Cubs certain they got right man…again

  • Dale Sveum was introduced just two years ago as the right man to manager the Cubs. Now Theo Epstein, the team's president of baseball operations, says Rick Renteria is the perfect fit.

    Dale Sveum was introduced just two years ago as the right man to manager the Cubs. Now Theo Epstein, the team's president of baseball operations, says Rick Renteria is the perfect fit. Associated Press/Nov. 18, 2011 file

Updated 11/9/2013 1:25 PM

Two years ago this week, the Cubs introduced Dale Sveum as their manager and could not have been more effusive in praise of a man they said would command respect, communicate well and teach young players the right way to play.

What was stunning then was how different Sveum was from front office types like Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.


In fact, I wrote an entire column about how impressive it was that Epstein -- one of the game's foremost authorities on, and proponents of, new-age statistical analysis -- would hire an old-school guy like Sveum, who had motorcycles, tattoos and a lukewarm view of statistics.

"When you're talking about the 'Moneyball' thing, I've never seen (the movie). I've never read the book," Sveum said when he was introduced as the last Cubs victim. "There's times you have to create runs.

"If you have a lineup that just hits home runs and you have great hitters, then of course you don't want to run into outs and give up outs. But sometimes when you have lineups and you're trying to create runs, then you have to try different things.

"That's just the bottom line. If you're not gonna hit home runs then you create runs, so you have to do it by running and pushing the envelope sometimes."

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Epstein displayed a confidence, intelligence and open-mindedness rarely seen around these parts by employing someone so seemingly different, suggesting that he wanted points of view that didn't necessarily agree with his own.

At least, that's how it appeared.

But shortly after writing that piece I received a call from a baseball exec out East who said he thought it was a fascinating assessment -- and completely wrong.

In essence, he told me that Sveum would run the team as Epstein wanted it run, as was the case with Terry Francona in Boston, until such point as Sveum wasn't conforming.

That happened in 2013, and the result was Sveum was fired.

Epstein knows what he wants and Sveum could no longer make out the lineup card the way Epstein wanted it. Maybe he couldn't coddle players anymore, either. Maybe he stopped communicating gently enough with struggling young kids. Maybe he couldn't watch the same crud every day. Maybe he just had enough.


And Epstein, after asking Sveum to alter his approach, felt he couldn't go another season under the circumstances.

So Epstein, who hired Sveum in Boston and had previously established a good relationship with him, again goes with someone known well by his people. Rick Renteria spent several years in San Diego with Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, so there can be no mistaking what they have in Renteria.

He speaks Spanish, is said to be good with young players, communicates well, will provide a good learning environment and command respect of the players.

Of course, with the exception of being bilingual, Epstein said all of the same about Sveum, and even after days of interviews and weeks of vetting, he apparently got it wrong with Sveum.

Of the utmost importance, however, is that this time you have to believe Epstein is sure he won't get any pushback on his ideas, and that Renteria will make out the lineup as told, handle players as ordered and build a coaching staff as commanded.

On the latter, Epstein said, "It will be a collaborative effort between the front office and Rick."

Collaborative as long as Renteria agrees with all that Epstein has in mind.

Let's be clear. The man running the organization should have things precisely as he wants them -- especially since this is all about the kids -- and if he wants a manager to bat Starlin Castro in a precise spot, teach him hitting a certain way and talk to him in a specific fashion, then he should get what he wants.

What's difficult to believe is that with all the choices he had last time, Epstein could have gotten it so wrong with Sveum.

And it's fair to wonder how he can be so certain that this time he got it right.

• Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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