Friday, October 4, 2013

Gardenhire stays, Sveum goes

Dale Sveum had two years as the dugout boss of the
rebuilding Cubs — the worst two year stretch in team history.
The Minnesota Twins and Chicago Cubs had identical records in 2013: 66-96. (The Cubs will pick fourth in the amateur draft next June and the Twins fifth because the Cubs had the worse 2012 record.)

On Monday, as we know, the Twins announced that Ron Gardenhire was getting a new two-year contract as manager after 12 years on the job. Also on Monday, the Cubs announced that Dale Sveum was out as their manager after two seasons.

It's an interesting contrast, one worth exploring.

The Cubs are, and have been since Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the operation in October 2011, in acknowledged tear-it-down-and-rebuild mode. The Twins have been roughly as bad as the Cubs over the same period, but Terry Ryan (who returned to the Minnesota general manager job about a month after Epstein parachuted into Wrigley from the Red Sox) has sent mixed messages about the short-term expectations.

Sveum's priority was to establish and nurture young players as the foundation for the future, specifically shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Both players regressed in the just concluded season, and Epstein/Hoyer decided Sveum was part of the problem:

"There has to be tough love, but there has to be love before there's tough love. You have to be patient with them. There has to be a clear, unified message. You can't be getting different signals from different directions. And collectively — myself included — we failed to provide that."

Thus spake Epstein on Monday about Sveum. It's worth noting that Castro and Rizzo each played at least 160 games despite their struggles, which sure appears patient to me — certainly more so than the yo-yoing of Oswaldo Arcia between Rochester and Minneapolis or the mid-summer plug-pulling on Chris Parmelee and Aaron Hicks.

The Twins, whatever else the top execs may say or imply, are not likely to take a great leap forward in 2014. The priority next year should be picking the right time to install Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton into the lineup, should be establishing Arcia and Josmil Pinto, should be regenerating Hicks and Kyle Gibson as legitimate prospects. It should be about getting that talent to flourish. It's not quite that nothing else matters, but it's close.

Terry Ryan presumably knows that's Job One. Presumably he's also confident Ron Gardenhire's the manager to do that.

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