President Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs helps new manager Dale Sveum with his jersey during a press conference at Wrigley Field on November 18, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
New Cubs manager Dale Sveum said his players are going to work hard. But he also stressed "having fun" is part of winning baseball.
George Bamberger. Tom Trebelhorn. Jim Fregosi. Gene Lamont. Tony La Russa. Lou Piniella. Jim Leyland. Joe Torre.
No, this isn't a managerial quiz, but it does look like a list of managers ranked from somewhat unsuccessful to somewhat more successful.
While that is true, it is also a list -- in chronological order -- of the managers Dale Sveum played for in his 12-year career. (He played for Lamont twice, before and after his short 1998 stint with the Yankees). And in his introductory news conference Friday morning at Wrigley Field after being introduced as either the 52nd or 58th manager in Chicago Cubs history (depending on whether you count the infamous College of Coaches), Sveum cited La Russa, Leyland and Torre as the three most influential managers for him personally.
Pretty good company. Those men have combined to win seven World Series, and that doesn't even count the two seasons Sveum spent as a third base coach under Terry Francona, one of which (2004) resulted in a World Series win.
So Sveum, though he never played in a postseason game himself (he was released by the 1998 Yankees in August), has been around plenty of men who have led championship teams. What's the biggest thing he mentioned during the news conference, which was mostly low-key (except when he was asked about his nickname "Nuts" and he said it had nothing to do with his lower body)?
Accountability. He said his biggest pet peeve was "not seeing guys play hard on a daily basis". Those of us who have watched the Cubs on a daily basis know that this has been an issue for quite a number of years, from the days of Dusty Baker (a players' manager if ever there were one), Lou Piniella (detached in his last couple of seasons), and Mike Quade (way over his head trying to control major league veterans).
He mentioned staying calm, not giving anything away by body language, and said that was also something he learned from guys like La Russa. If you've ever spent time watching La Russa -- and who didn't during the last World Series, when there were like 10,000 shots of him in the Cardinals dugout? -- he never gave away what he was thinking by his body language. In fact, La Russa often wore sunglasses during night games so no one could see his eyes and where he was looking or who he was looking at.
The days of screaming, yelling, Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella base-throwing managers appear to be over. Even so, Sveum stressed "playing the game the right way", "not taking the easy way out", and "controlling the things you have control over". He gave an example of not being upset if a player popped up with the bases loaded -- at least that player is trying to get a hit. But he did say he would insist all his players give maximum effort at all times.
That would be a refreshing change on the North Side of Chicago, where players have in recent years treated Wrigley Field like a country club. Many have tried and failed to get the Cubs to a World Series, and then win one, over the last century. Dale Sveum may or may not be the guy who puts them over the top, but it seems clear that even if his teams don't have the best talent, they will be both hard workers and have fun while doing it.