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Sveum game

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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.

Some thoughts on recent Cubs news:

-Mike Quade will go down as particularly star-crossed Cubs manager, having been given the job in a no-win situation: He got a job everyone assumed Ryne Sandberg would get, was handed a team of unproven newbies combined with free agents who were either surly or bloated, sometimes both, and was left a dead man walking by the former GM's firing and the hiring of new executives. Quade had his chance, and he often had the right approach and mindset, but too often let the game within the game get away from him. His authority also was challenged one too many times by veterans, and if this speaks ill of the players, it also suggests Quade failed to inspire and motivate them.

-Billy Corgan thinks Ryne Sandberg should have gotten a chance to interview for the job left open by Quade's firing. I'm not sure how Ronnie Woo feels about it, but I would classify Corgan's view of the matter as having roughly the same weight as the Woo-man's. The indication that Sandberg will not be interviewed for the manager job is easily the most controversial decision of the Theo Epstein era thus far. Though, should it be much of a surprise?

Much was made of Epstein having interviewed Sandberg, and possibly having wanted to hire him, for the minor league Pawtucket Red Sox manager job last season. I'm not sure why the next logical conclusion would be that Sandberg would become the favorite for a major league job. Sandberg has the same amount of major league level coaching experience he had prior to the 2010 season--none. I'm betting Theo & Co. would be open to having Sandberg manage in the farm system, or coach at the major league level if the next manager wants him in the dugout (though Sandberg's notoriety almost guarantees that won't happen), but there is no reason for Sandberg to be considered to lead the Cubs. It was a nice idea once, when the Cubs needed a warm body to fill the job for half a season and audition for future work, but not anymore.

Hiring Sandberg would be the easy and obvious thing to do, and a wonderful way for a new regime to win fan support, but that is not the No. 1 thing Theo & Co. is trying to win.

-Ryan Theriot was roundly criticized for landing for saying he had landed on the right side of the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry when he signed with St. Louis before last season, even though he didn't leave the Cubs by choice the season before last. Apparently, Theriot was right--though in the darkest corner of your Cub fan sould you knew he was. He is now a World Series champion, and though he didn't hit well in the series--only 1 for 13--he did driven in two key runs for the Cards.

So, two of my favorite scrappy players from recent years--LSU products Theriot and Mike Fontenot (I liked to call them the French Connection, though no one else ever pick it up)--both have World Series rings. Yet, they weren't good enough for the Cubs, always on the hunt for the future HoF-er who could do everything and help them win it all.

--Carlos Zambrano is pitching in Venezuela. A lot of us hope he stays right there, though I wouldn't be surprised if Theo & Co find a way to smooth things over just enough and polish up his rough edges just enough to trade him.

--Aramis Ramirez is not in the Cubs' future plans. So says Theo. Is Bake DeWitt taking over, or is Bryan Lahair learning how to play third base as we speak? Or maybe Thepo has something different in mind.

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