There have been whispers for a while now, but I have always thought that Dale Sveum would be back as manager of the Chicago Cubs in 2014, which is the last year on his contract. Now, I am not so sure that will be the case.
Svuem was hired prior to the 2012 season, when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over baseball operations for the Cubs. Svuem was a bit of a fallback option for the Cubs as they appeared to prefer Mike Maddux at the time. Maddux took his name out of the running for the Cubs’ manager position and returned to the Texas Rangers as their pitching coach, leading the Cubs to Sveum.
The Cubs went 61-101 in Svuem’s first season in Chicago — the second-worst record in all of baseball. Things have not been much better this season, but I do not think you can blame Svuem for the performance of the Cubs. When Epstein and Hoyer took over, they made it obvious that they were going to completely rebuild the organization. Two years later, many high-priced veterans like Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster have been sent packing. This was the right thing to do for the future of the organization, but it has made wins tough to come by.
There is no doubt that the Cubs currently do not have a team that can compete at the major league level. Part of rebuilding is trading away veteran pieces for younger assets. The Cubs have done a tremendous job of this the past couple of seasons, but it surely does a number on the talent at the major league level. The Cubs have easily one of the best minor league systems in all of baseball, but the talent is simply not ready for the big leagues.
The most important part of Svuem’s job at the moment is player development. The Cubs’ front office knows that they do not have a team that is ready to compete, but they need to see improvement out of the players who will remain with the team in the future. Starlin Castro is currently the face of the franchise and is a very important part of this rebuild.
The 23-year-old shortstop is finishing up his fourth year in the big leagues, and it is fair to wonder whether Sveum and his staff have stunted his growth. This season, Castro is hitting .243/.283/.344, all of which are career lows and are simply not acceptable. Obviously, Castro needs to be held somewhat responsible for this, but why have his numbers completely fallen off the cliff since Svuem arrived?
I am not sure if there is a good answer to that question, but Castro simply looks lost at the plate at times, and that is a sharp contrast to the confident kid we saw just two short years ago. The fall of Castro may not be Sveum’s fault, but he has certainly not helped a young player with obvious talent grow.
There are rumors floating around right now that the Cubs will decide Sveum’s fate on Monday. He is obviously on the hot seat as the Cubs try to decide if they are better off going in another direction. Personally, I think Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals will be the last time that we will see Svuem managing the Cubs. I’m not sure if it is fair or not because Sveum was certainly not given much to work with, but I believe that the Cubs are ready to go in another direction.
Only time will tell if that would be the correct decision.