Operating under those circumstances, it easy to discover how Sveum could be one of the Cubs’ successes for the 2012 season. The first example would be shortstop Starlin Castro. If there was any player on the Cubs roster that benefited the most from the removal of Mike Quade from the Cubs’ clubhouse, it may have been Castro. Castro was the subject of many public lashings by Quade during the 2011 season, and that type of a treatment towards a player who still is adjusting to the Major League lifestyle is not ideal. Sveum and Castro developed a strong bond rather quickly, and that led to Castro improving his skills on defense at the shortstop position. Initially, Castro struggled to adjust to the offensive philosophy of Sveum’s but by the time season concluded, Castro was beginning to show signs of being the Cubs’ top hitter once again.
Castro was not the only player that was influenced positively by Sveum. Second baseman Darwin Barney endured a breakout season of sorts during the 2012 season. Entering the 2012 season, it was unclear whether or not Barney would be the long-term solution for the Cubs at the second base position. Barney went on to have one of the best defensive seasons of any second baseman in the National League. Barney, like Castro, was the subject of much public criticism by Quade in 2011 and likely responded well to the change of voice in the Cubs’ clubhouse. Barney has been the subject of many trade rumors this past season, but it appears that Sveum and Epstein are inclined to keep Barney as the team’s starting second baseman.
Anthony Rizzo also benefited from Sveum’s managing during the 2012 season. When the Cubs acquired Rizzo from the San Diego Padres last winter, there was little doubt that Rizzo would not be the team’s starting first baseman by the time the 2o12 season concluded. After struggling with Padres in his first Major League stint in 2011, the Cubs were cautious with Rizzo this season. Rizzo did not make his Major League debut until late June, and the first baseman instantly became a fixture in the middle of the Cubs’ order. Rizzo, however, struggled during the month of August. After responding well to adjustments offered by Sveum, Rizzo responded by hitting .292 with 5 home runs during the month of September.
Sveum proved to be a successful manager when working with young player such as Castro, Barney, and Rizzo; but there will come a time when the Cubs are ready to contend that Sveum will have to prove that he can be a success with veteran players as well. Sveum’s work with Alfonso Soriano this season should be an indicator that the manager can work well with veteran players. Soriano responded well to Sveum’s suggestion that the left-fielder use a lighter bat. Sveum made that suggestion to Soriano during the month of May, and what resulted was a MVP worthy season from Soriano. Soriano finished the season with 32 home runs and 108 RBIs.
Yes, the Cubs lost 101 games this season. But giving the cards Sveum was dealt and his ability to generate a response from all of his players, there is no question that he is the right manager for the Cubs and their long-term future.