Is Dale Sveum the Solution?
With the Red Sox managerial search entering the next stage, the first name to get a second interview is Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach, Dale Sveum. Sveum spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons as the Red Sox 3rd base coach and developed a reputation of waving runners in from 3rd base at an alarmingly high rate. Just when you thought he would stop a runner at 3rd and learn from his mistakes, his arm kept moving and usually the player would be out at the plate. Those mistakes aside, he appears to be an initial front-runner for both the Red Sox and Cubs job, but is Boston the right fit for the 47-year old Californian?
The positives for Sveum are quite numerous. He has spent 8 years on a major league bench, as a 3rd base coach, bench coach, hitting coach, and interim manager with the Brewers and Red Sox. All of his experience in the bigs is certainly an asset and will help him gain control and respect in the club house, which is desperately needed in Boston. Also, his track record as the hitting coach of the Brewers was impressive. The Brewers have been near the top of the NL in batting average under his leadership and he has helped develop the two younger superstar hitters Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder during his tenure in Milwaukee. That experience will help him work with top-tier hitters like Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and will hopefully help him correct Crawford’s approach at the plate.
On the flip-side of the coin, Sveum is a pretty green manager. He spent time in 2008 as the interim manager of the Brewers after Ned Yost was fired, but that amounted to just the final 12 games of the season and 4 postseason contests at the helm before Ken Macha took over for the 2009 season. He finished with a 7-5 record and secured the wild card, but posted just a 1-3 record in the NLDS, losing to the Phillies. A total of 16 games is not a sufficient sample to draw conclusions, especially given the circumstances in which he took over the job. The lack of experience as a manager may be damaging to his credibility in the dugout.
Besides his lack of managerial experience and his well-documented issues as the 3rd base coach in Boston, Sveum is focused on hitting. He has been a strong hitting coach, but is a hitting-focused coach what the Red Sox need? Last year the Red Sox finished 2nd in AL batting average, but 9th out of 14 teams in ERA. The team’s offense has not generally been an issue over the past several years, but the pitching staff and the high ERA certainly has been a giant concern. The Red Sox need to focus on their pitching and bring in a manager that understands how to work with a pitching staff at a high level.
No managerial candidate will be perfect. Every candidate brings a different set of skills and experiences to the table. Ben Cherington’s job is to bring in the manager he feels is as close to perfect as possible. Sveum has some strong positives, but also leaves something to be desired in some areas, leading to the question, “Is he the best of the remaining candidates?” I’m not sold just yet.
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