Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Okay, fine, you win

First, the back-story:

Way back on April 23rd, I wrote an article titled "The Litany Against Lou Piniella."  The summarization of this letter was that, because of his choice in batting order and his blunders with the bullpen, Piniella was to be on our Not to be Trusted list.  I concluded the article with this:

Therefore, Mr. Piniella, the Goat Riders of the Apocalypse can no longer endorse you as the manager of the Chicago Cubs.  We will question your every move, scrutinize your every mistake, and shout loudly to the heavens your every idiotic blunder. 

But I most say, sir, that it is not yet too late.  We do not hate you, nor do we wish to see you fired.  We believe that - like Saddam in the South Park movie - you can change.  We may still choose to support you at a later date.  Or we may take the next step and demand that you be let out to pasture before your senior moments cost the Cubs a pennant.

April the 24th was practically two whole months ago!  All sorts of crazy crap can happen in two months of baseball!   

Less than a week later I posted my first of several roster-fixing articles.

Yesterday, I posted an image that caused quite a ruckus.  The implication of my harmless photoshop?  Fire Lou Piniella.  That's when STUFF EXPLODED!  HOLY CRAP!!

So, fine, okay, forget it.  Let's try this revised image instead:

Axe Lou (don't!)See?  Everybody happy now?  It says don't axe Lou! 

Here's the thing.  Any Cub fan who says that a manager's impact is minimal has a short memory.  (In fact, maybe you should go get checked up ... Dusty's reign wasn't that long ago, dude.)

The manager writes the lineup.  And whether he bats Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez ahead of Derrek Lee or he bats Soriano leadoff, that sort of thing impacts how many runs a team scores each game.  Maybe it's minimal, but have you seen the minimal amount of offense the Cubs are producing? 

If I was the manager of the Cubs I would be entering the "contact a voodoo witch doctor" stage of the season.  I'd be calling in the hypnotists.  I'd start plying my opponents with booze and whores.  Lou Piniella has gone the route of leaving Soriano in leadoff and alternating between Lee and Bradley at 3rd and cleanup.

The manager -- I know, this one will blow your mind -- has some degree of say-so about the 25-man roster.  And a 25-man roster with your only backup third baseman being your starting second baseman coupled with an 8 man bullpen mixed in with your only backup right fielder being a first baseman kind of leaves me sick to my stomach. 

Why this hasn't been asked more often befuddles me but is it possible that the team's offensive troubles might be related to the lack of available hitters on the roster at any given time?  Just saying.

The manager is responsible for keeping his players focused and driven.  A common comment I've come across consistently ... uh, conclave my concise collateral ... (asenine alliteration)

Ahem.  Sorry about that.  People like to correctly point out that the manager doesn't weild a bat (unless he's knocking heads in the clubhouse after games) and can't really help it if his team fails to even remotely perform.  But have we already forgotten that over the span of about a week we witnessed the meltdowns of Dempster, Lilly, and Zambrano which fell hot on the heels of Milton Bradley's journey through Crazy Land? 

Again, memory loss much?  Wasn't it just 2004 when the last "most talented Cubs team we've ever seen" self-destructed in a cloud of injuries and player meltdowns as Dusty adapted an "us v. them" mentality that extended to Moises Alou and Kent Mercker threatening the broadcast team in the booth?  If Lou Piniella isn't responsible for, you know, managing his players then who the hell is? 

At this stage I am awed by the support Lou is receiving from Cub fans.  He is seemingly loved unconditionally.  He's the teddy bear of baseball with those cute button eyes who makes that notoriously loud farting sound when hugged ... yep, that's our Lou. 

So forget it.  Forget I suggested the Cubs fire him.  But all I know is that, historically, teams that have dramatically underperformed have turned it around when new managers are brought in mid-season.  Just ask the hated '03 Marlins or, for that matter, the '09 Rockies.

Still, accountability needs to occur here.  Jim Hendry needs to man up.  It is inexcusable that the team's only off-season option to play backup third base was a concussion victim who couldn't tie his own shoelaces without barfing.  Likewise, Neal Cotts as the only lefty out of the pen?  Who the hell thought that was a winning plan?

At the same time, Lou has lost me now and forever.  You won't read the words "fire Lou" consecutively on this website again, at least not written by me, but if this season turns into the turd continent it appears to be becoming, just remember where you read it first.  Last year was his year.  This year he's passed his expiration date.  I say again then that if the Cubs win anything it will be in spite of him -- and Jim Hendry for that matter.

But seriously -- does he have to kill your kittens or something? 

A manager should not be judged by how he looks when the team is winning.  Even the worst get to the Series -- Dusty Baker almost did it in back-to-back years.  No, a manager should be judged by what he does when things aren't working out, when losing is the norm.

Can somebody -- anybody -- tell me what Lou Piniella is doing to fix this mess?  Jason?  I know you and Leah are as pissed about the "fire Lou" thing as anybody ... what's he doing right now that deserves my support? 

And if it's true that a manager has little-to-no impact on how a team performs, then why have one to begin with?  Cut costs, fire the guy -- or never hire him to begin with, and spend the extra money on another player.

What can he do if the players are sucking?!

" And whether he bats Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez ahead of Derrek Lee or he bats Soriano leadoff, that sort of thing impacts how many runs a team scores each game. Maybe it's minimal, but have you seen the minimal amount of offense the Cubs are producing? "

So you are indicting Lou for consistently putting Soriano leadoff? If Soriano is hitting the way he is, wouldn't you be MORE frustrated if he was making outs with people on base? The logical implication of what you are saying is this: If only Lou would just get Soriano out of the leadoff spot, he would become an offensive juggernaught! Plainly put, this is NOT Lou's fault. You actually want Soriano hitting .225 in the MIDDLE of the order?!?!?! There are only 3 other position players on the cubs, and only one of them is a starter, who (according to batting averages) have a SMALLER chance than Soriano of getting a hit. You are advocating that we move our second worst starting player to an RBI position? Why not just let Soriano make an out with nobody on base (instead of with RISP), and let one of the other guys try and drive in Lee and Fukudome. This is not a problem of batting order, this is a problem of our highest paid player having an abysmal year. He'd be having an abysmal year no matter where you bat him, and you would be frustrated no matter what.

Anyway, back to Lou:

What on Earth can you expect a manager to do when people who hit these lines last year:

Bradley: .321 .436 .563 .999
Soriano: .280 .344 .532 .876
Soto: .285 .364 .504 .868

Are now hitting these lines this year:

Bradley: .234 .339 .386 .725
Soriano: .225 .291 .447 .738
Soto: .217 .324 .311 .635

Kurt, you have lost your credibility with this one. While posturing that you are one of the people who sees the team for what it really is, you're nothing more than a knee-jerk fan who says "The team is doing bad, but I don't know what the players are doing wrong, so it must be the manager! Fire him!" I can't explain why some of the league's best hitters from last year are sucking this year, but especially since two of them had great seasons last year UNDER LOU, I conclude that there is no correlation between these players performance and Lou Piniella. You're going to have to find an explanation somewhere else.

"So you are indicting Lou for

"So you are indicting Lou for consistently putting Soriano leadoff? If Soriano is hitting the way he is, wouldn't you be MORE frustrated if he was making outs with people on base?"

You make a valid point. Maybe the Cubs should take the 3 or 4 worst batters on the team and put them 1-4 so they won't cost the 5-9 hitters opportunities to drive in runs.

Wait, what?

"What on Earth can you expect a manager to do when people who hit these lines last year:

Bradley: .321 .436 .563 .999
Soriano: .280 .344 .532 .876
Soto: .285 .364 .504 .868

Are now hitting these lines this year:

Bradley: .234 .339 .386 .725
Soriano: .225 .291 .447 .738
Soto: .217 .324 .311 .635"

I dunno, I guess he could keep them away from the top of the lineup -- limiting the total amount of at bats (opportunities, in other words) that they'll have to suck every night. Or he could try other players on the roster and start them more often as a way to either motivate those three guys to get their acts together or to replace them outright should the new starters hit the ball regularly. Or he could mandate the team take lots of extra BP and spend way more time studying the tapes to figure out what's wrong. Or if Soriano, Bradley, and Soto are all struggling with injuries he could tell them to suck it up and go on the DL so they can heal properly and not let their nagging injuries hinder their production.

In other words what COULD Piniella do? 1. shuffle the lineup, 2. use his bench players more. 3. mandate BP/study. 4. DL his hurt stars.

"While posturing that you are one of the people who sees the team for what it really is, you're nothing more than a knee-jerk fan..."

You realize I'm the guy who, back in April and May told everybody to calm down, right? I'm the one who spends his time berating people who want to jump off ledges? I guess though that I'm not allowed to see concerning things and write about them, though?

Anyway, I ended this post by saying I was NOT advocating Piniella be fired, but instead I asked this: "Can somebody -- anybody -- tell me what Lou Piniella is doing to fix this mess?"

Your response was to tell me that I've lost all credibility for being critical of Lou. That wasn't really the answer I was looking for, but I'm sure this will remain a hot topic for a while... you've got plenty of time to take another stab.

I mean, again. He's the manager. What's his job, exactly, if not to manage his players?

I'm with Kurt on this one.

I'm with Kurt on this one. There's a lot more Lou could be doing to help this team win.

When Lou first came on, we were excited to have him over Dusty for a number of reasons. Two of those were:

1) Dusty had a serious hankering for veterans, regardless of output. On the other hand, Sweet Lou was ready to play the youngest guys on the team (Theriot over Isturis, Soto over Kendall) so long as they hit the ball.

2) Dusty insisted on batting Corey Patterson leadoff, even though he freaking sucked; he never experimented with his line-ups. Lou had shown more guts than Dusty to this end as well, experimenting a handful of times with taking Soriano out of leadoff.

Unfortunately, Lou is abandoning those exact principles which made him an attractive get for us in the first place. He's refusing to play Jake Fox over Aaron Miles (CLASSIC DUSTY MOVE!!!), and he won't take a guy hitting .160 in June out of the leadoff spot (not as great an example but still ignorant).

I hope to see Jake Fox in the starting lineup soon.

you are correct

I disagreed with you to start with, but now I am willing to back track. You have always been correct in your reasoning in for wanting Lou fired. My biggest issue was that typically firing the manager does not make much of a difference. As a matter of fact the only time that I know of that it did was in 2003 with Florida. I went back and reviewed their roster and their starters match up evenly with our current roster. They had or at least ended up with a better bench than we currently have. So do you think we can get Jack McKeon? The only other person I can think of that may have that kind of impact would be Bobby Valentine and he may be available from Japan. I would be interested in hearing your choices.

Believe me, I'm just

Believe me, I'm just concerned. I'm the last person to hate Lou Piniella and I wish like hell that he'd be working harder to address the issues that the Cubs have had since April.

If the Cubs canned him -- which I am now saying I do NOT wish to happen, I just wish he'd fix his solvable problems -- I don't have any particular guys in mind to replace him. Preferably a younger guy, maybe Trammell, NOT Sandberg, who could handle this roster with an ounce of sensibility.

That's the real surprising thing about peoples' reaction to this ... I've never been the reactionary kind of guy. I've always, ALWAYS been a guy who processed things before making any kind of opinion and it's not like my take on Piniella came from left field yesterday.

Maybe I'm wrong, I don't think I am, but why the heck can't the Cubs just tinker a little until the offense picks up the slack? Even the pretense of TRYING would make me feel a lot better about the current druthers.

"But all I know is that,

"But all I know is that, historically, teams that have dramatically underperformed have turned it around when new managers are brought in mid-season. Just ask the hated '03 Marlins or, for that matter, the '09 Rockies."

And how exactly do you "know" that. What exactly are you basing this statement on? Is there actually a stat/figure that you're basing this on? I didn't see the Cubs rock the house once they fired Don Baylor. This is a pretty meaningless statement without providing any real context isn't it? I mean "Just ask the hated '03 Marlins or, for that matter, the '09 Rockies." is not exactly in depth analysis.

You're still here? I thought

You're still here? I thought the ACB crowd would have dispersed after yesterday.

turning it around

miltie,
You say that "historically, teams that have dramatically underperformed have turned it around when new managers are brought in mid-season.". Yes, the "03 Marlins did, but they are the only team that I can think of that did it. The "08 Mets did not, the '09 diamnondbacks have not, at lest yet and I would think the jury is still out on the '09 Rockies. The only 2 reason's that I personally believe that a manager should be fired are: if he has lost control of the team or to bring in a fresh set of eyes to evaluate the talent. If there have been more teams than the '03 Marlins to turn it around I would like to know for my own benefit. If I am wrong about something I want to know.

He was actually quoting me

He was actually quoting me when he said that.

Interestingly, if he's trying to play the stat-hound-as-evidence card, he's doing it (as you'd expect from an ACBer) like a tool.

Here's the argument: most teams that fire their managers do it because things are just plain bad. Sometimes it's because the manager is bad, sometimes it's because the TEAM is bad. If the TEAM is bad, it won't matter if the manager is kept around or not. Therefore it wouldn't matter if 5% of all teams had better records after a firing or if 25% did, because there are a VARIETY of factors that would have to be considered.

The trick would be to look at pre-season projections and compare them with a team's winning percentage before the firing and after it. And even THAT wouldn't do a perfect job of proving either argument because there are still a ridiculous number of factors to take into account -- mid season trades, injuries, etc, unexpected declines, etc.

In the case with the Cubs this year, they were widely picked to easily win the central and not just by Cub fans. So, we can all agree that the poor play was unexpected. As you would argue, a lot of that falls on the shoulders of the players who just aren't hitting the ball. But when we look at the things a manager is responsible for -- lineups, rosters, pitcher use, player attitude (read: suspensions, etc.) -- then we can begin to justifiably shift blame at least a little.

When the Rockies fired Clint Hurdle, they went on an 11 game winning streak immediately after. Coincidence? Probably.

Of course we have the Brewers last year who fired the incompetent Ned Yost and then made the playoffs as the wild card team, but the firing happened late in the season and it's probably impossible to argue that they managed to hang onto a playoff spot for dear life because of it -- even if Yost WAS incompetent.

Anyway, some recent examples of what we're talking about:

The Red Sox -- 1988, fired John McNamara (43-42), replaced by Joe Morgan (46-31), went on to lose the ALCS.

The Rockies -- too early, but they're 14-5 since they fired Hurdle (18-28). But! Hurdle got them to the Series just two years ago! He couldn't POSSIBLY have lost it since then! (Or maybe they got there on the merits of their talent and not the merits of his managerial skills)

Florida - 16-22 in '03 under Torborg, 75-49 under Trader Jack and eventual World Series Champions.

Houston Astros - 44-44 under Jimy Williams in '04, 48-26 under Phil Garner and eventual NLCS losers (and World Series losers the next year)

The '78 Yankees - 52-42 under Billy Martin, 48-20 under Bob Lemon, World Series winners.

The '83 Phillies - 43-42 under Pat Corrales, 47-30 with Paul Owen, World Series losers.

Last year's Jays - 35-39 under John Gibbons, 51-37 under Cito Gaston, didn't reach the playoffs

The '92 Expos - 17-20 under Tom Runnells, 70-55 under Felipe Alou, didn't make the playoffs.

I'm sure there are more but I was mostly only looking back to the past 20 or 30 years in these cases. The point is, it's not so uncommon that it's unheard of. And maybe there were other factors in some -- or even most -- of those cases. Players coming off the DL, or reaching the majors and succeeding, or a crate of 'roids showed up, or whatever. And on their own, they mean nothing -- but firing managers and succeeding HAPPENS. And for a team that was projected to do extraordinarily well, only to be .500 in June ... well, I'm not saying they SHOULD but nobody has actually provided a coherent argument about why they SHOULDN'T.

Thanks for the info

I did not realize that there were that many teams that had a major turn around after changing managers. If you count the Mets of last year that would be 4 teams in the last 6 years that made, or made a serious run, at the play offs. In my mind makes the firing of Lou a no brainer. I would hope the same as you that it does not come down to that. As I know you do like Lou and so do I. We have 12 games before we met the Cards and Brewers again. If Lou can not build on the energy of today's win his run would have to be over. Thanks again for the history lesson.

Ha!! Watching you guys

Ha!!

Watching you guys backtrack on a regular basis is hilarious.

"The trick would be to look at pre-season projections and compare them with a team's winning percentage before the firing and after it. And even THAT wouldn't do a perfect job of proving either argument because there are still a ridiculous number of factors to take into account -- mid season trades, injuries, etc, unexpected declines, etc."

"The point is, it's not so uncommon that it's unheard of."

Compare this statement to the previous statement of yours that I quoted earlier.

"But all I know is that, historically, teams that have dramatically underperformed have turned it around when new managers are brought in mid-season. "

Now you acknowledge that in fact there is no validity (can't be proven) to the idea that teams that underperform and hire new managers turn it around. Or at least that we have no way of proving that this is the case.

Don't get bitter when people call you out on your nonsense.

Good one....

You've got me. One sentence

You've got me. One sentence worded too strongly just shreds the argument all together. Counter-programming at its best -- and not even counter-programming that even attempts to address the numerous points actually made over the course of the argument.

However I would like to thank you for being such a fantastic reader of this blog. I know you love us and it means a lot to have a loyal reader such as yourself. Anyway, what was your point again? That there isn't historical evidence of teams -- numerous teams, as it turns out -- winning at a much higher rate after manager turnover? Who's spouting nonsense?

"Now you acknowledge that in fact there is no validity (can't be proven) to the idea that teams that underperform and hire new managers turn it around."

Actually by taking only 5 minutes to look I found what, half a dozen recent examples of teams that dramatically out-performed themselves once their manager was replaced?

I get that your standard procedure is to desperately grab onto one sentence that stands out and to ignore all evidence after that point... is that how you always argue? Do you actually think you're RIGHT in those situations or do you just feel some strange sense of satisfaction because you believe you've annoyed somebody? Did you notice that you're arguing a point YOU agree you can't prove while telling me I'm wrong for arguing a point you think *I* can't prove? At this stage I've got considerably more evidence than you, so let's play it your way and take it to the next level:

Prove your point. You wanted historic examples of teams that turned things around. I have provided recent ones. If you want to prove that the changing of managers mid-way had nothing to do with their turn-around then do the research to back it up ... what roster changes happened on or after the dates that those new managers came in? What happened to the team (or teams, as will be the case) that were out-playing them before that date -- did they have injuries? You've got your start in the list of teams I provided, now sack up and actually show evidence that the managers who came in had nothing to do with the team's turnaround.

After all, since you're hanging on my every word (thanks for that) I'm sure you read that I wrote it would be DIFFICULT to identify all the factors. I didn't say it would be IMPOSSIBLE -- you did. (You're welcome to prove that opinion too, otherwise it is simply baseless, just like your apparent preference in blogs.) Unless you think the evidence doesn't exist -- and I'm pretty sure there are transaction logs available on the internets that should give you pretty much all the info you need -- then you should be able to make a spreadsheet and get to work.

We'll be waiting. Ta ta.

"After all, since you're

"After all, since you're hanging on my every word (thanks for that) I'm sure you read that I wrote it would be DIFFICULT to identify all the factors. I didn't say it would be IMPOSSIBLE -- you did. (You're welcome to prove that opinion too, otherwise it is simply baseless, just like your apparent preference in blogs.) Unless you think the evidence doesn't exist -- and I'm pretty sure there are transaction logs available on the internets that should give you pretty much all the info you need -- then you should be able to make a spreadsheet and get to work.

We'll be waiting. Ta ta."

LOL way to make him your BITCH!!

"Did you notice that you're

"Did you notice that you're arguing a point YOU agree you can't prove while telling me I'm wrong for arguing a point you think *I* can't prove? "

Don't change the subject. You made a baseless claim. I argued that your claim was baseless. THAT was my point. You proved one thing. That I was right.

"Anyway, what was your point again? That there isn't historical evidence of teams -- numerous teams, as it turns out -- winning at a much higher rate after manager turnover? Who's spouting nonsense?"

More of the same from you....see paragraph above. Keep on creating strawmen to make yourself feel better.

Still waiting. A piece of

Still waiting.

A piece of advice for you in the future: don't make claims of certainty that you are either too lazy to prove or just smart enough to later realize that you were wrong.

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