Thursday, November 17, 2011

Who's the new Cubs manager?

Source: Sports Illustrated
Former Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox coach Dale Sveum will be named the new manager of the Chicago Cubs Friday morning, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday.

That ends a three-week search following the firing of Mike Quade after a disappointing 71-91 season in 2011, and is the latest Red Sox-related hiring by new team president Theo Epstein.

But who is Dale Sveum? A 12-year major league veteran who played for the Brewers among other teams, he has recently spent the last several years as the third-base coach for the Red Sox and the hitting coach for the Brewers. This followed a short, two-week stint as the Brewers' interim manager when they fired Ned Yost shortly before the end of the 2008 season, yet Sveum led Milwaukee to the playoffs. Staying on as hitting coach, he helped Brewers players such as Prince Fielder and others lead the league with 185 home runs as they won the NL Central title.

However, can he manage? He beat out Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux, and Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., all of whom interviewed for the job but none of whom has managed in the big leagues before. Former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona discussed the job with Epstein before deciding to take 2012 off after spending the last eight years in the pressure cooker that is Fenway Park, where he won two World Series titles in 2004 and 2007. But, as notes, he believes in advanced statistical analysis, something that Epstein and company have a strong belief in.

Sveum will have his hands full in turning around a club that slipped to 20 games below .500 just three years after winning its second straight NL Central title. He may get back pitcher Carlos Zambrano, whom Epstein said will be given a good chance to return to Chicago after a tumultuous 2011 season that for him ended on Aug. 12 due to behavior issues. He will lose third baseman Aramis Ramirez, though.

On the plus side, Sveum's connections to Milwaukee could be enough to bring hotshot Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder to Wrigley Field. The Tribune reports that the Cubs are not likely to meet his salary demands, but the two sides are at least talking. Plus, there's always a chance they could snatch top pitcher Mark Buehrle away from the crosstown White Sox, though he is 33 years old and could potentially lose more of his 85-mph fastball during the course of any long-term deal.

Either way, the management of the Cubs appears to be set, and it's time to start focusing on who will actually take the field April 5 against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

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