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.