Dale Sveum flew to Milwaukee and didnt bother to pack a blazer for his interviews with the Cubs and Red Sox. They had to stop on the ride down to Chicago to pick one up for the press conference the next morning.
They walked into a Mens Wearhouse in Racine, Wis., on Thursday and you definitely got the sense that Theo Epstein doesnt shop there. Sveum also had to get fitted at a tuxedo shop because hell be the best man at the wedding for a Brewers clubhouse attendant.
The Cubs president of baseball operations cracked up on Friday telling the story: The kid working behind the desk goes: Oh, please dont leave us Dale. He looked at him and (said): Youre a lot taller than you seem on TV.
Sveum isnt flashy and doesnt have a big ego. But he will cut a bigger figure in the organization than you think. Cubs executives say they didnt just hire a puppet manager, and that perception bothers the front office.
I want to correct that right off the bat, Epstein said. Its his call what he does with the players and what buttons he pushes on the field and what lineups he writes out. Thats all him. Hes going to grow into this job, but hes strong from Day 1.
That Sveum organized the bachelor party for a clubhouse guy this weekend tailgating in Green Bay and going to a Packers game says a lot about how he builds relationships and influences people.
Dales not afraid to walk up to (anyone), Epstein said. Whether youre the 25th guy on the roster, a clubbie or a superstar player making 100 million, hes going to talk to you like a man.
Epsteins management style is to be surrounded with people wholl challenge him. Epstein saw the speculation that Sveum would be weakened because he hasnt done it before at this level (except for 12 games and a playoff series as the Brewers interim manager in 2008).
Epstein insisted that you dont need 10 years of experience as a big-league manager to be strong. Sveum has credibility after playing parts of 12 seasons in the majors and working six years as a Brewers coach.
Sveum wont be the face of the franchise that Lou Piniella once was here, but he will have a say in his coaching staff. He said he already has an idea of names Im going to interview to be his pitching coach. (Mark Riggins is not signed for next season.)
Sveum called Robin Yount his best friend, but said the Hall of Famer wont be joining his staff. Coaches Pat Listach (bench), Rudy Jaramillo (hitting) and Lester Strode (bullpen) are well-regarded and under contract for 2012.
The information age and the Moneyball culture Sveum hasnt read the book or seen the movie has glamorized executives and eroded the power of managers.
The idea that you want someone you can control? general manager Jed Hoyer said. Not at all. You want someone thats incredibly well-prepared. Well probably offer some information (and) hell probably offer some input on player transactions. Thats the way it should be. We should have that kind of relationship.
That exchange of ideas sold the Cubs on Sveum during the interview process, an intense and revealing series of questions and game simulations. If they didnt believe in how he would run a game, they wouldnt have hired him.
Sveum had to trust Epstein and Hoyer who knew him as the Red Sox third-base coach in 2004 and 2005 because he felt like he was about to get an offer from Boston.
It was getting to that point, Sveum said. I had the second interview and I met with the owners, so you sensed it, but it never happened. It was irrelevant at that time once the Cubs offered me the job.
The Cubs made an offer on Wednesday after Sveum had lunch with Red Sox ownership and closed the deal the next day.
The head was probably spinning, he said, but I think the arrow fell in the right spot.
The Cubs had to act fast because Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux a very compelling candidate wasnt going to ignore his family considerations. Maddux called his friend Sveum one of the best baseball people I know in a classy statement issued by the Rangers.
Its the man that matters more than the experience, Epstein said. You look at all the great managers in the game the (Jim) Leylands, the (Tony) La Russas, the (Joe) Torres, Terry Francona everyone (needed) a first chance.
Youre looking at the attributes that can make a great manager (because) once they get that opportunity, they go on to have 20 years in the game and become a household name. I hope Dales going to become known as one of the great managers in the game. And I think he will over time.
So Sveum wont get paid like Francona in this three-year deal with an option for 2015. But hell have every chance to earn the next contract. Just dont expect him to buy any fancy suits with the money.