Cubs

Cubs think Dale Sveum can take the heat

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Cubs think Dale Sveum can take the heat

Dale Sveum hasnt heard from Prince Fielder and doesnt know where the free-agent slugger is going to get his megadeal. Their friendship wasnt going to matter much anyway. The Cubs are going in a completely different direction.

Goodbye Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, who combined for 54 homers and 173 RBI last season. A Google search for Matt Garza and trade rumors yields about 163,000 results.

Sveum wont be able to call on Sean Marshall out of the bullpen, but at least he wont have to separate Carlos Zambrano from teammates and spin the story afterward.

A new front office has traded away Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner and no-commented on Starlin Castros legal situation. Those were the faces of the future plastered all over last years Cubs Convention.

Theo Epstein could have hired a bigger name, someone with more experience. But the president of baseball operations wanted to find the next Terry Francona to front this rebuilding project.

You can already see the message (in) the additions and the subtractions, Sveum said. Were here for the long haul and were going to make this thing right, where were competing every single year (as) a team thats winning 90-plus games every year.

The Cubs have lost 178 games across the past two seasons, which explains why theyre on their third manager in the past 17 months.

Their convention opens on Friday at the Hilton Chicago, where Sveum will get a taste of what life is like inside the Wrigley Field interview roomdungeon. The fans will vent about Alfonso Soriano. There will be endless questions about the lineup and changing the culture.

People around the Milwaukee Brewers wondered why Sveum didnt keep the job after clinching the wild card during a 12-game interim assignment in 2008, and why he was passed over again when manager Ken Macha was fired two years later.

That didnt matter to Epstein, who expects Sveum to grow into the job. This is someone who figured out how to last 12 seasons in the big leagues after a freak leg injury nearly derailed his playing career. In a sense, it was all preparation.

When the New York Yankees released Sveum late in the 1998 season, he decided to stick around as a bullpen catcher for the World Series run. Their manager at the time saw qualities that could make a future manager.

I always look at when teammates sort of rally around somebody, Joe Torre said. Thats always a good sign, because that means they sense an honesty and an ability to bond and communicate. (With) his baseball knowledge, nothing was ever too much.

Sveum found a way to operate within the superstar culture of the Boston Red Sox as a third-base coach on the 2004 forever team that reversed the curse. In the clubhouse he gained a reputation as someone who could stand up to players and tell them what they might not want to hear.

Sveum impressed Epstein and future Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer with all the hours he put into video work and detailed spray charts. Boston fans and media noticed Sveum for the wrong reasons, the guy who kept waving runners in and would stand there to answer for his over-aggressive mistakes.

He was always accountable for making a decision that didnt work out, Hoyer said. He owned it and thats a big part of this job. Im sure hes going to have some press conferences with you guys after the game: Why did you bring this guy in?

Hes going to make mistakes and you guys will call him on it and he has to own up to it.

Sveum, 48, knows who he is. He rides motorcycles and has tattoos all over his body. He didnt even bother to pack a sport coat when he traveled to Milwaukee to interview with the Cubs and Red Sox during the ownergeneral manager meetings last November.

The expectations are low now, but all this patience could vanish with the first three-game losing streak. Sveum believes hes ready to take the heat.

The opportunity to win when youre in these big markets, Sveum said, magnifies everything and creates an atmosphere every single night that sometimes you dont get in other cities. When you manage in these cities when the spotlights on the team and yourself all the time, it makes it a lot more enticing to have one of these jobs.

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

Andy Green ‘fired up’ to be with Cubs, help David Ross any way he can

It’s quite fitting Andy Green’s introduction to Cubs Nation came at the team’s annual fan festival this weekend.

Green, whom the Cubs officially hired as bench coach in December, grew up a Reds fan in his native Lexington, Ky. It wasn’t long before his allegiances changed to one of Cincinnati’s geographic neighbors, however.

“I went to [former Reds ballpark Riverfront Stadium] as a kid at like 5, 6, 7, first time I saw big-league baseball,” Green told NBC Sports Chicago on Saturday. “But my mom took me up to Wrigley at 12 or 13. I was like ‘This is big-league baseball.’

“I switched over allegiances that time as a Cubs fan, watched Ryne Sandberg — Mark Grace was somebody who jumped off the page to me at that point in time. It was late 80s, early 90s.”

After four years managing the Padres, Green’s childhood fandom has come full circle. Now, he’s David Ross’ right-hand man, brought in to use his own experience managing to help the first-year manager adapt to his new position.

When Green took the helm in San Diego in 2016, the Padres were in the thick of a full-scale rebuild. He holds a 274-366 won-loss record, but that isn’t indicative of what he’s bringing to the Cubs dugout.

“Andy so far for me probably [has been] the biggest help for me in directing my thoughts, getting things organized, getting prepared,” Ross said Saturday at a coaching staff panel. “This guy has been through the season, the National League, knows the details of what it takes to lead.

“Obviously, his resume and what he’s done building a young group over in San Diego speaks for itself. Who he is as a person, Andy right off the bat probably [has] been the biggest help for me. Sends me text messages, emails about leading, about coaching. I can’t say enough about this guy, and I’m very blessed to have him next to me in every game. You guys are gonna see a great product, and a lot of my big decisions, I’ll have a great mind next to me helping me make those.”

Green said he’s spent the last few months learning what Ross’ vision is as a manager and how he intends to execute it going forward. Managing games and preparing for them are different beasts, but Green can already see the intangibles that could make Ross successful.

“He’s fun to work with, he’s hungry to win, he can hold people accountable and smile at the same time, which is an unbelievable skillset that I don’t have,” Green said of Ross. “People feel it when I come down on them. They feel love when he comes down on them. He just has that [relatability] that very few people do, and that’s incredibly impressive to me.”

Accountability has been the word of the offseason for the Cubs. After five seasons with Joe Maddon as manager, the club felt it was time for a new voice in the dugout. They hired Ross not only to try and make the team greater than the sum of its parts, but also hold players accountable, putting them in their place and using tough love when needed.

Ross will have a lot on his plate this season, so he'll rely on Green to lead in areas as needed and take a load off his plate.

“For [managers], there’s a large number of tasks that if you have a capable staff, you can just delegate and not even think about,” Green said. “I want to take that kind of stuff off his plate, stuff that doesn’t have to have the manager’s attention, because you can get some decision fatigue, because it’s amazing what comes at you in that seat.

“I know what that feels like, so every now and again, it’s nice to have somebody who doesn’t just have the answer but has the feelings that come with the answer. I’ve enjoyed it, and honestly, it’s a whatever he needs type thing. My vision on him is I’ve watched him do so much prep work this offseason getting ready for game decisions. He’s going to be great. He’s going to be great.”

It also helps that Green has four years of managing under his belt. Ross can learn from his successes in San Diego, but also learn from Green’s failures to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes common in new managers.

“It takes a little minute to know where the best answer is on the bench, and he’ll figure that out pretty quickly,” he said of Ross. “Executing the game decisions, you have to find out in time how he processes those things.

“I made a lot of mistakes. He can learn from my mistakes without having to make them himself. If you can share things in humility, a lot of times it keeps somebody else from repeating your mistakes. There’s things I messed up on, things I did well too. Kinda share those visions along the way and make certain the whole way that this is David Ross’ team and he’s leading this team and all I’m here to do is support and help him and help the players perform at their top level.”

Green spent four years with a losing club. He’s joining a Cubs team full of star players — which, as functioning infield coach on a team with Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, excites him. He wants to win now and believes Ross is the man to lead the way.

And, again, the lure of being a Chicago Cub was strong.

“The fan base is one that you’re fired up to go to work for and bring a winner to,” he said. “Whatever part I can play in that, I’m fired up to do it.”

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Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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