9:17 AM CST, November 17, 2011
This was never going to be a “Wow!’’ hire.
In fact, if the Cubs indeed sign Dale Sveum, then the hire is more “Who?’’ than “Wow!’’
The Cubs already made their “Wow!’’ hire. Theo Epstein was as “Wow!’’ as any team could get. He was “Wow!’’ with a capital “WOW!’’
Epstein’s history told you this would never be a hire with marquee value. Last time he went to find a manager --- the only time he went to find a manager, now that I think of it --- he hired Terry Francona in Boston.
Francona was coming off a lousy stint as manager of the Phillies, so maybe he was less of a “Who?’’ than a “Why?’’
And then everybody found out why, as the Red Sox won World Series in 2004 and ’07.
Underscoring the type of evaluator of managers Epstein is, the runnerup to Francona a decade ago was Joe Maddon. He was Mike Scioscia’s bench coach at the time, a “Who?’’ if there ever was one.
To recap, Epstein narrowed his choices to someone who would win two World Series and someone considered by many the best manager in the game right now.
For those of you keeping score at home, Epstein has better managerial discards than previous regimes here had first choices. So Cub.
That’s why you have to like your chances with Sveum, even if you don’t know who he is or why they want him here or what makes him such a hot commodity that Epstein’s former team kept asking him out for dates.
Maybe that, in fact, is all you need to know. Epstein’s Cubs are trying to get the right bodies in the right places to vertically inegrate TheoThink the way the Red Sox did and still do. It’s not that the parts are interchangeable. Otherwise, Francona would’ve been hired last month. It’s more like the bodies are du jour.
Most of the Cubs candidates showed up on Boston’s list. The Cubs have been rating the comparable values of Sveum, Mike Maddux, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Pete Mackanin. Not a “Wow!’’ in the bunch, and that’s probably a good thing.
The Cubs tried designer managers recently. Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella raced to deliriously good early success, but those proved to be just spikes followed by epic failures followed by a disaster named Mike Quade.
Sveum and the other candidates seem to be somewhere between the doddering Piniella and the disrespected Quade. They appear to candidates willing to be molded by the new bosses and smart enough to balance being a baseball traditionalist and a new-age decimalhead.
Presuming Sveum views this opportunity as a promotion over being the Brewers batting coach, the Cubs will be getting a manager familiar with the NL Central and intimately familiar with a successful divisional rival, one with good pitching and holes to be exploited.
Sveum also coached third base when the Red Sox broke that 86-year championship drought. Whatever small edges can be won from such things before Epstein’s home-grown cavalry gets here figure to be important, in part because TheoBall doesn’t have an NL track record. Cubs titlular general manager Jed Hoyer had a Cubs-like spike in his short time in charge of San Diego, but spiked just enough to complete a Cubs-like choke.
As of this writing, it was possible that Sveum would say no to the Cubs and yes to the Red Sox. No big deal, I guess. Just move on to the next “Who?’’ Which is OK when you’ve already snagged the “Wow!’’
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