Day Two of the 2012 Convention … Meet Cubs Baseball Management and the Coaches’ Den

The Cubs’ new general manager was front and center in the second session of the day. Jed Hoyer picked up where Theo Epstein left off earlier. Hoyer spoke about the importance of building an organization in order to have a big league team that consistently plays in October. Randy Bush, the Cubs’ assistant GM, and Dale Sveum participated in Meet Cubs Baseball Management.

The Coaches’ Den focused on accountability at the big league level and playing the game the right way. From the sound of Dale Sveum and his staff, the lollygagging that has been accepted in recent years will no longer be tolerated.

Meet Cubs Baseball Management
Jed Hoyer, Randy Bush and Dale Sveum discussed the big league team with WGN’s Dave Eanet. The Q&A covered a variety of topics from the audience with little continuity.

Jed Hoyer said he was told the convention was big but what he had seen to that point exceeded expectations. Dale Sveum said the convention was impressive and does not think the other 29 teams in the league would have the kind of turnout the Cubs receive.

People that Jed Hoyer have spoken to are excited about the direction the Cubs are taking. Dale Sveum is happy as well and pointed out that Epstein and Hoyer have brought in a different style of players in a few short months. The team has gotten more athletic and Sveum pointed out that his corner guys in the outfield can even run a little bit.

Tony Campana’s speed is intriguing to Sveum and he thinks Campana could win five games in a season with his speed late in games … Sveum remembers Campana beating the Brewers a couple of times last year.

The key for Sveum is to get to Spring Training and create a positive atmosphere. Sveum said the biggest thing for him is to earn the player’s respect because if he is able to they will play hard for him. Sveum is going to hold the players accountable and try to have fun at the same time. Sveum said he does not mind music in the clubhouse … as long as it is Metallica or something like that.

Jed Hoyer was asked if the Cubs are interested in signing Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler. Hoyer said he would not comment directly on free agents but did say the Cubs have scouted both heavily. The Cubs have had big contingents there to scout both players.

The Cubs are building, not rebuilding according to Dale Sveum. The Cubs’ new skipper likes the roster Epstein and Hoyer have assembled in a short time. In the morning session, Sveum described the team he has right now as “nice”.

Hoyer reiterated that he and Epstein want to create a team that has the best chance to make the playoffs every year but how long would that take? Hoyer said he could not answer.

As for the changes in the new CBA that impacted the amateur draft, Hoyer explained they will have less picks moving forward but that just means they must rely in the accuracy of those picks.

The Cubs have had two can’t miss centerfield prospects over the last decade (or so). Hoyer was asked if Brett Jackson was another one. Randy Bush answered the question and described Jackson as an extremely talented player and a hard worker. Jackson plays the game hard on a daily basis but as to when Jackson will be in the majors, Bush gave the scout answer and said, Jackson will let us know when he is ready … in other words, Jackson’s play will determine when he gets called up to the big leagues. Jackson knows he has to get better according to Bush and he knows what he needs to work on. Bush added, Brett Jackson is the type of player Epstein and Hoyer want in the organization.

It is very important for Randy Bush that the new front office sees the young players for themselves in Spring Training so they can form their own opinion. Bush said he would not offer his opinion because he does not want to influence them one way or the other.

Dale Sveum has been messing around with the lineup a little bit … but not much. Sveum said he’s had more important things to do. He is going to wait until Spring Training to start tinkering. He said once the games start the results can vary and “you can end up with all kinds of things.” Sveum added, “We’ll have to wait to see what happens.”

A team cannot win close games by committing errors. Bad defense costs more than just runs and can have a big impact. Sveum is focused on improving the Cubs defense and run prevention. Hoyer said, “We know Dale is going to stress defense, run prevention and fundamentals.”

Sveum explained he does not have a problem when a player makes an error as long as they are trying to get better and the error is not due to lack of effort. Sveum said he’s job it to make sure what the players know errors cost the team.

A pitcher will be forced to throw an additional 20 to 40 pitches in most cases after an error is committed. The players must know the ramifications and that bad defense can snowball into other area. Sveum is a big stickler about players being in the right place defensively and that all comes with the right preparation.

The Coaches’ Den
Bob Brenly hosted the hour long session with the Cubs’ new coaching staff. Dale Sveum, Jamie Quirk, Rudy Jaramillo, Chris Bosio, Dave McKay and Lester Strode were on hand … Pat Listach is managing a Winter Ball team in Puerto Rico and could not make the convention.

Sveum’s staff shared the same message as the manager … accountability. The staff is not going to put up with anything less than 100 percent from each player on a daily basis.

It was clear to see Dale Sveum has already done a ton of homework on his players. At one point, Sveum threw out stats off the top of his head (he did not look down) for just about every player on the Cubs’ big league roster and what they can bring to the table.

Brenly introduced the Cubs’ new skipper and asked why his last name is pronounced “Swaim”. Dale said that he is Norwegian and originally it was pronounced as it is spelled but at some point on the west coast the pronunciation was changed and he has no idea why.

There is a Cardinals’ connection with Jamie Quirk and Dave McKay … via Tony LaRussa. Quirk played for a lot of great managers during his time. Quirk’s first was Whitey Herzog and the last was Tony LaRussa. McKay, who spent years with LaRussa, told everyone that he wished they could have seen the real Tony LaRussa. McKay described him as a class clown but pointed out he was always prepared for games.

Rudy Jaramillo has been trying to get up to speed with all of the new faces on the Cubs’ roster. He spent the first week of January in Mesa with Ian Stewart and David DeJesus working in the cages. Jaramillo sees a lot of power potential in Stewart. He is trying to get the kids ready to play and a lot of them have already been out in Mesa working.

Sveum was asked about Alfonso Soriano and what appears to be a lackadaisical effort. As Sveum was listening to the question, he appeared to already be tired of hearing the complaints about Soriano and his “lack of effort.”

Sveum said when a player is not giving it his all is usually comes down to the fact a couple of guys have gotten away with it and that player thinks he can do the same. Sveum stressed every player, regardless of their contract, is going to be held accountable and giving anything less than 100 percent is not going to be okay with him or his staff.

If the performance of the player becomes embarrassing to the team or the city he will not hesitate to pull the player out of the game.

Sveum and the staff fielded several questions about Soriano’s lack-of-effort … and each answer became more and more stern.

Tony Campana is a very interesting player according to Sveum because of his speed. Campana, David DeJesus and Darwin Barney could be candidates to hit leadoff for the Cubs this season … but it is too early to make those decisions.

The Cubs new pitching philosophy is throw strikes, work fast, let the fielders behind you work and be aggressive in the strike zone according to Chris Bosio. The Cubs’ new pitching coach added “we might also have to knock down a batter every now or then.”

Preparation is key and the Cubs pitchers will dictate the tempo of the game. It is up to them to throw a lot of strikes to keep the defense on their toes … and not flat footed.

What made the Cubs attractive to Sveum? The skipper explained that it was a long interview process between the Cubs and Red Sox. When it appeared he could get an offer for both jobs, he decided at that point if the Cubs offered him a job he would take it. He wanted to be a Cub and wanted to manage in the National League. With Theo Epstein in the mix, plus the park and the city, Sveum said the decision was a no brainer.

The coaching staff took a while to figure it. He wanted a staff that was experience. It was important to Sveum to have a staff that would stand up to a player and “jump their butt” even if it is a superstar. It is very important to hold every player accountable.

Rome was not built in a day and it is going to take time for Sveum and his staff to implement the changes.

Sveum has been preparing for the season at Fitch Park in Mesa. Sveum lives in the area but was glad to see a lot of players there in recent weeks. The coaching staff has discussed some of the changes Sveum would like to make … including being more aggressive on the bases. McKay and Sveum have spoken about the importance of going from first to third and stealing bases. Sveum believes they have the athleticism on the team to be more aggressive on the bases and he is hopeful they will be able to get everyone on the same page by the middle of Spring Training.

Brett Jackson is going to get a big opportunity this spring according to Sveum. He is not going to say who will or will not make the team out of Spring Training, plus other things can change in the meantime that could impact the roster … and the direction they take out of camp.

The young kids are a big part of the Cubs’ future.

Dave McKay said he and Dave Duncan were the first two people to find out Tony LaRussa was going to retire. And despite the fact the story he was telling was about a Cardinal, he asked for everyone’s patience and to listen.

Pete Mackanin was actually the first person to bring up the possibility of a job with the Cubs to McKay. He was contemplating retiring when he found out LaRussa was not going to return. Mackanin contacted McKay while he was interviewing with the Cubs job … but that obviously fell through.

McKay and Sveum ended up talking and met at Starbucks to discuss a possible position. McKay said he was interviewing Sveum as much as he was being interviewed.

McKay said what made him stop thinking about retirement to wanting to take a job with the Cubs is after he spoke with Sveum he felt like he had just spoken with a young Tony LaRussa.

Sveum is not afraid to use the take sign on the first pitch of an at bat. Sveum said they had to last year in Milwaukee with Yuniesky Betancourt. He would not quit hacking and Sveum recommended that they force him to take a pitch.

After fielding more questions about Soriano, Dave McKay finished the session by stating that they feel the passion of the fan base and they’ve seen the Cubs play from the other side. McKay said, “We can assure you while we are here the team is going to play games hard and the right way.”

It is easy for a manager and a coaching staff to sit in a hotel in January and make promises, many that have come before Sveum and his staff have done it. The tones used on Saturday were different than in years past. Maybe the fact that Sveum, Quirk, Bosio and McKay (plus Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod) saw first-hand from the other dugout just how bad the Cubs have played will have an impact on how they run the big league team … and they will actually deliver on their promises.

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Next Up: Day Two of the 2012 Cubs Convention … The Cubs Newest Hall of Famer, Scouting and Changes to Wrigley Field

2012 Cubs Convention

Day One of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Welcome to Theo Fest
Day Two of the 2012 Cubs Convention … Behind the Scenes with Theo Epstein

Quote of the Day

"There are places I remember. All my life though some have changed. Some forever not for better. Some have gone and some remain. All these places have their moments ... " John Lennon/Paul McCartney