The fall guys

Dale Sveum (2012-13): 127-197

On Oct. 1, the day after he was fired by the Cubs, Sveum got a call from Royals manager Ned Yost, whom he once replaced as the Brewers' manager. So this spring, instead of running the show in Mesa, he was in Surprise, Ariz., as the Royals' new third-base coach.

His story:

"I was the third-base coach for the Red Sox in 2004, so I saw that it could be done, and I was hoping to be the manager to do it for the Cubs, especially with Theo at the helm. The passion in the cities is similar, but the competition is different. The Red Sox had to compete with the Yankees, which meant they had to spend money.

"The Cubs are doing it the right way, but it takes time, and I thought I had more of it than I got. I'm not proud of my record there, but I am proud I was able to develop players who are going to form the core for years to come. I still believe in myself, and I want another chance to prove people wrong.

"Look, no hard feelings. They made a great choice in Rick. It'd be presumptuous of me to tell him what he should do. But if there's one thing I would tell him, it's to be true to himself. At the end of the day, you're the person you have to answer to.'"

ALMOST EVERY MORNING during spring training, Renteria holds a little news conference for the beat writers, and, on this morning, he's dispensing news ("Barney will start at shortstop today") and answering routine questions about Starlin Castro's injury and Edwin Jackson's decision to throw only fastballs in his last start. He doesn't give them much, but he does it in the nicest way possible.

He has a few more minutes before he has to get on the bus for an away game, so he consents to a conversation in his office.

"When I was a player, I never really thought about being a manager. I was too busy trying to stay in the game. It was John Boles, the farm director of the Marlins, who first talked to me about it after I was released, but I wanted to spend time with the family because I had been playing year-round for 10 years. He called me the next year, and I said no. The third year, I said yes.

"That first year in Brevard County, the players responded to me in a positive way, so I thought, 'OK, I can do this.' It's funny how your experience comes into play. Because I was a utility player, I had to watch every pitch of every inning, thinking about situations when I might be called on. I might not play an inning, but I would be exhausted. So that helped me as a manager.

"None of us get here by ourselves. There were the guys I played for, great managers I could learn from. Dick Williams. Jim Leyland. Rene Lachemann. But the manager who influenced me the most was my manager for the Alexandria Dukes in 1982, Johnny Lipon. He was a World War II veteran, an infielder like me who had managed the Indians, and he was a legend. He brought joy to the park every day and treated every player with respect. He's gone now, but I try to bring a little of him to the park every day.

"Yes, I've been getting a lot of advice, mostly along the lines of, 'Be yourself.' And I will be. That doesn't mean I'm going to be happy all the time -- I can get hot sometimes. I don't like to lose, and I expect to win every day. If I perceive a lack of hustle, or a lack of preparation, I'll let you know, but quietly, behind closed doors. But for now, I'm just trying to set a positive tone, take an even-keeled approach."

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