Dale Sveum sounded so grounded, so non-plussed, so honest even before he was introduced as the new Cubs manager.
And now this.
Reading what Sveum was saying at the winter meetings makes you wonder if he already has gotten Cubbed.
Or maybe someone developed a portable version of the stupid gas that blows through the manager’s office.
Sveum declared that success starts with pitching. That’s the smart part. Then he said “if you have (Carlos) Zambrano and (Matt) Garza and (Ryan) Dempster and fill in with the other two guys, and have a bullpen like we do, you have a chance of winning. You put up some runs on the board and you get hot, you’re going to win with that kind of pitching staff.’’
What exactly was Sveum watching from the other dugout last season?
Because that’s pretty much what happened last season. The Cubs had Zambrano, Garza and Dempster. They tried to fill in with other guys. They suffered injuries the way teams do, and they stunk.
They had nothing. Noth. Ing. Zip. Zilch. Davis.
Not that Randy Wells had proven he deserved a spot in the rotation of a contender, but he was OK for the Cubs. Andrew Cashner, who knew? He was all about hope.
Point was, the Cubs were filling in the way Sveum said, and not only couldn’t they fill in, they also couldn’t get squat out of the top of the rotation.
You could say Garza was more hard luck that hit hard. But Dempster was bad and Zambrano’s head blew up. Several times, actually. One time he ripped his teammates, the other, of course, he quit in the middle of a game.
And now here’s Sveum talking as if Zambrano will be brought back to the Cubs clubhouse that he walked out of and also a spot in the rotation for which he had a 4.82 ERA. All kinds of bad from a recidivist idiot.
And that was the first name Sveum mentioned. Kill me now.
I suppose Sveum is just doing his bit in this charade. Pump up Zambrano’s tires, pump up Dempster’s tires, maybe even Garza, blah, blah, blah, someone trades you something you actually want.
Because here’s the deal: The injuries to Wells and Cashner exposed the lack of pitching depth in the Cubs system.
Sveum’s right about pitching. It makes all the difference. But the new Cubs manager is wrong about the Cubs’ proximity to major league-caliber starters. Why do you think we had to endure Casey Coleman, Rodrigo Lopez and Something Ortiz?
And remember, Theo Epstein said he believes a team needs nine starters for exactly the reason the Cubs finished in fifth place (thank you, Astros).
But Sveum is putting happy-face emoticons on that staff. I thought we were done with that kind of tripe from a Cubs administration. Why is Sveum here? Why is Epstein here and why did he drag Jed Hoyer into the abyss?
Look, I want these guys to succeed. I’m happy to buy into the idea that Sveum has the Terry Francona profile. I’m hoping that Epstein hasn’t lost his touch in middle age.
But geez, it’s hard to stomach some of this. Tom Ricketts could’ve saved himself almost $20 million by letting Jim Hendry give Zambrano another chance.
I suppose that part of Sveum’s job is to cover his bosses’ backside and shovel some stuff until the mess gets cleared out. I get that, and I hope someone buys what the Cubs are shoveling on Zambrano and even Dempster, who’s a good guy but hardly worth $14 million.
But does Sveum have to be so obviously full of it? He’s reading from some bad script here. Credible dialogue, anyone?
You know what? Sveum’s words wouldn’t sound so ridiculous if uttered after the Cubs signed, say, Mark Buehrle, and if both Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder leave the division. If that were the case, then suddenly Sveum’s talk about competing next season isn’t a scene from “Bad Bald Managers, Part 2.’’