Was Dale Sveum the best manager in baseball over the past two years? No. Did he make some questionable decisions during his time at the helm of the Chicago Cubs? Yes. Was it fair for the Cubs to pull the plug on a manager that was given very little to work with? Absolutely not.
The organization made it very clear after the 2011 MLB season that they would be going into rebuild mode. They brought in Theo Epstein, who worked wonders for the Boston Red Sox, in the hopes that he could do the same for another struggling franchise. Epstein hired Sveum because he thought the former Milwaukee Brewers coach could make a team successful despite not having a big payroll. The fact is the joke was on Epstein because there was never really any indication in Sveum’s past that proved he was capable of such a thing. However, the decision was made and it is something Epstein should have stuck with.
Chicago traded Alfonso Soriano, David DeJesus, Scott Feldman and Matt Garza this season. The moves were an obvious ploy to shed salaries and give younger players a chance to prove themselves worthy of a possible roster spot next year. The trades were also an indication that Epstein would probably keep Sveum and the rest of the coaching staff intact. Who really thought anyone could win with the disgraceful product the organization put on the field? Apparently, Epstein did, which is why he got rid of Sveum.
I understand that a 61-101 record last season and a 66-96 record this year are not ideal, but how were the Cubs supposed to do better? There is absolutely no Major League talent on the roster with the exception of a couple players. Something is wrong when Anthony Rizzo is the most productive offensive player on the team. A player that posted a .233 batting average.
Chicago apparently did not believe Sveum could handle the progression of the younger players, which is somewhat key when rebuilding a team. However, the players he was given by management clearly had no motivation to play at a high level.
What makes the firing even more ludicrous is what Epstein had to say in his statement.
“I have a lot of admiration for Dale personally, and we all learned a lot from the way he has handled the trying circumstances of the last two years, especially the last two weeks, with strength and dignity,” Epstein said, according to ESPN.com. “In his own authentic and understated way, Dale always put the team first and never complained about the hand he was dealt. He and his staff helped us excel in game planning and defensive positioning, contributed to the emergence of several players, and helped put us in position to make some important trades.”
It does not matter if the Cubs get Joe Girardi or not. It does not matter if Joe Torre or Tony La Russa comes out of retirement to manage in Chicago. No team in baseball can deliver the wild expectations of the organization with the players they have put on the field. It is nothing personal against each individual player. There is simply no chemistry among the team. Not to mention, the talented players that could unite the Cubs refuse to play hard.
Sveum was not the greatest manager, and the decision to hire him in the first place was a head scratcher. Expecting him to succeed with what he was given is like expecting a 40-year-old pitcher to throw 100 MPH. There simply is no way it is going to happen.