It's difficult to get too excited about the Cubs hiring of well-regarded but relatively untested Dale Sveum as manager. But, it's also difficult to criticize the move, or find all that much wrong with it. Such is life under a Theocracy--second guess a two-time World Series winner at your own peril.
Sveum is no Tony LaRussa, a Hall of Fame manager, and he's no Joe Maddon, an intelligent winner, who though he hasn't won the big one yet, has a lot of us believing it's only a matter of time. He is not Terry Francona, who has won two World Series, but he sure does seem an awful lot like the version of Terry Francona that Theo Epstein hired in 2004, right down to the stubbly scalp.
Francona had managed before Epstein hired him, and Sveum really hasn't, though he did have a real-life trial run in 2008 at the most pressure-packed time of the season, guiding Milwaukee to the wild card and a playoff win (one more win than the Cubs managed that postseason, we painfully note).
Sveum, though, does seem to have a Francona-like reputation as a no-nonsense, fundamentals-driven warehouse of useful baseball info, a relative stoic that people in the know suggest is more fun, communicative and verbose than he seems at first glance. Theo & Co. certainly are doing a good job selling him as such, and making a lot of us forget that Mike Maddux reportedly was the Cubs' first choice (Maddux withdrew, and to be honest, I never bought his easy-going performance in the post-interview press conference--to me, he seemed indifferent).
Needless to say, if Sveum does prove to be the next Francona, we're all good.
Still, it's interesting how the Cubs' manager search became a choice between two guys with years of coaching experience but little or no (Sveum the former, Maddux the latter) manager experience.
The Cubs went for broke in hiring an executive suite, and then went low-key on hiring a manager, but maybe that will balance everyone's expectations. Heck, Theo & Co. probably could have sold us on Mike Quade staying in the job, and given the ultimate options, why not Quade and his one year-plus experience in the Cubs cauldron?
Between the choice of Maddux and Sveum, I preferred Sandy Alomar, who despite his own inexperience might be the next great catcher-turned-manager, and wished for Maddon to somehow enter the conversation. (I though Alomar would have been an even better choice for the White Sox.)
Seriously, though, Maddux at least had the benefit of his strength being the Cubs' current primary weakness. Other than Sveum's reputation for insane amounts of preparation, certainly a big positive, I'm not sure what the former infielder's more tangible baseball strength is. If it's defense, then maybe Sveum is guy who can make Starlin Castro into an MVP superstar around which the Cubs can build their second decade of the 21st Century World Series dynasty.
Then again, maybe Theo & Co. hired Sveum just so they could have a realistic shot at Prince Fielder.