CHICAGO - Dale Sveum felt as though he was seeing the same pitch twice when he interviewed for the Chicago Cubs' managing job.
The Milwaukee Brewers' hitting coach said Monday the process mirrored what he went through in Boston last week, with management firing similar questions his way and putting him through a game simulation.
Whether he gets a chance to replace Mike Quade in Chicago or Terry Francona on the Red Sox bench remains to be seen.
"They're the two most prestigious jobs in baseball, if not sports," Sveum said. "It's two of the same, but they both rank right up there. I'm honoured to be just considered for both of them at the same time and the same season."
Sveum has little experience as a manager, other than an interim stint for the Brewers late in 2008 when he led them to the playoffs. He also served as Boston's third base coach when Theo Epstein was the general manager, but he has competition for the Cubs job.
Chicago interviewed Philadelphia bench coach Pete Mackanin last week and is scheduled to bring in Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux, who has pulled out of the running for the Boston job, on Wednesday. The Cubs fired Quade after a 71-91 season that extended their infamous championship drought to 103 seasons, and they are in the early stages of a major overhaul.
Not only did they land Epstein as their new president of baseball operations, they brought in general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player development head Jason McLeod hoping they can work the same magic that helped Boston end its own title drought. Now, the Cubs are in a competition of sorts with the Red Sox for a manager.
Given the strong ties, that's hardly a surprise. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington worked for Epstein, so it makes sense that their lists would overlap. Sveum and Mackanin have interviewed with both teams.
Whoever gets the Chicago job will take over a team coming off a fifth-place finish in the NL Central that is saddled with big contracts belonging to Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs also boast a talented young player in all-star shortstop Starlin Castro and, now, a management team with a championship pedigree.
When he served as Boston's third base coach in 2004 and 2005, Sveum was often criticized for an aggressive approach that led to runners being thrown out at the plate. But he was part of a championship team and also is a believer in advanced statistical analysis, which fits with Chicago's new leadership.
"I do my due diligence and video work and prepare as much as anybody," Sveum said. "As far as the stats, those are what they are, and we can use them to our advantage. It's a big part of the game now. It's helping us win a lot of ballgames, the stats and the matchups. That's just part of the game now, and you use what you can. But a lot of that stuff, we do throw out, too."
In Chicago, one number stands above all others — 103 and counting.
Sveum couldn't explain why the Cubs have gone so long without winning, saying, "It's the million-dollar question. I wish we all had those answers. Being a baseball player and coach for all these years, you always bring the Cubs up and why. It's almost like a fluke that this kind of firepower hasn't won the World Series before."
Sveum, who played 12 seasons with the Brewers and six other teams, did well in his limited run as Milwaukee's manager. He had been the third base coach when he took over on an interim basis in 2008 after Ned Yost was fired following a 3-11 slide in September. Sveum led the Brewers to their first playoff appearance in 26 years, winning six of seven down the stretch and capturing the wild card on the final day of the regular season.
Milwaukee then decided to hire a more experienced manager in the off-season and went with Ken Macha, who lasted two seasons. Sveum stayed on as the hitting coach and oversaw one of the best offences in the National League last season. With Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder leading the way, the Brewers hit an NL-high 185 homers and were third with a .261 batting average on their way to the NL Central title.
"There's no doubt about it, I wanted that job and felt like it was the right time at that time," Sveum said. "I just moved on. I knew it was going to happen someday that I was going to get an opportunity, so I never lost hope."