Dale Sveum joined Bruce Levine and Fred Huebner during Talkin’ Baseball (ESPN 1000) on Saturday morning and discussed a variety of topics. Sveum was blunt in his assessments of Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija as well as what he expects from his players on a daily basis.
Fred Huebner: And Bruce, it is time to talk with the skipper of the Cubs.
Bruce Levine: Yeah, I think the first time I ever talked to Dale Sveum was about 1992. He had just been brought over to the White Sox and he was sitting on the bench on a day like today, where it was just raining. He was just contemplating baseball on a rainy day. I guess that is what we are doing today, right Dale?
Dale Sveum: Looks like it. Looks like we have a chance of getting batting practice rained out. It looks good for the game though, we should be okay.
BL: How do you keep your spirits up, personally, and your staff spirits up? I’ve probably asked you this question in some of the media sessions. But I would like our audience to hear your idea about keeping yourself up when you know you have the first part of your season where you are competitive. Then when you come back after the break and you’re like seven games away from .500. Then the other part of the plan from the trading deadline on you have to deal with a different type of team.
DS: Well, you know what we are getting into and going in that these things can possibly happen. I’m not going to sit here and kid anybody that these losses are devastating, especially a few this week. But, that’s part of it. You have to keep your head up and understand there’s tomorrow, keep these guys fighting, make sure the staff is always positive and moving forward and trying to make everyone better at the same time.
FH: Dale, did frustrations boil over the other day when you get tossed out with the first batter of the game? Or was that just a point you had to prove and that was the time you had to do it?
DS: (laughs) No, I mean that’s something you don’t want to do is get thrown out five pitches into a game. But unfortunately sometimes … that was a big check swing and in my view that was a full swing by Puig and he obviously did not get the call. Sometimes those are big moments for your pitcher and pitch counts. You just don’t appreciate what happened after that, you say something you probably shouldn’t and you get tossed pretty quick. You got to unfortunately sit and watch nine innings that whole game. It’s something that happens. Some of those throw outs, you get a little carried away and you wish you had them back.
BL: Dale Sveum the manager of the Cubs joining us on Talkin’ Baseball, its Huebner and Levine every Saturday. I can say this Dale and you don’t have to comment on it and I hope you don’t actually. When an umpire gets in your face for no particular reason and is looking for trouble sometimes as a man all you can do is just stand up and get tossed out. So we will move on from that. (laughs) Because we don’t need for you to get another two or three thousand dollar fine …
DS: Right …
BL: For talking on a radio show. When you look at the progress of your young players, how do you evaluate this with a month to go in the season? I know you will probably do it totally after the season ends, but when you look at your prime guys and that’s Castillo behind the plate, Rizzo at first and Castro and Junior Lake coming along and some of your pitchers. How do you look at their progress this year and how happy or unhappy you are at this point about where they’re at?
DS: Well, you’re never going to be happy obviously with some production. But, you do know coming in that Rizzo for instance is in his second year. If you put it into perspective there is not too many people in their second year that throw up over 20 homers and a chance of having 80 RBI. Obviously the average isn’t where you want it to be or anything like that. Castro has obviously had a tough year as well. But, I think in the same tone that these guys, as well as us, is to evaluate the way they handle adversity and are they going to be championship type players when we are ready to win. They have already gone through these tough times and baseball adversity. It is something that everyone goes through. There are only a few players in the history of the game that basically have good months every month, year after year, 99 percent of everyone else is going to have a year that they throw out of their media guide that they don’t want everyone to see it again (chuckles). But you learn from it and young players have to learn from it and come back and understand that whatever it might be whether it is big league pitching, mistakes, defensive mistakes or mental mistakes and never do those mistakes again. Because they are going to be done. You see veteran players have mental lapses as well, so you just don’t want to ever see them again. That is what you just try to harp on as much. But you evaluate, you evaluate what to know what people are made of as well. Are they going to be ready and prepared for a championship season when you are vying for a pennant in September?
FH: When you look at a guy like Starlin Castro, I know some of the fans out there and we’ve talked about it for weeks. A guy that came in and his first full season had 207 hits, sometimes we hear talk about the on-base percentage and taking pitches and things like that. Is there any possibility that could have messed up the kid who was only 21 after he had that 207 hit season?
DS: Well, to get to the bottom of some of these things you could go on and on about whys and what ifs and all of that. Obviously it could be a factor, but who really knows. He has seen more pitches and obviously struggled doing it, and really hasn’t walked seeing more pitches because he will get to those counts and then throw the at bat away by swinging out of the zone in those situations. That is another learning experience. Once you get into these counts, how can I keep the heart rate at a certain level and not swing out of the zone when I’ve gotten to the walk counts. You really never know why or what reasons things happen. Sometime things snowball out of control and obviously everybody’s telling you how to hit and do this and that. You get confused that way to, so these are all learning experiences for some people who have never struggled until they’ve struggled. They don’t really know how to get out of it and they learn from it. And they move on from it in another year, or they take the winter off and come back with a clean slate.
BL: Manager of the Cubs, Dale Sveum for a couple of more minutes on Talkin’ Baseball. Dale, I am hoping I am going to ask you a question that you haven’t been asked before. So let me know when we are done or tell later I am full of it (laughs) but it won’t be the first time. Defensive decision making has lost as many games for you as offensive inability. Could you comment on that because I talked to some scouts who have watched 15 or 20 of your games and they believe that some of the positioning by, people like Castro, people like Rizzo, not knowing where to be and not making the right decision has cost you as many games as lack of offense.
DS: You mean? I am not understanding the question. Straight positioning?
BL: Knowing what to do with a ball at a certain time when they get it. Knowing where to be on cut offs, things of that elk.
DS: Yeah, we have been. There is no question. I don’t know if we’ve lost that many games but obviously we’ve given up some runs because of it. Things like I said. A lot of this is trial and error sometimes with these guys because they are positioned in places they have never been in to obviously save outs in which always comes into play. You might be burnt 10 percent of the time but there are times there is no question when we are out of position on a relay play or things that have been harped on since you were in high school. So, these are things you have to clean up and understand we have a place to be and before the pitch is thrown that if this happens, this is where I have to be. If this happens, this is where I gotta be. So these are all learning experiences that are getting better, but obviously there is no doubt that we’ve given up some runs because of it.
BL: As coaches, just like teachers in schools, you get angry when you’ve told a kid 20 times the same thing, right? I mean these are professional athletes at the highest level of sports. There has to be a frustration level at some point where you’ve gone over and over it again and now it is a reflection of you and your coaches.
DS: Well, I think there is no question. That is what a said a little while ago about when we make a mistake let’s not make that same mistake again. We are going to make physical mistakes. We are going to boot groundballs. We are going to throw balls away. These things just happen in the course of a season, nobody’s perfect physically. But, the mental errors and the mental things that we harp on, you just hope they don’t happen again once they’ve been talked about and gone over and over and over. Those are the things that get frustrating when they happen time and time again.
FH: Have you seen continued growth? I mean yesterday you had a 5-0 lead and he was pitching real well and then a four-spot in the sixth inning but over the year have you seen continued growth and maturity from Jeff Samardzija?
DS: Well, I think so. I mean yesterday was obviously one of the tougher ones that he’s had to swallow I’m sure as a starter, having a five-run lead. These are things you talk about and make these guys understand that for whatever reason you don’t know the reason we get lackadaisical, or hey, I just lost my arm slot. The bottom line was that there were a lot of misfires and got the ball out over the plate. Or trying to throw a ball away and it went in. These are the physical things that sometimes a pitcher does and they are not physical errors where you are booting a ball or throwing a ball away but when you are trying to throw a ball down and away and you throw it inside, right to the guy’s strength. These are errors but obviously it is tough to handle as a pitcher as much as anything. When you are trying to go down and away and you throw it down and it to an Utley and right into his happy zone. But those things happen. It’s not that easy to throw a ball perfect every pitch. But there is growth and there is understanding. There’s learning how to pitch, learning how to pitch without your split. Obviously yesterday he had his split working, especially for the first five innings. It was pretty devastating, his split yesterday. It’s just a matter of growth and understanding why these things are happening after a mistake in the game and to shut the door and take it upon yourself to get the rest of the hitters out.
BL: Getting the most out of your players this time of year, even though they are young guys and there are guys that are still fighting to stay in the major leagues or get to the major leagues. Is that difficult for you guys with the type of team you have? Because two years in a row, I have to compliment you and your staff, the guys continue to bust it. There is very little, outside of the lapses Castro has had, all year long that you can point to and say, ‘Hey they are not getting a hundred percent out of their players.’
DS: Well, I mean that is one thing we do not accept. Obviously you can’t play for people, and you can’t expect everyone to have good games or not make errors, that is part of the game, so you have patience with that. But you don’t have patience with not playing hard and not being accountable for things you have control over that you can do. Like I said, you are going to make mistakes. You are going to strikeout with the bases loaded and you are trying the best you can with the ability you have. But, it is not acceptable to not play hard or to prepare in your BP sessions or not trying to make yourself a better player every day.
BL: Dale, Fred and I appreciate your time and continued good luck. Keep these guys going. I know it is a very difficult job but I think you and your coaches do a splendid job or doing it. So, thanks for taking some time out and we will see you later.
DS: Okay, thanks.