Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum made the most egregious mistake of his young managerial career with his over-the-top support of Alfonso Soriano failing to run out a line drive in the sixth inning of Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox.
With runners on first and second and two outs, and the Cubs trailing 3-0 at the time, Soriano hit a line drive to third that Will Middlebrooks dropped and kicked around a bit. Instead of running as hard as he could, Soriano never ran to first and conceded the out to end the inning.
The crowd erupted with boos. It's not unusual for Soriano to be the target of the boo-birds, but in this case, almost everyone joined in—except his manager.
After the game, in a gutless attempt to cover Soriano's pathetic lack of effort, Sveum said in Dave van Dyck's column in the Chicago Tribune, "'It's one of those things where 100 percent of every player in the history of baseball would do the same thing.'"
Really, Dale, is that true? Every player who ever put on a uniform would put their head down and start heading to the dugout before they knew the guy caught the ball?
He continued his embarrassing explanation saying "that he had done that many times in his career when he was playing." Sveum loses all credibility with absurd comments like that.
Is this the same guy the Cubs hired to change the culture at Clark and Addison? Is this the guy who said in his first press conference after being named the Cubs' manager that watching from the other dugout when he was with the Milwaukee Brewers he had witnessed players not giving their best effort and that was inexcusable?
Here's a quote from that first press conference from Sveum in Dan McGrath's column in the New York Times.
What happened to that guy?
A young team with impressionable players shouldn't hear from the manager that not running out a ball is okay. It's not the message you want to send.
The one player on the team who has been called out by Sveum is Starlin Castro. Castro looks up to Soriano and considers him a mentor. With his comments, Sveum is telling Castro to play just like Soriano does because everybody plays that way.
I don't expect much out of the Cubs this year, and most likely the next unless a miracle happens.
I'm willing to accept the rebuilding effort because it's long overdue.
The only thing I'm asking is for some accountability. That includes stressing the importance of always playing hard.
When former Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg gave his Hall of Fame speech, he spoke about playing the game the right way. As a minor league manager, he always expected his players to run hard out of the batters box. In fact, he demanded it. There were no excuses.
I know why Sveum is doing this. It's part of management's desire to move Soriano. In other words, when it comes to Soriano, see no evil, hear no evil and certainly speak no evil.
After all, you don't want to ruin his trade value. Of course, that's insinuating he has any. If you have to pay almost the entire balance of his contract to move him, what value does he have?
Soriano is the example of what has been wrong with the Cubs' organization throughout over a century of futility. You bring someone in who can only hit home runs and has no concept of how to play the game.
The Cubs keep on bringing in home run hitters and not baseball players. When you completely lack any sense of how the game is played, how can you expect to win?
That's bad enough, but to give someone a pass for failing to play hard is inexcusable and always will be. I have one motto in life: The only way I can fail is if I don't try.
Soriano never tries. I don't want to hear excuses that he has leg injuries. He's played the same way since he came to the Cubs. He has always stood at home plate and admired the flight of the ball rather than hustling out of the box, whether it makes the seats or not. And he's always been given a pass for that by whoever was managing the team.
I thought Sveum and the new Cubs regime was supposed to be different. I can accept bad baseball because most of the players are bad. I cannot accept a lack of effort.
Dale Sveum can make all the excuses he wants for Soriano, but it goes back to what your parents told you as a kid: If all of the other kids are jumping off a bridge, does that mean you should too?
I guess if Dale Sveum was your parent, that would be okay.