There was more than a little wistfulness around Wrigley Field on Wednesday.
Not only did the Cubs finish their 2013 home season -- they did so with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates -- but the air of sad anticipation hung over the day's proceedings.
The topic almost every media member asked about in some way was the future of Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who has been left to dangle by his bosses, team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
Nevertheless, Sveum led his troops in saluting those fans who remained from the announced crowd of 26,171. The Cubs stayed on the field for a couple of minutes after the game and tipped their caps to the crowd. Before the game, the players and field staff tossed baseballs into the stands to show their appreciation.
"That was a nice gesture," said Sveum, whose team takes a 66-93 record into St. Louis this weekend for the final series of the season. "Obviously, they've been out here and (we) finished up with a good crowd over these three days even though it obviously hasn't been a good season.
"It's nice to see the fans come out and especially win the last game."
As for any wistfulness, Sveum said that might be tempered by the fact the Cubs have three games remaining against the first-place Cardinals.
"Since there's three games left, it didn't kind of hit you that this is our last game at home until ... when the game was starting and the guys were throwing the balls in the stands, you figured this was the last game at home," Sveum said. "We still got three games left, and it's not looking good for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh (to win the division) right now, but hopefully, we can help them out and win Friday and see what happens the next two days."
Sveum figures to find out his fate as early as next Monday. He is under contract through 2014, but Epstein last week set off alarm bells -- even as he said that wasn't his intention -- by saying everything is under "evaluation."
Epstein and Hoyer handed Sveum two of the worst -- and ever-changing -- rosters in team history, and Sveum kept the team from quitting despite last year's 101-loss season and this year's 90-plus loss campaign.
He has been here for the rough part of the rebuilding process. Naturally, he'd like to be around when and if things turn for the better.
"That's why you take these jobs when you know things aren't going to be that good at the beginning of the development part," Sveum said. "You hope you're around for when things turn around. There's no question. That's what we do this for, to win and be here when we're getting ready to be very competitive.
"I'm not going to do anything differently than I have for the two years ... I'm just going to do what I do. The evaluation is up to them, and I don't think four games is going to change anything."
And like most other people would be, Sveum admits to being anxious about next week's happenings.
"I'm not going to sit here and lie that you're not wondering what's going to happen four to five days from now," he said. "That's just human nature. There's nothing you can do about it or control those decisions. You just keep plugging away. There's nothing you can do about it."
The realist in Sveum also knows that managers are hired to be fired, even though Epstein has said the manager is not being evaluated on wins and losses.
"The bottom line is we haven't won as many games as you'd liked to," Sveum said. "I knew going in getting this job that there was a very good chance that people were going to be traded for prospects and so on and so forth, that we needed to get the minor-league system much healthier and hit the jackpot on some free agents that we signed. So nothing's really changed that I was told. You're never promised anything.
"You're always evaluating the talent and what we have and who you're going to keep and who you're going to bring in as well as myself and the coaches. That's just a part of their (management's) job, to evaluate the organization on a daily basis. They told everybody they're not evaluating on wins and losses."
In the clubhouse, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, one of the organization's "core" players, expressed support for the field staff.
"The staff's great; it's been great," Rizzo said. "From Dale to our bullpen catchers, up and down, they've been really good this year. We hit our bumps along the road. At the same time, it's a business. It's out of any player's hands or coach's hands."