Sveum to taste other side of Cubs-Crew rivalry
Skipper's friend Yount wouldn't mind if he were still in Boston
Truth be told, Robin Yount would prefer that his good friend be in Florida right now, managing the Boston Red Sox.He's not quite sold on Dale Sveum in a Chicago Cubs cap. "But in all honesty, I think this is a better situation for him, to start from ground zero and do everything his way," said Yount, the Brewers Hall of Famer. "He can mold a new team, and it seems they are going to start from scratch with [Cubs president Theo] Epstein. He wouldn't have been able to do that in Boston. "So, I think it's a great opportunity. Maybe the best situation he could have been put into. For me, personally, would I have loved to see him somewhere else? Sure, only because we wouldn't have to go head-to-head with him all the time." The first time comes Saturday, when the Cubs visit a Brewers split-squad at Maryvale Baseball Park. Sveum went to work there every spring morning for the last six years, as Brewers third-base coach, bench coach, interim manager (at the end of 2008), and most recently as hitting coach. Now he's getting his first full-time opportunity to manage. Sveum was a hot commodity last winter, a finalist for both the Red Sox and Cubs. When Boston passed, the Cubs had their man. "I think he's perfect for it," Cubs bench coach Jamie Quirk said. "He's not an ego guy. He's a baseball guy, and you ask him a question and you're going to get an answer. He's not trying to give you the right answer, it's just the answer." Sveum has brought a different feeling to Cubs camp this year, pitcher Matt Garza said. "Our personality is directed off him, and he's a blue-collar guy," Garza said of Sveum. "That's what the Cubs need to be is blue collar -- we're daytime baseball, so we're going to be blue collar. This is the best way to do it -- fight, scratch, win, that's it." Sveum is actually a black-collar guy, a motorcycle enthusiast who rode Miller Park when weather permitted. He may have to break that habit in Chicago, where the manager is under the same bright spotlight as his players and Sveum will try to be the man to snap the Cubs' 103-year World Series drought. To do so, he will have to go through Milwaukee, a National League Central rival. But in Brewers camp this week, former colleagues and pupils universally praised the new Cubs skipper, saying they wished him luck. Just not when the two teams meet. "It was kind of similar to the Prince [Fielder] situation," said Ryan Braun, referring to the Brewers' biggest free-agent defector. "If you see [Sveum] get that manager job, it would have been nice if it was out of our division and out of our league." But Braun insisted he was happy for Sveum, saying he had the right personality for the job and would hold players accountable. "It was probably long overdue," Braun said. "Our loss is going to be their gain." Two men who know Sveum best agreed with the Brewers' left fielder. Yount has been Sveum's good friend since the early 1980s, when Sveum, a fellow first-round Draft pick, started coming to Brewers Spring Training. They are so close that when Ned Yost was ousted as Brewers manager with 12 regular-season games to go in 2008, Yount flew in to be Sveum's bench coach. Craig Counsell was a Brewers batboy when Sveum broke into pro ball, then got to know him after Counsell signed with his hometown team in 2004. They have been close since, and Counsell considered a position on Sveum's coaching staff before taking a job in Milwaukee's front office. "He has the unique ability to tell players how it really is," Counsell said. Counsell and Sveum were together in Milwaukee the November night that both the Red Sox and Cubs jobs seemed up in the air. The General Managers Meetings were in town at the Pfister Hotel, and Sveum had flown in to meet with top Red Sox officials. They ultimately decided against Sveum, in favor of veteran manager Bobby Valentine. Counsell called it "a night when a lot was happening." For a while, Sveum was in a difficult position, with both jobs hanging in the balance. "These manager's jobs are not easy to get," Counsell said, "and when you work as a coach for a long time it's a dream to get one of them." Sveum had been close before. When the Brewers were seeking a full-time manager in 2008, after Sveum managed the final 12 regular-season games and four games against the Phillies in the NL Division Series, some players hoped Sveum would get the permanent job. Yount said he submitted his two cents to Brewers management. General manager Doug Melvin instead picked Ken Macha, whom Melvin had tried to hire back in 2002. Macha stayed with the A's that time, but he now was available. "I just felt I wanted to go outside and get somebody with a fresh view of our roster," Melvin said. "I've never been sold on hiring on the 'interim' manager. That has not always worked." Macha's tenure was doomed by pitching problems, and he was dismissed after the 2010 season. Again, the Brewers sought a replacement, but Melvin informed Sveum early in the process that he would not be a candidate. Ron Roenicke was the Brewers' choice, and he managed in 2011 to rave reviews -- including Yount's, who called Roenicke "an awesome manager." "[Sveum] would have liked to get a job earlier, but he understands the system," Yount said. "He understands that whether you're a player, a coach, a manager, a GM, there is still a lot to say for being in the right place at the right time. The right time finally came for him. "This is what Dale is here for. He was here to be a Major League manager someday, and now he's getting his chance." Yount has not talked to Sveum since the day of the Cubs' first full-squad workout. Counsell said he has spoken to Sveum, but he has not seen him since teams reported for Spring Training. Sveum has been busy. Managing the Chicago Cubs is a demanding job. "Well, the anonymity is probably gone," Counsell said. "But I saw something Theo said, and I thought it was really accurate: Dale is very comfortable in his own skin. Stuff is not going to change him. He's who he is, and that's why he got the job. "I don't have any doubt he will succeed. He's ready. He's passionate. He's going to be good."
Adam McCalvy and Carrie Muskat are reporters for MLB.com. Read McCalvy's blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.