CHICAGO – It’s a few years too soon to know whether Dale Sveum will go down in Cubs history as a great manager, a terrible manager or (most likely) something in between.
But so far, Sveum deserves high marks for piloting a good clubhouse through a bad season.
After a pair of wins, the Cubs staggered to a 7-0 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday in front of another disappointing crowd of 32,311 at U.S. Cellular Field. The Cubs lost the annual crosstown series, four games to two, and remained stuck in the basement of the NL Central.
At least Sveum has prevented his players’ confidence from plunging to similar depths.
It’s not easy to stay patient and be positive when so much goes wrong so often. In the series finale, a Cubs lineup filled with Steve Clevengers and Luis Valbuenas could not score. A bullpen filled with Scott Maines and Casey Colemans could not stop the Sox from scoring.
When seasons go awry like this, funny things can happen.
Starting pitchers can get into angry shouting matches with veteran teammates in the dugout (see: Carlos Zambrano, 2010). Mercurial outfielders can snap at their managers and be ordered to leave the stadium in the middle of a game (see: Milton Bradley, 2009).
Both of those instances happened during the crosstown series at U.S. Cellular Field.
Thankfully, the Cubs’ latest visit to the South Side was free of foolish drama.
A few reporters tried to stir up trouble anyway by quizzing Sveum and a few of his players about comments made by Sox starting pitcher Jake Peavy, who had the gall to gently suggest that the Sox should be able to beat the team with the worst record in baseball.
The strategy failed as Sveum shrugged off the topic for what it was: a non-story.
“Sometimes, the record dictates those kinds of things,” Sveum said. “When you’ve won  games coming into a series, and the other team has won 35 or whatever it is, that’s the way it is. That’s the way you look at schedules.”
Likewise, Sveum has a reasonable outlook when it comes to his team.
The Cubs play hard. They pay attention to the details. They’re just not very good.
“There’s no complaints about [fundamentals],” Sveum said. “We’ve had a few hiccups with pitchers throwing the ball around, but as far as everything else goes, I can’t complain.
“Like I’ve said before, the effort and the preparation have been good. We really haven’t lost a lot of games because of our defense and fundamentals.”
As a baseball lifer, Sveum’s words carry weight. He was a first-round pick in 1982 and played in 862 career games before taking a job as a minor-league manager in 2001.
Before Wednesday’s game, Sveum sat at a table in the middle of the Cubs’ clubhouse and watched video of his hitters. He gripped a fungo bat during his pregame interview in the dugout, eager to take the field for batting practice on a steamy evening.
In the same way that Sveum enjoys being around the game, so does his odd mix of players. They have not quit on themselves or their teammates despite having little chance of success.
“We’ve had our times when we haven’t been playing that well, but we’ve played a lot of good games this year,” Cubs first baseman-slash-outfielder Bryan LaHair said. “I think this clubhouse really feels like we can win and we can play together as a team.”
Of course, feeling like you can win is not the same as actually winning.
But the lack of a miserable, me-first clubhouse proves that Sveum has won half the battle.
• Tom Musick covers Chicago professional sports for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.