I love Dusty Baker. I'm not afraid to say it. I'm not a fan of the way he manages, though he does seem to be improving. I like hearing the dude talk. Man, he makes me laugh. Now he's wishing Dale Sveum good luck and let me be the 87,965th person to tell you this: all the luck in the world ain't gonna save Dale Sveum's job in Chicago. That's just how it is with the Cubs. If the manager doesn't win, he's hated. That simple. Cubs aren't going to be doing much winning and by mid-summer the Thoyer love affair will have grown old for some who will have already been expecting significant improvement. I'm telling you, patience is not something Cubs fans have. But back to Dusty.
“Patience is a real virtue here,” Dusty Baker said Monday. “They’ve been patient for a hundred years. That’s a hard sell in Chicago – more patience. They might be patient for a little while, but unlike any other place I’ve been, people count. They can add real good in Chicago. Everybody – men, women and children.”
This season is going to be interesting. For one thing, we might get extended looks at top prospects like Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo. It's even possible we get to see newly signed Gerardo Concepcion at some point though I think t's unlikely. Maybe Josh Vitters turns a corner and figures out which pitches are out of the zone. Perhaps Trey McNutt puts the blister issues behind him and takes a big step forward.
The season will also be interesting to see in which ways the Cubs make changes to the roster. The draft is coming in June. The trade deadline follows about 7 to 8 weeks later. Who will still be in Chicago? Who do they acquire? The international free agent signing period will begin. Like the draft, they're limited by how much they can spend, but do they come away with a top prospect or two? By season's end are we talking about how Ian Stewart is beginning to show flashes of what made him an MLB top prospect a few years ago? Or are we talking about how the Cubs need to get rid of him and let just about anyone else play the position?
Maybe at that point the Cubs can start fielding a consistently good team and a manager can stick around longer than that.
Finally, what are Cubs fans going to be thinking? We already know they aren't interested in the team right now. They can't even sell tickets to the opening of Theo and Jed, Part 1. it's already clear the box office sales for the first installment will flop. Can they show even the slightest improvement over the year to make fans want to show up for Part 2? If not, what happens to their value when their WGN contract runs out after the next sequel? If fans aren't watching, they're not going to get maximum value in any tv deal. How can they get asses in the seats in 2014 if they suck in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013?
Related to that, just how impatient will the fans be? There's no point in asking how patient they will be. It's not a matter of them being patient or not. At some point soon they will lose it and turn on Thoyer. It's a matter of time. The question is just how much they're going to turn and how many of them? Does the media?
Getting back to Dale Sveum's shelf life, it won't be long. Two years. Maybe three. You have to go back to Jim Riggleman to find a Cubs manager who lasted more than 4 years. That was during a time when the Tribune couldn't have cared less how the Cubs did. Those teams won 73, 76, 68, 90 and 67 games. After Riggleman you have to go back to Leo Durocher's 6+ years as the team's manager from 166 through part of the 1972 season. Since Durocher, few Cubs managers have lasted more than 3 years. Zimmer lasted 3+. Didn't make it to 4. Don Baylor almost reached 3. Baker managed 4 years. Lou managed 3+.
Based on how likely it is the Cubs contend at any point in the next 2 to 3 years, I don't see how Dale Sveum sticks around longer than that. In my opinion, the best he can hope to claim is being a part of the better Cubs teams that come after he's been let go. So go ahead, get to know Dale Sveum. Just don't get too attached. He won't be around more than 3 years.