CHICAGO – Here in the City of Long Winters, baseball is finished until 2014.
Oh, well. At least we have word games.
The Cubs fired manager Dale Sveum on Monday after two miserable seasons on the North Side. Sveum was given a Triple-A ball club and produced Triple-A results, losing 101 games in his first season and 96 games in his next attempt.
Yet wins and losses were not the reason why Sveum was dumped with one year remaining on his deal, as Cubs wizard Theo Epstein told reporters at Wrigley Field. Instead, Sveum was canned because the team needed “a dynamic new voice,” perhaps so dynamic that it could sing along during the seventh-inning stretch.
Anyway, Epstein issued a five-paragraph, 589-word opus regarding his decision. Most of us are too busy to fuss with such word counts, so I went ahead and selected a handful of my favorite words that Epstein included in his statement.
Context, schmontext. Who needs the other 584 words when you’ve got those five? They tell the story of the modern-day Cubs, 105 years and counting without a title.
On the surface, the Cubs’ decision to fire Sveum seems cold and misguided. He wasn’t the one who plopped down $52 million for 18-game loser Edwin Jackson, a 30-year-old journeyman. He wasn’t the one who hyped up young players such as Anthony Rizzo (.233, 23 HRs, 80 RBIs) and Starlin Castro (.245, 10 HRs, 44 RBIs).
Now, Sveum won’t be the one trying to make chicken salad out of lineup cards.
Which person will accept that job?
Most of the chatter has focused on Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a Peoria native and Northwestern alum who has a 642-492 career record and a 2009 World Series title on his managerial resumé. A series of bad contracts is catching up to the Yankees, who missed the playoffs for the first time in five years, and it’s possible Girardi would like a fresh start with a franchise that likely is willing to meet his price.
If Girardi decides to return to the Yankees or join a broadcast booth – he has three children and has spoken about how a TV job could help him be home more often – then the Cubs likely will turn to another candidate with managerial experience.
Perhaps Mike Scioscia would come to the North Side if he parts ways with the gigantic mess that is the Los Angeles Angels of Suburban Los Angeles. Ron Gardenhire signed a two-year deal to stay with the Minnesota Twins, so cross his name off of the list.
There must be at least a few other qualified candidates. Hey, does anybody have Lou Piniella’s cell phone number? (Better question: Does Sweet Lou have a cell phone?)
It’s fun to speculate on the Cubs’ next hire (well, maybe not fun for Sveum), but all of this commotion serves a valuable purpose for the Cubs’ front-office fraternity. We’re focusing on available managers instead of scrutinizing Epstein, who is on Day 707 of building a better tomorrow.
We’re evaluating Sveum instead of grading the moves of general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting director Jason McLeod, whose top prospect (Javier Baez) actually was drafted by former general manager Jim Hendry.
Maybe Sveum would have turned out to be a great manager, or maybe he would have proved to be a dud. We never will know, at least not at Clark and Addison, because he never had a chance to manage a legitimate major league team.
Maybe Girardi or someone else can help to turn things around.
Until then, Epstein is left with a team filled with questions and an official statement filled with words.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.