By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) Though he’s a tad older, Dale Sveum fit in perfectly with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer at his introductory press conference Friday morning.
The lack of ties on all three of them was just the first thing they had in common as they sat in front of the media at Wrigley Field.
It didn’t take long to realize that, like Epstein and Hoyer, Sveum is a simple man who happens to know a lot about baseball.
He’s just the latest “baseball guy” to join the Cubs, as is the on-going joke since Chairman Tom Ricketts said he didn’t need “a baseball guy to watch my baseball guy who’s watching your baseball guys.”
Sveum’s your prototypical baseball lifer. He’s the walk-on who had to work his ass off just to make the team and he expects his players to work just as hard. He bounced around the majors as a player, spending time with the Brewers, Phillies, White Sox, A’s, Mariners, Pirates and Yankees over a 12-year playing career.
And when the Yankees told him he was finished in 1998, he refused to listen. They designated him for assignment in August, but Sveum couldn’t even go down to the minors because the minor league season was ending. He had never reached the playoffs in his career, so he stayed on as a bullpen catcher for the Yankees and won a World Series. The media called it a retirement, but Sveum went back to Pittsburgh in 1999 and finished his career with Pirates.
This is your new manager Cubs fans. He might be a simple man, but he’s also a no-nonsense man. He sat in front of the media Friday and preached accountability. He talked about how the Cubs have to change the way they play the game and admitted the defense wasn’t very good last season.
“We need to play like it’s Game 7 of the World Series everyday,” he said.
Sveum would know. He sat in the opposing dugout many times against the Cubs since he joined the Brewers in 2006. Friday he talked about how he can tell when the other team isn’t playing the game with the right attitude, hinting that the Cubs were guilty of that the last few seasons.
Like Epstein and Hoyer, Sveum is a detail-oriented guy. He pointed to the lack of defense displayed in the playoffs this past season and said attention to detail can win a team anywhere between one and 15 games.
Of course, actions speak louder than words, but Cubs fans can take comfort in the fact that Sveum has always been a man of his words. He might be a low-key guy, but he’s also known to be an open and honest man, qualities that rang true Friday when he opened up about his tattoos and relationship with his father, who died in 1992.
Sveum has five tattoos, most of which are in honor of his father. One says, “Just give ’em hell,” something his old man often told him before games. Another says, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is just an option.”
He also has a tattoo of an eagle, honoring America’s troops. And yet another tattoo simply reminds him of his wedding anniversary, because in his words, he tends to forget that one.
Sveum might be a first-time major-league manager, but every manager get his start a some point, as Epstein reminded the media Friday. The Cubs president of baseball operatiosn added that he fully expects Sveum to be regarded as one of the game’s better managers down the road.
Of course that will hinge on how many games he wins with the Cubs, something we’ll have to wait until the spring to see. But, for now, we can chalk up at least one win for Sveum as he certainly won his press conference Friday.
Consider it another victory for the Cubs this off-season.
Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.