Sveum takes over with change in mind
GM Melvin gives interim manager freedom to make decisions
CHICAGO -- Dale Sveum has a tall task ahead of him, but if he's feeling the pressure, he didn't show it Monday.
Speaking in front of a media contingent that gathered at the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue, Sveum was clear about what he expects from the Brewers over the final 12 games of the season.
"To pull it off would be nothing more than we think should happen," said Sveum, who will replace Ned Yost as manager for the rest of the 2008 season. "We have a good team. We were one of the best two or three teams in all of baseball two weeks ago. So obviously, we have the personnel to do it, no question about it."
Of course, there are plenty of managers who have taken the reins of a team in far more precarious situations than Sveum, whose Brewers are 16 games over .500 and tied with Philadelphia for the National League Wild Card.
Craig Counsell said as much Monday.
"He's 12 games from the playoffs. That's a pretty good position," Counsell said. "I'm sure he's excited because he has a great opportunity and I think that's how we all feel as a team."
Sveum was the Brewers' first-round Draft pick in 1982 -- 25th overall -- and he spent five years in Milwaukee before being traded to the Phillies for Bruce Ruffin. He spent parts of the next six seasons with five clubs.
His experience with an assortment of managers and players will no doubt influence his own managerial style. But no special experience or strategy can overcome players who simply haven't played well.
"I played for [Lou] Piniella, I played for Jim Leyland," Sveum said. "I played for Tom Trebelhorn, I played for [Tony] La Russa. You're dealing with different personalities. They're all good managers. But the bottom line is you're usually a good manager because you have pretty good players."
Sveum's coaching career got under way almost as soon as his playing career ended. He managed Double-A Altoona in Pittsburgh's Minor League chain from 2001-03 and was Boston's third-base coach from 2004-05 before the Brewers named Sveum their first-base coach in December 2005. He spent one season as Yost's bench coach when Robin Yount decided to leave the organization after a year but moved back to third when the team hired Ted Simmons last winter.
Simmons was reassigned to an advisory role on Monday, and Yount will rejoin the organization as Sveum's bench coach.
"You need to find people you're comfortable with, you can talk to, and mix well with the other coaches as well as the players," said Sveum, who was given the opportunity to mix up his coaching staff by general manager Doug Melvin. "I'm very happy that Robin, my best friend, was able to on short notice."
A change in coaching strategy will almost certainly complement the changes to the club's personnel.
Sveum has some changes in mind, said Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, but the new skipper planned to "ruminate" on those changes overnight and meet with his coaches and select players early Tuesday before putting any of them into effect.
"He has some ideas that sound a little different," Attanasio said. "Doug told Dale that it's his show and he will make whatever changes he wants. If his decision is to make no changes, then that's Dale's decision."
Sveum, usually quiet and reserved, was not ready to announce any changes.
"You're asking questions that I don't know the answer to until I get into the clubhouse and start doing my own thing," Sveum added. "I'm a very straightforward person, probably sometimes too brutally honest. That gets in my way sometimes and it benefits me sometimes."
From ownership and management right down to the players, the Brewers organization appears supremely confident with what Sveum brings to the table, both from a coaching standpoint and in leadership.
"I think everyone respects Dale," Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "It's not like people are going to be looking at him and questioning what he does. Everybody already respects him from the years that he's been here. It comes down to players, and all of us playing better.""They'll all find out how tough Ned's job was, right?" Melvin said. "Dale is a capable guy, a good baseball guy. He is familiar with our ballclub. Dale is up to the challenge and we'll see what he can do with a short period of time. I have confidence in Dale or I wouldn't be putting him in this position."
David Just is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.