Sveum’s motto: forget about it
BY GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com February 10, 2013 11:17PM
Cubs manager Dale Sveum returns to the dugout after arguing a safe call on a steal by Mets baserunner Andres Torres in the eighth inning. The Chicago Cubs beat the New York Mets 5-3 on June 26, 2012 at Wrigley Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times
MESA, Ariz. — As Dale Sveum embarked on his second season as a big-league manager, he offered a simple history lesson:
‘‘The one thing you can’t do in life, period, is ever think about the past,’’ he said.
Sveum isn’t dooming himself to repeat history. After all, another history lesson suggests it’s almost as hard to lose 100 games in a season as it is to win 100.
But the Cubs’ sophomore manager knows the first order of business as pitchers and catchers take the field for the team’s first workout Tuesday is at least ignoring one of the ugliest six-month chapters in the often-miserable history of the franchise.
‘‘The biggest thing going into the season — obviously, [with] answering all [the media’s] questions — is when does last season stop?’’ Sveum said. ‘‘I don’t want to really talk about it. It’s really over with. There’s nothing we can do about it.’’
The lowlights included a pitching staff that issued more walks than any other staff in the National League; a bullpen that tied the Colorado Rockies for the worst save percentage in the majors; the club’s worst run production in more than 30 years; and Class AAA pitchers making more than 60 percent of the team’s starts in the final two months of a 101-loss season.
Talk about forgettable.
Sveum said he doesn’t even plan to mention last season when he has his first team meeting.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t get anything out of last season.
‘‘If you maybe have a ho-hum .500 season where there really wasn’t much drama or roster changes or anything like that, you might not learn that much,’’ he said. ‘‘But on the other hand, when you go through all that and the trade deadline and losing [veteran leaders Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson], you learn a lot about how to handle all kinds of situations.’’
Sveum said he doesn’t necessarily plan to do much differently this season. Chemistry-builders such as the spring bunting tournament and theme dress-up travel days are back in his plans.
So is the tireless attention to detail with players, defensive positioning and efforts to keep everyone accountable for their effort.
‘‘I’ve never been with a team that’s more prepared each day before a game than this one,’’ Cubs first-base coach Dave McKay — a 16-year veteran of Tony La Russa’s staffs — said unsolicited during the Cubs Convention last month.
‘‘That’s a huge compliment to the manager when Dave McKay can say something like that,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘We’re going to work hard. If you don’t want to work hard, you’re not going to be on my staff.’’
Sveum’s approach has the Cubs’ front office convinced the right man is at the helm.
‘‘It’s not easy day in, day out when the team’s struggling to keep your cool and really maintain the same message,’’ general manager Jed Hoyer said. ‘‘He had the same message all year. Our guys played hard. We didn’t have a single clubhouse incident the whole year.’’
Said Sveum: ‘‘I think if things would have fallen apart in the clubhouse, you could sit here and say, yeah, I should have done this. But you still had to keep that clubhouse from frickin’ falling apart.’’
NOTES:Team president Theo Epstein continued to support closer Carlos Marmol amid allegations of domestic assault in his native Dominican Republic. Epstein said the club had no knowledge of the accusations when it came close to trading Marmol in November. Marmol’s accuser claims he assaulted her in October.
◆ Tony Campana, who led the Cubs with 30 stolen bases last season, was designated for assignment to make room for outfielder Scott Hairston, who agreed to a two-year, $5 million deal almost two weeks ago.