“Today, we made the very difficult decision to relieve Dale Sveum of his duties as Cubs manager," Epstein said in a statement. "Dale has been a committed leader for this team the last two seasons, and I want to thank him for all of his dedication and hard work."
Sveum's dismissal comes 13 days after Epstein declined to give Sveum, 49, a vote of confidence despite saying there were "no alarm bells to ring" regarding the manager. Epstein said Sveum's future was part of the annual process of evaluations throughout the organization and that the manager wasn’t to be judged on wins and losses. The Cubs lost 14 of their final 18 games and finished 66-96.
However, it was apparent that Epstein and his staff were disappointed with other areas in which Sveum was to be evaluated, such as the development of young players, in-game decision-making, use of the 25-man roster, the ability to “create a culture of accountability, hard work and preparation, and the ability to develop a strong trust with his players.”
Those were the categories that Sveum -- who had a year remaining on his contract -- was to be judged on, Epstein said Sept. 17 in Milwaukee.
Epstein met the media Monday and said Cubs management became concerned during the first half of this season about whether Sveum was the right fit for the job. He said they expressed their concerns to Sveum during the All-Star break in a series of meetings and outlined what improvements were needed.
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Epstein said he met with Sveum "over a couple of beers" Sunday night and delivered the news of the dismissal.
Epstein said of the firing: "We needed to get it right before (the top prospects) come up."
Sveum’s firing could pave the way for the Cubs to pursue New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi, a former Cubs catcher and Northwestern graduate who remains popular in the Chicago area.
Epstein said "we need that spark of a winning culture." He said they would prioritize track record and find "a proven leader. .... We know what we're looking for and I think we're going to find it."
Epstein said they would begin the process of contacting candidates Tuesday and hoped to be finished by the November general managers meetings.
Sveum addressed the media outside Wrigley Field and said that his coaches have been told their fates rest in the hands of the new manager. Sveum said he was unsure of his next career move.
"I wish it could have lasted longer, but we do all these jobs to be fired," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, this happened quick.
"(Losing) wears on you, but you knew going in it was going to be a process. We just weren't able to pull it off and get to another level."
Epstein’s decision to not give a vote of confidence shocked Sveum and his staff, according to one source, because several core players -- pitchers Scott Feldman and Matt Garza, slugger Alfonso Soriano and outfielder David DeJesus -- had been traded and the team was filled out with journeymen and prospects who didn’t prosper for other major league teams.
Under Sveum, who took over for Mike Quade after the 2011 season, the Cubs finished with a 61-101 record in 2012, marking the first time since 1966 that the Cubs lost at least 100 games in a season.
But unlike Leo Durocher, who lasted 5 1/2 more seasons after losing 103 games in 1966, Sveum wasn’t afforded the same security.
A big reason was that shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, each of whom received seven-year contracts, experienced subpar 2013 seasons.
Until Epstein’s comments in Milwaukee, there were no indications that Sveum could be in trouble. As recently as earlier this month, Sveum told beat writers he looked forward to watching games in the Arizona Fall League to evaluate top prospects Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
With Sveum’s firing, the Cubs will have their fourth manager in five seasons in 2014.