Dale Sveum dazzled Cubs executives with his information, the video analysis to help hitters and the spray charts to position defenders. But this statistic he called up could be the most telling indicator of the manager hell become.
In all my dealings in baseball, Sveum said, 99.9 percent of all players want to be looked in the face and told to get their crap together.
Clark and Addison is an increasingly corporate place, being filled with people educated at elite private schools on the East Coast. But they recognized the potential and saw themselves in Sveum, who rides motorcycles and is covered in five tattoos (he had to pause to make sure he counted them all).
Sveum knew hed be asked about how he got the nickname Nuts during Fridays news conference at Wrigley Field. He couldnt go into details about what he did as a young Brewers player, other than: It has nothing to do with my lower half.
Sveum will need a sense of humor in this job. The predictable questions came about Prince Fielder and Carlos Zambrano, though it would be shocking if either one is in a Cubs uniform next season.
Theo Epstein wasnt surprised that Fielder grew close to Sveum. The Brewers hitting coach develops those relationships all the time.
I dont think that was unique, Epstein said. Its hard in this game to find someone whos willing to go up to a superstar and just talk to them and be able to tell them sometimes what they dont want to hear. And that, ultimately, wins players respect.
The president of baseball operations was looking for someone with a backbone who could connect with players without enabling them. It will be interesting to see what happens when Alfonso Soriano stands at home plate admiring his shot or Starlin Castro fails to hustle after a ball he booted.
Youre trying to create a situation where the other team knows how you play that game, Sveum said. The worst thing that happens in baseball is when we look over and (say): Theyre dogs. Nobody plays hard over there.
You want to have catchers fear you when youre coming into home plate and not just take an easy way out and slide. That was one thing I think we established in Milwaukee. (Win or lose), they knew they were at least in a fistfight.
Sveum doesnt want to hear about the day games or the facilities or what happened in the past. These are the things managers say their first day on the job, but its exactly what Cubs fans want to hear.
Everybodys got excuses, Sveum said. Thats just a cop-out or your own insecurities if youre whining about things.
Sveum is now working for an organization sensitive to its public image and a front office that wants to control the information. It was disorienting to hear him call catcher Geovany Soto an average thrower and describe pitcher Randy Wells as easy to run on.
From Sveums perspective, those are just the details that will help you get better. You cant just let it slide because youre in the big leagues. His first coaching job in the majors came in 2004 on a Red Sox team that had Manny Ramirez and Pedro Martinez and won the World Series.
He came into (Bostons) superstar culture and he didnt back down at all, general manager Jed Hoyer said. He earned that respect right away. And I think some of the players at first were like: Whats this guy doing? He never backed down and the guys really embraced it.
Sveum, who will turn 48 next week, certainly saw enough of the Cubs across the years as a utility player who found a way after shattering his leg and a Brewers coach looking for every possible edge.
Sveum has three tattoos honoring his late father, who served in the Marines. One is what the son heard before he walked out the door going to a game: Give em hell. Another is a rattlesnake with the words: Pain is inevitable, suffering is just an option.
This could be the counterweight to a young, polished front office. And a sledgehammer through the clubhouse.
Whether its physical, whether its mental, Sveum said, suffering is your option if you want to whine and cry about it.