In not-surprising news at all, the Chicago Cubs fired manager Dale Sveum today. Sveum, who had little coaching experience (Sveum had previously served as the Red Sox third base coach in 2004-05 and as an interim manager of the Brewers in 2008), managed to lead the Cubs to an outstandingly dismal 127-197 record over the past two years - the worst 2 years in Cubs history.
This year, Sveum led the Cubs to a 66-96 record, with the Cubs losing 41 of their final 59 games. Sveum took over as manager for the Cubs following Mike Quade, who had previously taken over following the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella in 2010.
Theo Epstein, president of the Chicago Cubs, stated that Sveum was not simply evaluated on his overall record, but more for his development of young talent, in-game decision-making, appropriate use of his roster, and his ability to “create a culture of accountability, hard work and preparation, and the ability to develop a strong trust with his players.”
Perhaps the most important area, of those listed, where Sveum failed was the development of his younger players. Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have been pegged as the Cubs building blocks for some time now. However, both players saw a huge offensive slump in 2013. Castro, who hit .307 in 2011, with 66 RBI's and 22 stolen bases, finished 2013 with a career-low batting average of .237, with a paltry 44 RBI's and only 9 stolen bases. Rizzo's numbers are essentially equal to his performance in 2012, but the disappointing fact is that he played double the amount of games in 2013 as he did in 2012.
However, not all of the Cubs woes can be attributed to Sveum. This year, the Cubs used a team-record 56 total players on their roster, with only 12 players from the original roster at the beginning of the season remaining with the team until the end of the season. Over the course of the 2013 season, the Cubs got rid of notable players such as Alfonso Soriano (who went on a tear right after his trade), Carlos Marmol, David DeJesus, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza, and Tony Campana. During this time, the Cubs acquired....well, no one worth mentioning.
How the Cubs expected success with these roster moves, no one knows. Theo Epstein, though, believes that the Cubs are making the right moves to become a major league contender for the first time since 2003:
''Soon, our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, very talented club at the major league level,'' he said. ''The losing has been hard on all of us, but we now have one of the top farm systems in baseball, some of the very best prospects in the game, and a clear path forward. In order for us to win with this group - and win consistently - we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level.''
The next manager the Cubs look for will need to provide "...that spark of a winning culture," and will need to be "a proven leader. .... We know what we're looking for and I think we're going to find it."
This has led many to believe that the Cubs will seek to hire New York Yankees' manager Joe Girardi as their next manager. Girardi, whose contract with the Yankees expires October 31, has close ties to Chicago - he attended Northwestern University and played catcher for the Cubs during his MLB career. However, Girardi has stated that his ties to Chicago are not as close now as they used to be, considering both his parents, who lived in Chicago, have died and he hasn't been in the city since 2006.
Whatever the Cubs decide, quick progress will not be made unless the new manager is a genuine miracle worker. The Cubs are currently relying on the talent created in their expansive farm system, talent that has yet to pay off. Perhaps the Cubs should consider Tim Tebow? Maybe Tebow's fantastic motivational speaking skills can finally convince the fans in Chicago that the Cubs really don't suck, and everyone will be happy regardless the performance of the Cubbies for many years to come.
(As a real-life Cubs fan, please, please, please, please do not take that last statement seriously. Thanks.)
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