After serving as what we call a "backup beat writer" in the 1995 through 1997 seasons, filling in on the Yankees and Mets for The Bergen Record when the beat writers didn't work, I got my break in 1998, getting promoted to cover the Yankees.
You know that club went on to win 114 regular-season games and the World Series, and while I've evolved into a numbers-first geek, I'd never dispute that group was even greater than the sum of its excellent parts. What an impressive group of upstanding, hard-working guys, and if you had told me back then that starting catcher Joe Girardi would be the first of them to land a big-league managing job, eventually succeeding that team's manager Joe Torre atop the Yankees, I would've nodded and said, "Sure, I can see that."
If you had told me that backup infielder Dale Sveum would be coveted to manage both the Cubs and Red Sox in one offseason, eventually opting for the Cubs, as Jon Heyman reported last night? I would've gone on a giggling spree like Charles De Mar does to Roy Stalin in "Better Off Dead."
Sveum is a perfectly nice fellow, and he's been coaching for a long time. Shoot, the Yankees released him in August of '98, and rather than pursue a playing job elsewhere, he spent the rest of the season hanging out and working as a bullpen catcher, making him the most expensive bullpen catcher (his salary was $800,000) in baseball history.
But as the manager for a big-market franchise? I don't see it. Neither do some people in the industry who are really fond of him.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer aren't among those people, however, and neither is Epstein's successor in Boston, Ben Cherington. They're pretty bright fellows, we think. Maybe they see something in Sveum that others don't.
In terms of media pressure, the Cubs job certainly is easier than the Red Sox's. Perhaps that factored into Sveum's decision-making process. The NL Central also is an easier mountain to scale than the AL East.
I look forward to seeing how Sveum does at Wrigley Field. Meanwhile, the jilted Red Sox indicated last night that they'd interview other candidates now that Sveum is out of the mix. There have been some internal discussions about higher-profile candidates like Bobby Valentine, but I'd still expect Cherington to go with someone more along the Sveum-Mike Maddux spectrum.
--From Milwaukee, I wrote the column I promised, on Sandy Alderson being the face and voice of the Mets' transition.
--Good stories by Anthony Rieber, from Citi Field, on Ike Davis and the return of Banner Day. Love the return of Banner Day. Tremendous idea.
Of course, since this is the Mets, you can already anticipate the statement that evening from executive vice president of business operations Dave Howard: "We regret bringing back Banner Day and apologize to any and all who were offended. We will be writing sizeable checks to the ASPCA, the American Hemerocallis Society and the descendants of former president Calvin Coolidge to express our remorse."
The meetings wrap up today, so I hope to have a wrap-up after Bud Selig addresses the media. And also today, I'll try - time permitting - to divulge my ballot for the NL Cy Young Award, which gets announced at 2 o'clock Eastern time.