Cubs president Theo Epstein admitted Friday he opened the door to speculation about manager Dale Sveum’s future by answering a question “that could be interpreted a number of different ways.’’
But Epstein didn’t change that answer, saying Sveum and his coaching staff will be evaluated in “standard’’ fashion, adding “it will be resolved quickly after the season and we’ll move forward.’’
With one year left on his contract, Sveum’s future never seemed in question until Epstein gave an unexpected answer this week to a question about next season.
“We answer questions honestly, or we try to,’ he said Friday. “[I was asked the question] `is anyone definitely coming back.’ Well, no, because we’re in the midst of an evaluation process. That’s really standard for this time of year.’’
Sveum repeated Friday that he “understands’’ the process, but the uncertainty it has spawned was clear in the manager’s defense of his coaches—who also are under review.
“Unfotunately they get put in the same boat as I am,’’ Sveum said. “They’re all kind of out there. But they’ve done a great job, each and every one of them. You ain’t going to find a harder working staff and guys prepared on an everyday basis.
“When you’re around the game a long time and been on all different sides, you know the process and how it all works,’’ he added. “Going in you know it, that’s part of it.’’
Epstein points to positives about Sveum even as he repeats the need for “the evaluation process.’’
“I’m proud of a lot of what Dale and his staff have accomplished,’’ Epstein said, but it was easier to cite the accomplishments of his player development staff, which Epstein lauded as “outstanding.’’
“We had about as good a year as we could have ever expected in player development, and to a certain extend in talent acquisition, too,’’ he said. “I’m really proud of all our [minor league] staffs and all our player development folks. I think our system has taken a huge step forward. “There is still room for growth, but as far as the progress we’re making, we’re right where we want to be. Who knows how other people see us, but we think we have one of the farm systems in the game and we’re couldn’t be more excited about our future.
“On the major league level, obviously it’s more a mixed bag,’’ he added. “We’re working on moving forward on both fronts.’’
Epstein said All-Star pitcher Travis Wood and the play of catcher Welington Castillo “really stand out’’ as positives. But his praise for the bullpen’s turn-around and improved starting pitching focused on pitching coach Chris Bosio and his staff.
“That’s an essential foundation piece for any team,’’ Epstein said of the pitching.
It appears the evaluation process for Sveum will look at what hasn’t gone well.
“If it’s a down year, you especially want to focus on what didn’t go right so you can get to the bottom of it. And then make sure you have the people and the processes in place to correct that,’’ he said.
Epstein dismissed as “borderline disrespectful’’ the suggestion that others like New York Yankees Joe Girardi, whose contract is up, are being considered if Sveum isn’t retained.
“I get it,’’ Esptein added of the speculation he triggered. “It’s the nature of not just [the media] but our entire society. It spreads quickly.
“But until we get to where we want to be as an organization, everyone, including myself, gets evaluated, and we look to find places that we can do better in next year. We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if there wasn’t an evaluation process.’’