Friday, November 18, 2011

Ventura best ballplayer, Sveum most experienced (sort of) manager. Matheny most likely to succeed during ‘12?

Now that the Chicago Cubs have let it be known that Dale Sveum will become their new field manager, it seems that the ballclubs that people across the state of Illinois root for all have new leadership.

Except for maybe those few far northern Illinois types who curmudgeonly root for the Milwaukee Brewers. Then again, I’m willing to ignore Wisconsin until their residents can come to their senses on Gov. Scott Walker.

BUT FOR NOW, back to baseball.

Where the Cubs announced that Sveum will leave those Brewers to become the manager, running the team on the field for new baseball boss Theo Epstein – who’s going to be able to claim a serious baseball coup.

For it seems that Epstein’s old ballclub, the Boston Red Sox, seriously thought they were getting Sveum to run their ball club.

But the Brewers’ hitting coach decided that trying to break a loser tradition like the Cubs have is preferable to getting involved in that insane asylum of a ballclub that perpetually finishes second to the New York Yankees (2004 was truly an aberration).

SOME WILL SNICKER. Some with pooh pooh the situation. While I can’t help but wonder about the new managers for the Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago White Sox.

Which will draw their own comparisons. Because on paper, the Cubs got the most experienced manager – which isn’t saying much.

For Sveum had a brief stint at the end of 2008 as acting manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s it.

But that is more than Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who was a minor league instructor for the ballclub as his reward for being a part of that Cardinals team of ’04 that got overwhelmed by the Red Sox in the World Series that year.

EVEN THAT IS more than Robin Ventura of the White Sox, who hadn’t been in professional baseball at all since hanging it up as a ballplayer in 2004.

But that is his reward for being the White Sox’ best third baseman ever – which is saying even less than calling Sveum the most-experienced manager of the trio. It is a sign of just how awful the White Sox have been at the “Number 5” position during their century of existence.

There’s a reason why White Sox team historian Rich Lindberg once wrote a team history (just prior to them winning their first division title in 1983 under manager Tony LaRussa) that was entitled “Who’s on Third?”

I kind of find it hilarious that all three of these managerial slots are going to guys who have never managed a major league ballclub before. That’s going to be a lot of rookies in the dugout – although those of you who want to believe the “conspiracy theories” that LaRussa will wind up in some sort of “adviser” position with the White Sox to help guide Ventura may want to think differently.

THAT’S ALSO A lot of white guys getting chances to prove themselves, at a time when the sport faces charges that it doesn’t do enough to advance the opportunities for non-white guys who can no longer get their bats around quickly enough on a 95-mph fastball for base hits.

So what will the cheap rhetoric be like come 2012 as all of our baseball fans try to find new ways to taunt each other?

I can sense that the White Sox will be the ones to boast of how talented their manager used to be on the field (although like many other Chicago ballplayers, he got his only crack at a World Series playing elsewhere – 2000 with the New York Mets, in their losing effort to the Yankees).

Sveum, who played for the Brewers and a few other ball clubs, and Matheny, who was a reserve catcher for the Cardinals, can’t come close.

YET I’M SURE Cubs fans will claim they got the guy who was desired by those carmine-colored sox, as opposed to the pale hose manager who likely wouldn’t have been even considered by any other ballclub.

It will be the source of our bickering for the next year – that and trying to argue which ball club has a better reject that we wish we could get rid of – Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs or Adam Dunn of the White Sox?

Both of them have monster-contracts that make them untradeable unless their Chicago team wants to pay virtually their entire huge salary to play ball elsewhere.

But if Dunn can come even close to matching those stats of yesteryear (which he did as recently as 2010 with the Washington Nationals), things could be very interesting at U.S. Cellular Field in ’12. Much more than at Wrigley Field.

BUT LET’S BE honest. It may well be a long-shot for both teams.

It could turn out that Matheny manages to take the World Series champion Cardinals and keep them in contention to the point where they make a serious challenge to repeating.

Why do I get the feeling Matheny will be the big winner here. Him, and perhaps former Cubs infielder Ryne Sandberg.

Wouldn’t it be funny if the Baseball Hall of Fame member were to somehow get the Milwaukee Brewers managerial post and lead the Cerveceros to their first league pennant in 30 years?


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