Sveum would love Fielder to follow him

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Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, November 19, 2011
— No offense to Dale Sveum, but Milwaukee Brewers fans are far more fearful of free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder joining the Chicago Cubs than they were of losing their hitting coach to them.

After being formally introduced Friday morning at Wrigley Field as the Cubs new manager, Sveum soon was asked about the possibility of influencing his new bosses to pursue Fielder.

“We haven’t gotten that far,” said Sveum. “Influence is probably not the right word. I’ve been here 24 hours. I don’t know how much influence I have.”

Perhaps, but Sveum wasn’t hesitant to note the close relationship he has with Fielder, who is almost certain to leave Milwaukee after six years with the club. If the Cubs don’t place a call to agent Scott Boras, you can expect him to contact them at some point.

“If it ever came to (team president) Theo (Epstein) and the Ricketts family thinking that was the right fit at the right time for this organization, I think me being here can only help the process,” said Sveum.

“We have a great relationship. I love Prince to death. It would be nice to have him at first base, the way he plays and what he brings to the table every single day. For the last six years, I’ve seen the guy play the game exactly the same every day.

“You always want people like Prince, just the way he plays. Not only does he do all that stuff, he produces. It’s nice to have guys who play hard and also produce.”

Understandably, new Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer wouldn’t publicly express interest in Fielder but admitted that Sveum “speaks incredibly high of him.”

“He talked about (Fielder) a lot during the interview process, all very positive,” added Hoyer. “As far as him coming to Chicago, I won’t comment, but they have a great relationship and Dale really respects the way Prince plays the game.”

Sveum’s closest friend in baseball is Robin Yount, who agreed to be his bench coach with the Brewers in 2008 for the final 12 games of the season after Sveum replaced fired manager Ned Yost on an interim basis. Now that Sveum has a three-year deal with the Cubs (plus an option year), he was asked if he would be able to persuade Yount to don a Chicago uniform, also.

“It’s probably not in his best interests at this time, and the stuff he’s doing with the Brewers,” Sveum said wisely. “We’re best friends, but he’s the face of the Milwaukee Brewers.”

Considering Sveum’s long history as both a player and coach with the Brewers, it was odd to see him don a Cubs jersey at his media session. He was asked if he felt weird to—as Brewers fans might put it—cross over to the enemy.

“Everybody in this room knows that Milwaukee and the Cubs don’t get along,” he said. “I shouldn’t say that. We didn’t get along with the Cardinals in Milwaukee.

“I did get texts sent saying, ‘Anybody but the Cubs.’ That’s more of a fan-based thing. It’s not that we hated the Cubs. We all get traded. We all sign as free agents. We know it’s baseball.”

Though passed over for the Brewers’ managerial job when Ken Macha was hired before the 2009 season and not considered when Ron Roenicke replaced Macha last year, Sveum thanked his former bosses for putting him in a position to get this chance.

“We did really well with a first-time manager in Milwaukee,” said Sveum. “I learned a lot from Ron. I’ve talked to him a couple of times the last few days. I want to thank (team owner) Mark Attanasio, (general manager) Doug Melvin, all of those people.”

Sveum, who will be 48 next week, certainly is familiar with the Cubs and their personnel after coaching against them the last six seasons. And he made it clear during his media session that he wasn’t always impressed with the intensity that the Chicago team brought to the field as a whole.

“Playing the game hard for three hours, you don’t see that looking over from the other side,” said Sveum. “That’s my biggest job and my biggest pet peeve, is seeing guys not play hard on a daily basis. You have control of that.”

Like everyone else in baseball, Sveum is aware of the long history of losing—or more specifically, not getting to and winning the World Series—associated with the Cubs. Wrigley Field has become a graveyard for new managers.

“Changing cultures, a lot of that is getting guys to be accountable and understand that losing isn’t OK, not running a ball out isn’t OK,” said Sveum. “It’s not acceptable.”

Sveum was courted simultaneously by the Boston Red Sox and Cubs, which he admitted had his head “spinning.” But Hoyer made it clear that Sveum was so impressive during the interview process that he separated himself from other candidates.

“The passion he has for the game is so obvious and the knowledge that he has,” said Hoyer. “I can tell you during the process, maybe an hour into the interview, we took a 10-minute break and he walked out of the room and we went, ‘Wow.’

“It was so clear that he had prepared for this his whole life. It just kind of flowed out. It was really impressive.”

Sveum took time Thursday to be measured for a tuxedo. He will be the best man next weekend at the wedding of Brewers clubhouse attendant Matt Smith and is participating this weekend in a prolonged bachelors party that includes the Green Bay Packers game Sunday.

“I’ve got to be there,” he said. “I’m the best man.”

The Cubs certainly thought so.

Last updated: 6:53 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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