The new "Cubs way": No nonsense | Bleader

Friday, November 18, 2011

The new "Cubs way": No nonsense

Posted By on 11.18.11 at 01:00 PM

In hindsight, it should have been obvious all along that Dale Sveum would be the Cubs' next manager. Sveum projects a no-nonsense attitude, perfectly in sync with the Cubs' new president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and the top lieutenants he's brought in, headed by general manager Jed Hoyer.

"He knows the game inside and out," Epstein said in introducing Sveum as the Cubs' manager at a Wrigley Field news conference today. He added that he expected Sveum to "teach the Cubs way as we strive to win the World Series."

That, of course, is the new "Cubs way" Epstein has been talking about since he got here this fall, not the Cubs' way that has seen them go 103 years since their last World Series win.

Sveum immediately echoed that emphasis, saying his top priority would be to make sure the Cubs are "playing the game a certain way on an everyday basis," adding, "You want to be respected because of the way you play." Implicit was an emphasis on fundamentals, aggressive baserunning, and "pounding the strike zone a lot more" by the pitchers.

Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux, brother of the Cubs' beloved former ace Greg, charmed fans and the media during the interview process to fill the job, saying at one point that he would deal with mercurial pitcher Carlos Zambrano by burping him.

By contrast, when asked about Zambrano, Sveum said today, "I have to sit down with him and look him in the eye." That's an approach that seems to have resonated with Epstein and Hoyer.

Understand, I'm not suggesting any of these new Cubs is humorless. They can all crack a joke, and Sveum emphasized that his nickname, "Nuts," has "nothing to do with my lower half," and instead stems from some "stupid stuff" he did as a player, an aspect of his personality he seems to have left far behind.

"I am very low-key, no doubt about it," Sveum said, adding that he was heavily influenced by playing under managers like Joe Torre, Gene Lamont, and Jim Leyland, guys who could "motivate" without being "yellers or screamers."

The few times Sveum smiled or used his hands to emphasize a point during the news conference, it set off a flurry of flashes from the photographers in the front row—anything to capture a rare bit of animation.

What I am suggesting is that the new Cubs, to a man, are all business, and Sveum fits right in. He dismissed the issue of a Cubs curse by saying, "The past is the past no matter where you're at.... It was that way in Boston, it was 86 years."

Sveum, like almost all of Epstein's new hires, was a member of the curse-busting 2004 champion Red Sox, serving as third-base coach. They all give off the impression, "We did it before, and we can do it again." That's anything but business as usual where the Cubs of the last century-plus are concerned.

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