PHOENIX (MCT) — Evaluating Dale Sveum after this ugly 2012 season won’t be easy, especially after the new regime traded Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm while losing Matt Garza to injury, replacing them with starters who weren’t ready for prime time.
But on Sunday, a few hours before the Cubs dodged the 100-loss mark with a 7-2 win over the Diamondbacks, Garza said Sveum made the season tolerable after the miserable season under Mike Quade.
“I just told him we’re on the verge of 100, we’re a game away, (and) last year we were close to .500 and I hated every day of my life coming in here,” Garza said, forgetting the Cubs were 20 games under in 2011. “It was miserable. I said, ‘This year, I’m not even performing and I enjoy it and look forward to coming here, and you brought that back, thanks.’
“It’s huge for a guy like me. I like being here. Last year was a trying year, man. Mentally, this year’s a different kind of mental fight. I can actually enjoy this year.”
The Cubs ended a seven-game losing streak and won for the first time in 19 road games against NL West teams. They still have to sweep the Astros in the final series at Wrigley Field to finish with 99 losses.
“For the guys out there (Monday), it could be our little playoff atmosphere to stay away from that number,” Sveum said. “You can only get there, obviously, if we win Monday. I think there will be a little enthusiasm in the dugout to take care of business. It’ll be fun, at least as much fun as we can have in this season, to avoid it.”
Chris Rusin allowed one run over five innings for his second win, and the Cubs scored four runs in the sixth to take the lead for keeps. They continued their baserunning gaffes, as Anthony Rizzo was picked off second after thinking Alfonso Soriano struck out.
“We’re like a vitamin — one a day,” Sveum, said. “Strange stuff. It’s unbelievable. Rizzo thought there were two strikes and two outs and that Soriano struck out, so he started walking off.”
So what has Sveum done to earn so much praise from his players? Garza said the difference is Sveum is “more open, more sociable” and “treats us like players.”
“The way he’s handled the situation we’re in right now, it’s tough for any guy,” he said. “For him to keep it the same way every day, it’s huge. ... I’ve played for some really good ones — (Ron) Gardenhire, (Joe) Maddon and ... Quade.”
Garza chortled before continuing.
“There are people in here who agree with me,” he said. “I played for one of the best in Maddon, a players’ manager, and Gardenhire really knew how to handle his players well. I’ve been fortunate. And to end up with a guy like Dale, especially coming from the situation last year ... I’m not going to get into it, but it was awesome the way this thing turned out.”
Sveum said his “patience” helped when things got bad, and he tried to treat players with respect.
“You can go out and scream and yell and have meetings,” he said. “In my dealings with baseball and grown men, that’s not the way to go about things. Otherwise you start losing respect and all that. The good thing about this season is the clubhouse has been the same every day. The work ethic and preparation has been the same all year.”