MLB

Sveum seems like guy to change Cubs

Chicago Cubs pitching staff talks about being a part of the team and playing at Wrigley Field.
Chicago Cubs pitching staff talks about being a part of the team and playing at Wrigley Field.
Share This Story

Reid Forgrave

Reid Forgrave has worked for the Des Moines Register, the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Seattle Times. His work has been recognized by Associated Press Sports Editors, the Livingston Awards for Young Journalists and the Society for Features Journalism. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 

MESA, Ariz.

Maybe, just maybe, this is how you end a curse.

You start over. You land a big-bucks top boss named Theo Epstein who has some experience in breaking curses. You expunge two longtime faces of the franchise, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano; the latter had become a clubhouse cancer.

START THE COUNTDOWN

Opening Day is just 1 day away. Until then, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi keep you up to date.

And most emphatically, most symbolically, you pick as your manager the Harley-riding son of a Marine, an Oakland Raiders fan with the nickname “Nuts” and with a tattoo of a rattlesnake on his arm that reads, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is an option.”

Really, now, you can’t get more un-Cub than that.

For Dale Sveum, the new skipper for the new-look Chicago Cubs, one thing that isn’t an option is more losing for this long-suffering franchise. And in an odd way, the former shortstop (seven teams in 13 years) is exactly whom the Cubs need at the helm: someone from the outside, the antithesis of the Lovable Losers label that has stuck to the Cubs in the 104 years since the team’s last World Series victory.

Think that Cubs fans would be just fine with another 91-loss season, as long as they’re able to soak in the sun, Old Style in hand, at the frat party otherwise known as Wrigley Field?

CACTUS LEAGUE

Get news, video, schedules and more from spring training in Arizona.

Sveum’s not the type to be fine with it. He has said again and again that he wants his players to treat every game like Game 7 of the World Series. He’s a serious man who is tasked with winning, yes, but more importantly he’s tasked with changing a team’s culture. You almost expect a logo change on the horizon, from that cuddly Cubbie Bear to something with a lot more tooth and roar.

“I do believe the team does take on the personality of their manager a lot,” Sveum said on a recent morning at HoHoKam Park before the Cubs’ first intrasquad game. “(But) I don’t know if I’ve done anything yet. We haven’t played a game yet. All’s I’m doing is being myself, the way I know how to do things, hold guys accountable, and you really don’t hold guys accountable yet until the games are played. But the guys are giving probably as good an effort as I’ve ever seen in spring training. There’s no doubt about that.”

Sveum is right. Despite the rave reviews Sveum is getting from the clubhouse, despite players talking of extra work in the batting cages and a greater competitive team fire and an increased emphasis on playing smart, it’s March. He has done nothing yet.

And he had done very little before, having only managed 12 games in the bigs as a late-season replacement for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008. Spring training, of course, is about optimism and excitement. But the hopes of March and Sveum’s preseason projections of toughness will mean nothing if the dog days of summer bring another Cub team playing like dogs.

HAPLESS CASES

There have been plenty of woeful teams in MLB's past. See which ones are the worst in the last 25 years.

Sure, Cubs players say their 2012 goal is winning the World Series. Great. Same for 29 other clubs. In a place called reality, a .500 season for this Cubs team would be a phenomenal overachievement. Show promise this year and they’ll give Cub fans optimism for next year. Sveum will be given ample chance during his three-year contract to let this young team work out its growing pains.

And yet in the clubhouse, the optimism of March is simmering with the excitement of a new regime. Don’t tell these guys they’re looking at low expectations. And whatever you do, don’t say “rebuilding.”

“The ‘R’ word? That’s just disrespectful,” said pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who has been in the organization since 2006. “It really is. We haven’t played a game yet, and that’s where it’s all decided. (But) inside the clubhouse, it is a new feeling. I feel like a lot of the other spring trainings we’ve almost gotten off to the start of spring training dealing with stuff from the previous season. Which is like you’re already starting off in the hole.”

FOX Fantasy Baseball
FOX FANTASY BASEBALL
Sign up today for FOX Fantasy Baseball. It's fun, easy and 100% free.
JOIN OR CREATE A LEAGUE TODAY!»

“This is my fourth organization,” said veteran outfielder Marlon Byrd. “I felt this feeling with the Phillies, a winning organization. I felt this with the Texas Rangers, a winning organization. That’s what happens: you bring the right people in, it has a trickle effect from the top all the way down to the bottom. It just rubs off. With Theo comes winning.”

Plenty of older faces remain, but the Cubs’ youthful exuberance was perhaps best shown by shortstop Starlin Castro, bouncing around the clubhouse on a recent morning with a mile-wide grin.

And since it’s March, it’s still the season of good feeling. Dale Sveum is still undefeated as manager of the Chicago Cubs, and winning actually appears within his grasp.

You can follow Reid Forgrave on Twitter @reidforgrave, become a fan on Facebook or email him at reidforgrave@gmail.com.

Tagged: Cubs

More Stories From Reid Forgrave

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..