Theo Epstein has punked his former assistant Ben Cherington yet again.
The Cubs are set to announce that Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum will become the 52nd manager in team history at a press conference tomorrow morning. The two sides agreed to terms on a contract earlier today. Chicago Tribune ace reporter Paul Sullivan is reporting on his Twitter account that Sveum gets a three-year deal with an option in 2015. His candidacy for the Cubs job got a gigantic boost earlier this week when perceived frontrunner Mike Maddux removed himself from consideration due to family reasons.
Sveum had been believed to be at the top of the Red Sox list as well, a move that would have made sense given his ties to the team as their 3rd base coach during their World Series title run in ’04. It’s a decision that leaves the Red Sox scrambling to find another candidate to replace Terry Francona.
So who is Dale Sveum and why is he a good fit at the Friendly Confines?
The 25th pick in the 1982 draft by the Brewers hit .236 with 69 HR and 340 RBI in 12 big league seasons, only playing more than 100 games in three of them. 1987 was his best year statistically, a season that saw him hit .252 with 25 HR and 95 RBI, numbers he would never come anywhere near matching ever again.
While he wasn’t much of a threat with the bat as a player, he’s become one of the game’s better hitting coaches. Sveum has spent the past three seasons as the Brewers hitting coach after serving stints as their third base coach, bench coach and interim manager. Under his tutelage, the Brewers have had one of the game’s more explosive offenses, ranking among the league leaders in home runs and total bases this season. He’s got a close working relationship with Theo Epstein dating back to his Boston days and a championship ring, which Cubs fans are craving. He’s playoff tested as a manager, having gone 7-5 as the Brewers interim manager after taking over for Ned Yost and leading them to the 2008 Wild Card, where they were subsequently eliminated by the Phillies in the NLDS.
Perhaps more importantly to Cubs fans though is his relationship with one of his prized pupils. ESPNChicago.com’s Bruce Levine reports Sveum had a very strong relationship with slugger Prince Fielder.
Sveum’s thoughts on Fielder per Levine:
“Well, wherever he signs they are getting one heck of a guy,” Sveum said. “(He’s) one of my favorite people I’ve ever coached. And the way he competes and plays the game hard as he does every night, you wish you had 25 Prince Fielders. The leadership he brings by the way he plays is unmatched by anyone in baseball.”
This doesn’t mean that the Cubs signing Prince is inevitable, not even close. Prince is said to be seeking a long term contract in the $200 million range according to MLBTradeRumors.com, something the Cubs brass would be understandably gunshy about given the returns they’ve seen on their huge investment in Alfonso Soriano. Still it does give Cubs fans a glimmer of hope that perhaps the portly slugger might be making the trip 90 minutes south.