Goatriders of the Apocalypse

In the spotlight: Lou Piniella

In the past couple of years, the most popular baseball name for replacing Dusty Baker has been Lou Piniella. It has almost become a mantra amongst certain Cub fans. But is Piniella really a good choice to be the next manager of the Cubs? It turns out that the answer is probably no. Like Dusty Baker, the style outweighs the substance.

Piniella has managed in New York, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. In that time he won a World Series with the Reds, 116 games with the Mariners, and has accumulated 1,519 wins against 1420 losses. But like Baker, his past success has come based on having star players and talented veterans. While Piniella might contrast from Baker in the sense that he runs a tight, disciplined ship, he and Baker have more than their fair share of similariies. In a recent EMail, Jake Larsen of DRays Bay explained it.

As an on-the-field manager, Lou is vastly overrated. However, for pitchers, he's got an un-Baker-like quick hook with starters. However, he'll leave relievers to get bombed if the game is already decided. He'll seem to fall asleep on the bench when it's a blowout loss. Strategy-wise, he's average at best. He'll send people to bunt runners over, just not always the right players. He's not innovative in his strategies either, rather Vanilla. If you mean disciplinarian, he'll suspend a player if they're late or give him grief. He'll hang a player out to dry if they make an ass out of him. If you mean plate-discipline, he won't help that. Crawford and Rocco basically taught themselves to take pitches, it wasn't Lou's doing. Also, if Lou is hired, Lee Elia comes along with him as hitting coach. Elia is almost just as bad of a coach as Lou, IMO. Players get tired of Elia easily and rather work on their own than with him, which is something you don't really want to hear happening with the hitting coach. He gets overly sensitive with the media and will go on curse-filled tirades if they ask a question deemed "stupid". Chicago and their media isn't the right combo for Lou. I'm a Rays fan from the Chicagoland area, so I know for a fact that Lou's responses to Marriotti's questioning may be worse than anything Ozzie has said.

Also, Lou will bitch and moan if Hendry doesn't supply him with players through Free Agency or Trade early in the season if his team stumbles from the start. He's a very "blame game"-type of manager. Lastly, Lou is horrible with young players or prospects. Unless they play great from call-up, he will have them ride the pine and give them very high-pressure situations to prove themselves. Even then, he has a short leash with them.

But don't take his word for it. Jake's colleague Tyler Marsh added the following:

Lou is an interesting guy. I thought it would be great to have him here, but he was a terrible fit for the Rays. One thing positive about him is he wants, and expects to win. However he just wasn't a good fit for the Rays. He seemed opposed to playing young guys in favor of ageing veterans. For example, the Rays signed Alex Sanchez, he immediately tested positve for steroids. Joey Gathright played CF for the ten days he was suspended, hit over .300 in that limited period of time, however he was sent down because of his defense. The thing is, Sanchez had made 9 errors in half a season the year before in the OF. He was one of the worst defensive OFer's in the league. Now, is Gathright anything special, no, but he was certainly as good as Alex Sanchez, and who knows if being sent down after succeeding at the big league level hurt his confidence.

A similar situation happend with Gomes. He was crushing the minors, got called up, and for the first week he was up, he was the best hitter on the team. He was then benched for 10 days until Reggie Singleton was healthy again. Gomes was sent down at that point. The reason Lou cited for benching him was that he was going back down when Reggie comes back, and it wasn't fair for him to take at bats away from people who were on the team.

My last "play the veteran" complaint was he said publicly that he was upset when Lamar traded his "ace" for a prospect. He could have just been backing Zambrano because he was his player, but any objective person could see Kazmir had a great futue.

He's a fine manager for a veteran team, who has a relatively set line-up, like the Mariners of the late 90's or Reds of the early 90's, but he terrible for the Rays.

He was ok stratigically, and Julio Lugo credits him with making him a more patient hitter at the plate. He went from replacement level player to one of the 5 best SS in the AL for a couple years, so it wasn't all bad. I think he'd do ok for the Cubs, and you guys could win with him, provided Dusty hasn't completely destroyed every arm on the team.

Lastly, Jeff Sullivan of the Mariners blog Lookout Landing said the following:

How I remember Lou Piniella:

-intensely loyal to his veterans and distrusting of young players. To a fault (and beyond). His time in TB may have mellowed him out a little bit, but put him on a competitive team and he's liable to regress back to what he was.

-hates young pitchers and, if he doesn't scare them away, he runs them into the ground. Bryan Price helped him become more conservative in Seattle, but put him with a lesser pitching coach and he could do some damage. Not that Dusty isn't already the worst at this in the league.

-highly questionable in-game strategy. Lots of the old textbook stuff - hit-and-runs, steals, sac bunts, and so on and so forth. Also reminds me a lot of Dusty in this respect.

Lou is remembered fondly in Seattle because he happened to be managing when the Mariners won the city over. To his credit, he does seem to be a reasonably good motivator and generally manages to get the most out of his players, but if I were in the market for a new skipper this offseason, and I'm not the Yankees, I'd probably look elsewhere. There are just better fits.

So, what have we learned from the victims of Piniella?

1. He prefers veterans and will destroy the confidence of his rookies.

2. He's old school - no OBP.

3. He hates young pitchers.

4. Mediocre in-game strategy at best.

In an article today for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rogers writes that Lou Piniella "can manage up a storm."

We know that Phil Rogers has read this blog. We don't know if the Cubs brass reads us; they probably don't unless they are sadists. But if Dusty has taught us anything, it's that a history of success is utterly meaningless. And do we really want a manager who leaves such a lukewarm feeling in the mouths of the fans of the teams he runs? Do we want another Dusty Baker, but one who will make the team practice more?

Phil, maybe you're just reporting the news. It sounds to me like you're voicing an opinion. But nobody should want Lou Piniella in Chicago. Nobody. He would be a terrible choice in a winter where choice is the only arsenal we have against a future of mediocrity, and the Cubs need to do better.

If we're lucky, Piniella will want nothing to do with the Cubs. If Hendry is smart, he won't repeat a past mistake by pursuing Lou. I'm not convinced that Girardi would be a great choice, either, but he would seem to be a better choice than Lou. What is the mentality of the Cubs organization that they wouldn't sign the probable manager of the year who wants to work for them? Is it a, "if you want to play for us there must be something wrong with you" sort of thing? I don't get it.

But please, Phil. Please, Cubs brass. Please do better than Piniella. I know I can't speak for the other bloggers out there, but if Lou signs with the Cubs and goes to the Convention, I don't think I'm the only one who's going to rip him a new one. If this organization is serious about pleasing the fans, then you need to do better. This decision is important. Do the right thing.

Craig

Stone still has a good relationship with McDonough, so I guess you can't entirely rule out a return to the booth should Brenly get a managerial job somewhere.

Stone has said he has no interest in managing though, which is a shame, considering I think he's one of, if not the most, knowledgable guys in baseball.

Oh, and Girardi is official on the market.

Scott G. F.

Litsen good

Brently in as manager. Why? He knows what the Cubs needs are. He knows the players and the orgainization. He is the best choice. Plus he understand what OBP is.

Stone back in the booth. Let there be no dought he needs to be back and McDonough will bring him back. He is a fan favorite and the last link to the Harry Carry good-ole-days.

The Cubs need to go back and move forward all at the same time. The last 2 years have been horrible for us Cubs fans. We need something better from our team. I blieve there are people on the way to make the Cubs in to a winner again.

Jason R.

Brenly as Manager? In a word, no.

Brenly is totally and completely hands off. He needs a veteran club and can handle nothing more. If you thought Dusty was unable to crack the whip, just wait until you see what Brenly can do.

greg

Pinella terrible choice for manager, Girardi maybe a little better (i think everyone right now just has a little crush on him but they will get over it), Brenly i dont know. Its hard to tell about managers. It really is. Maybe the cubs will think out of the box and hire somebody we dont know about, that could be the best option out there.

Scott G. F.

Jason,
I respectfully disagree. Brently sat on his butt for 2 years watching this team. He knows what it'll take to win with the Cubs. Vet or rookie.

Byron

I've sat on my butt for the last seventeen watching this team... it doesn't mean that I can step into a big league clubhouse and be successful as a manager.

I think the reason I wouldn't want Brenly is that for the last two of those seventeen years on my butt watching the Cubs, Brenly has been calling games and generally not saying anything insightful or progressive... and he's had the chance. Len Kasper is constantly referencing ideas that have become more popular, emphasizing OBP etc... and Brenly almost always fails to engage him.

I would like the Cubs to mimic the Twins and A's. They need to focus clearly on the most signficant statistics and then build their team around those concepts. I don't expect this from Hendry, and I wouldn't expect Brenly to try and implement those ideas from the bench.

Haight

I'm not totally convinced about Girardi (although the Cub history makes it more palatable).

But I do think the new guy needs that mix of old school and recent player 'personality traits'. Basically, this puts him under 50 yrs old and played his last game within the last 5-10 years. This way he still has it in his memory banks on how it was to be a rookie along with better communication with the veteran players.

Although it works at times, I feel the big generation gap between players and manager can be difficult to overcome. Especially with so many 30 yr old gazillionaires playing these days

Now, who else fits this mold?

Haight

Oh, and leave the booth alone. Plus there's no way Stone would ever come back and work for the Cubs...at any capacity.

Scott G. F.

You're wrong about Stoney. He'll be back. He's popular with the fans and didn't get along with Dusty or McPhail. Both are gone. I see Stoney back.

Brenly is a good choice...better then Joe G.
I like Joe G. but not as the manager as unpopular as that opinion is.

Cubs Fan

As far as Piniella goes, he has won a world series. Baseball people seem to think he is a good manager. Fans of teams never think that their manager is any good. Fans are always quick to critisize, even though they have no idea whats going on behind the scenes and why a move was really made.

Ken Begg

In terms of Brenly not criticizing Baker from the booth, it is possible that he didn't consider it appropriate, in that he himself was previously a manager. Professional etiquette, and all that. (And it's not like it did Stone much good to actually point out the team's flaws.)

Paul Wenzel

Who is the right guy? I am a Wrigleyville resident and former employee of The Tribune Company. I have watched this company completely mismanage the baseball side of their business for years.

Jim Hendry is the smartest choice they have made. And if given the resources, can turn this thing around.

Lou Pinella, I agree is the wrong guy. Not sold on Girardi or Brenly either. So who? Who is ready to accept the responsibilty that we need to win now! I am so tired of my friends who are Sox fans giving me daily grief. I want to win. PUT ME IN COACH!

greg

Im glad that most of us are in agree about how sweet lou would be a bad choice. But i want to comment on what Byron said about mimicking the twins and A's. First of all, these teams were revolutionary for their time. Billy Beane was the first person to actually assemble a team based on OBP, he was the one that started the OBP craze. Everyone else has followed. So now basically everyone looks at the same stats and sees the same things in them. We need a visionary in the organization, someone to think outside of the box. and lets remember OBP is important but it is not the most important.

Jason R.

Actually, greg, that is exactly right. Well said.

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