Almost two years ago, the Chicago media crowded around Lou Piniella as the Cubs manager sat down in the Wrigley Field dugout.
A crosstown game against the White Sox meant wall-to-wall coverage. One reporter asked a harmless question about how encouraged Piniella must be by the development of Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro.
That set off Piniella, who fired back at the critics questioning how he handled young players. He blasted White Sox broadcaster Steve Stone and the ridiculous way media personalities did their jobs.
Ive won over 1,800 games as a manager and Im not a damn dummy, Piniella said that day. There are only 13 others that have won more games than me, so I guess I think I know what the hell Im doing.
Dale Sveum has a much longer fuse, and we havent seen him explode yet. Theres almost no chance the Cubs manager will go viral when the White Sox come to the North Side for a three-game series that begins Friday.
Ozzie Guillen who was replaced by the low-key Robin Ventura and Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley wont be there to light a match.
Sveum has an answer for everything Castro bunting, using or not using Kerry Wood and he explains baseball mechanics in great detail. He understands that the second-guessing is part of the job.
Its gonna happen, Sveum said Wednesday. I dont read the papers. Im not a guy that Tweets, or whatever you call that thing. Im not a big computer guy. I dont read the news.
(During) my free time, I watch the NFL channel as much as I canto keep up on (things) for fantasy reasons.
Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had managerial candidates meet with the media as part of the interview process last fall. They knew that Sveum took the heat as an aggressive third-base coach with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2005.
There was about a two-week period where I got about 10 guys thrown out at home, Sveum recalled. Thats the animal you deal with when youre in the big markets. If I got 10 guys thrown out in Milwaukee, I wouldnt have had press conferences. I was having press conferences as a third-base coach.
I understand how fans react when youre in a passionate place.
Sveum shows no signs of nervous energy. Reading his body language behind the desk, youd have no idea whether the Cubs won or lost when you walk into the managers office after the game.
Sveum thought back to Tuesdays walk-off loss in St. Louis, how the Cardinals won it when Yadier Molina hit a ball past diving second baseman Darwin Barney, who was shaded one way because thats where the data said he should be.
Theres nothing you can do about it, Sveum said. Sometimes it is a game of inches. As long as you know that your team is giving everything theyve got, and the preparation is there through the coaching staff, (you live with it).
You know somebodys got to lose that night. Put it that way. (When you do), you dwell on it for a little while. Maybe (its) should-a, would-a, could-a, but I dont take it home with me. That woulddrive you crazy.
Sveum has been disciplined and stayed on message. His quotes dont go out on Twitter the way it could when Mike Quade said things like Im not a lunatic.
Sveum has shown patience with young pitchers and trusted them in big situations. He has set the tone for a quiet, purpose-driven clubhouse. He has the hammer that comes with being a former big-leaguer, and being Epsteins guy.
The Cubs president hired Sveum so he could grow into the job and become the next Terry Francona (instead of bringing in the actual Terry Francona).
It helped having 16 games as Milwaukees interim manager in 2008. But its not easy when you have to tell Carlos Marmol that hes losing his job. Six weeks in, the manager is settling into the job. The White Sox shouldnt knock him off his game.
You can sit here and say youre prepared and want to manage and all that, Sveum said. There are still many things that are going to come up, (like) when you take somebody out of the closers role.
(Its not) the nine-inning strategies you go through or the double switches and all that. Sometimes, thats the easy part of managing the game. Its a lot of the other stuff behind the scenes.