Tough learning curve for Sveum, Ventura

Ventura: C.

Sveum: D.

In a way, how can you tell?

"Both Chicago managers are saddled with poor roster talent, among the bottom 25 percent in baseball,'' said one longtime MLB executive. "Neither minor league system has any immediate impact talent.''

You can debate whether Sveum plays the percentages too often, juggling relievers into and out of games in a hurry and taxing his bullpen, and you can fault Ventura for hitting Adam Dunn third throughout a season when he struck out 222 times. But as Hurdle says, moves are only good when they work and neither Sveum or Ventura pull rabbits out of their hat on a regular basis.

Witness the Cubs' 25-46 record in one-run games the last two years. That's a big reason Sveum's Pythagorean factor over the last two seasons is -8, better than only Matheny. Ventura's -4 isn't a whole lot better.

Both have been guilty of pushing pitchers too hard. Shawn Camp and James Russell made 157 appearances combined for the Cubs last season, way too many for guys on a team going nowhere. Ventura joined Leyland as the only manager who allowed his starting pitchers to throw 120-plus pitches three times in the first half of the season, including Chris Sale throwing 124 on June 14 and 123 on June 30. Both outings came after he missed a start in May because of tendinitis in his shoulder.

Setting a tone

Sveum: A.

Ventura: D.

With his trademark stubble and steel worker's eyes, Sveum sometimes looks like the dirtiest guy in the dugout. Ventura cleaned up well as a player and still does, which isn't great when his team is going down in flames and he seems headed to a cookout on his cul-de-sac.

There was no visible sense of urgency during the 8-23 slide that took the White Sox from 24-24 and third place in the AL Central to oblivion, and that rests as much on the shoulders of the laid-back manager as the clubhouse missing its sandpaper guy, A.J. Pierzynski.

Ventura missed a chance to make an example of Dayan Viciedo after a game last weekend when he threw to the wrong base and twice failed to hustle running the bases. This was in the first game of the doubleheader against the Indians. Viciedo didn't start the second game, but when quizzed by reporters Ventura explained that it was more about matchup numbers than punishment. Nobody yells in baseball anymore, and sometimes it's a shame.

Sveum did a remarkable job by keeping the overmatched Cubs playing hard all last season, even after pitchers Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were traded away at the deadline. That will be tougher this time around, with Jeff Samardzija's comments after the Scott Feldman trade an example.

Selling the product

Sveum: B.

Ventura: C.

Handling media responsibilities is a big part of a big-league manager's life, whether he loves it or hates it. Both Ventura and Sveum are good sports about the twice-daily media sessions. Like most managers, they give good answers when they're asked good questions.

Sveum, who had a chance to learn from Francona, Ned Yost and Ron Roenicke, among others, is refreshingly straightforward and seems a little more engaged. Ventura is extremely witty but knows he was hired for his strong image and knowledge of the game, not to be a sideshow. The worse his team plays, the more important it is that he connect with its fans on a regular basis. They need reasons to watch, not tune out.