Recovering from this bloody beating against Washington is Dale Sveum’s biggest challenge to date with the Cubs. Not his win/loss record, not the 12-game losing streak, nor anything else this season compares to the immediate difficulty ahead.
Sveum’s club wasn’t just crushed on the scoreboard, they were crushed emotionally, which presents a threatening danger for the manager and his troops.
The carry-over effect could turn daunting for a team practically sprinting towards a franchise-worst record.
“Probably one of the biggest butt-whippings I’ve gotten in my career, as a coach or player.” “I don’t remember getting manhandled that bad in any kind of series I’ve ever been a part of.” –Dale Sveum
Being bludgeoned so decisively further weakens the shaky confidence of his younger players, diminishes his team’s moral and puts the club at risk of falling into a season-ending tailspin—essentially reaching depths more damaging than 103-losses.
In a season already long lost, that’s not something Sveum or the organization can afford to let happen.
CUBS SHOWING LACK OF DESIRE
I don’t know for certain if the Cubs mailed-it-in at the nation’s capitol, but it sure came across that way on television.
Chicago appeared mostly unresponsive, disinterested and content while getting their collective heads kicked-in by the Nats. For all intents and purposes, Chicago rolled-over in awe of the team with the major’s best record (85-52). It’s not about why the Cubs got swept, it’s how they got swept that’s troubling.
The outcome doesn’t necessarily come as a shock given how young, inexperienced and out of contention the Cubs are this year. But it’s also not the kind of unacceptable effort Sveum can allow to fester.
Letting bad energy and raw emotions, the likes of which we saw from bench coach Jamie Quirk Thursday night, run a muck is kryptonite for a clubhouse. And once a skipper losses his clubhouse, there’s no getting it back (Bobby Valentine), not even Sveum, who’s being judged aside from mere wins and losses, can overcome such disruption.
Now, I’m not suggesting Sveum’s lost anything yet, but the risk is most definitely there after a humiliating series like this one.
IS SVEUM THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB?
Have I lost faith in Dale Sveum? Not at all. He’s pulled through numerous trials and tribulations this season …everything from clubhouse leader Kerry Wood’s early-season retirement, to lengthy losing streaks, to Bryan LaHair’s demise from All Star to bench-warmer, to watching the few good players he did have depart via trade at the end of July.
In fact, Sveum’s leadership has hardly come under question at all this season. He’s overcome every setback, taken every punch, and all the while continues to steady a sinking ship we believe is on course for brighter days ahead–for the Cubs and its manager.
That’s why I’d hate to see Sveum lose our faith and that of his players so close to season’s end. And I’d hate to think of the repercussions this offseason if he does lose the support on both sides.
Sveum’s done too good a job to lose it all now, but that’s what could be on the line as the Cubs continues its road trip through Pittsburgh and Houston…and over the final month of the regular season for that matter.
It’s going to take a lot more than one god-awful series to warrant Sveum’s dismissal. But failing to extinguish the dumpster-fire in DC only allows the chance for it to grow into a burning inferno.
So while there’s not much for Cubs fans to care about the rest of the way, Sveum’s response, and more importantly, his players’ response, from such an embarrassing series is well worth paying attention to.
If Sveum has anything left to prove in 2012, it’s that he can put out this fire–and pronto.