In a special to this series on former players, with the attention of the baseball world focused on the Kansas City Royals and their hitting approach, we at BSI can take a look at Dale Sveum, their hitting coach. Sveum was a part of the Red Sox at two crucial points in their recent history.
Sveum was a notable part of the 2004 historic championship run in a way that he didn’t want to be, as the object of frustration for most of Red Sox Nation for his aggressive waving in of runners who then ran into outs. Sveum seemed to have a special affinity for testing the arm of Tampa Bay outfielder Rocco Baldelli in 2004, though Baldelli had led the league in outfield assists in 2003. Baldelli threw out back-to-back runners at the plate in an especially excruciating loss to Tampa Bay in August 2004. Ironically, Sveum’s career was derailed by injury much like Baldelli’s would be two seasons later, after severely breaking his leg causing him to miss the entire 1989 season, after which Sveum was never able to reproduce his prior success.
Sveum continued to serve as the third base coach for the 2005 Red Sox, who also made the playoffs. After that season, Sveum returned to the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that had drafted him and he played for in parts of five seasons, as bench coach and later third base coach. In 2008, in the middle of a playoff race, the Brewers fired then-manager Ned Yost, replacing him with Sveum, who led them to the playoffs with a 7-5 record. Sveum did not continue his managerial career the next season with the Brewers, returning to his third base coach duties.
After the messy ouster of Terry Francona after the collapse of the Red Sox in 2011, Sveum emerged as a candidate for the Red Sox managerial job. Then-brand new general manager Ben Cherington presented Sveum as his choice to succeed Francona has Red Sox manager, but was overruled in favor of future disaster Bobby Valentine. Right off the bat, Cherington’s support of Sveum led to questions about how much say Cherington had in what went on.
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Almost immediately after not getting the Red Sox job, the Chicago Cubs came calling and new Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein hired Sveum as his new manager for the 2012 season. Sveum’s tenure with the Cubs went about as well as Valentine’s did with the Red Sox, leading them to a dismal 127-197 in 2012-13 before losing his managerial position there. Four days later, he was hired by the Royals. In May of last year, Sveum was promoted to his current position and the Royals have enjoyed great success since.
Sveum’s simple strategy of aggressiveness in the batter’s box for his hitters has led to the Royals’ resurgence.
Sveum’s managerial future benefits from his success in hitting coach with the Royals. Clint Hurdle can attest to such a career path, acting as hitting coach for the Texas Rangers in between his managerial tenures with Colorado and Pittsburgh. It is unlikely too many Red Sox fans will look back upon Sveum’s involvement with the Red Sox too fondly, but it is interesting to think of where the team might be now if Sveum had taken the helm back in 2012. Would they have won in 2013?
Stay tuned to BoSoxInjection for more of the Catching Up With Old Friends series and all the offseason development of the Boston Red Sox.