MESA, Ariz. It will take years before Theo Epsteins scouting and player development machine is up and running.
The buzz the Cubs generated with this hire will eventually wear off and everyone will see just how patient the fans will be with a rebuilding project.
Patience is a real virtue here, Dusty Baker said Monday. Theyve been patient for a hundred years. Thats a hard sell in Chicago more patience. They might be patient for a little while, but unlike any other place Ive been, people count. They can add real good in Chicago. Everybody men, women and children.
Thats a century and counting since winning the World Series, which has made this job so appealing, frustrating and disappointing. The Cubs are on their third manager in the past 19 months. The Cincinnati Reds manager gets asked about and compared to each one.
Baker once had the Cubs five outs away from the 2003 National League pennant. Baker likes Dale Sveum, wishes him luck and wants to beat him 16 times this season.
Sveum believes this job is different, but only to a certain point. He says its nothing he hasnt really seen before after wearing a New York Yankees uniform and coaching alongside Terry Francona with the Boston Red Sox.
The history and all that goes along with Chicago and the Cubs, Sveum said, of course its different than managing some small markets. Theres no question about it. Thats the way it is here and in Boston and New York and the big markets. Theres no doubt its different.
Theres more media. Theres more scrutinizing. Theres going to be the second-guessing of everything. Theres going to be all that. Its nothing you dont know. Its not like Ive never been in a big market before. You know what all goes on.
Sveum can be blunt, his voice is monotone and he doesnt appear to have any nervous energy. Hes about to find out what life is like inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.
It depends on how they do, Baker said. You got to wait awhile before you make that assessment. Give him a couple years. He might say the same things.
Baker had just guided the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series when he moved to the North Side. He had been a big-league manager for the previous 10 seasons, and played almost two decades in the majors. He still didnt quite know what he was getting into (the same could be said for Lou Piniella).
The national anthem is my favorite time of the day, Baker said. During those three hours, the games the same. The difference is what happens and whats entailed before the game and after the game. Thats the difference and the vibes that you get, positively and negatively, from everything involved.
Baker pushed the right buttons as the Cubs won the division in 2003. The Bartman Game jacked up expectations, but the team slowly spiraled downward. A last-place finish in 2006 got Baker fired and triggered a huge Tribune Co. shopping spree.
In 04, we kind of stood pat and even subtracted, Baker said. We didnt reload. That would have been the time to reload when youre getting close. They reloaded after I left. That was the only regret.
Epstein says the Cubs are going to be a sustainable organization, not a team that gets lucky one year and then disappears. There will be growing pains to get there. The president of baseball operations recognized in Sveum some of the same qualities he once saw in Francona.
It sounds like Sveum plans to be more insulated from the media than Piniella or Mike Quade, who seemed to want to take the pulse of the city. Sveum isnt on Twitter, doesnt follow blogs and wont listen to talk radio.
I dont do anything like that now, so Im not going to start, Sveum said. Basically, all I know how to do is get on the Internet and check scores on my phone and e-mail a little bit. But Im not searching out articles. To me, that doesnt even make sense why you would read good or bad (stuff). Obviously, we know theres going to be more bad than good, so its kind of irrelevant to look at (that).
I got better things to do than seek out articles on myself or the team. Im living the team the nine innings every single night. (I) dont have to look to find out what somebody else thinks. I know whats going on.
Welcome to Chicago, where everyone questions about the lineup, little things become big news and the interview room feels like a dungeon. Just ask Baker.