Goatriders of the Apocalypse

2009 Player Previews - Lou Piniella

This is the third year that we've done Player Previews, but it's the first time that they won't all be accompanied by my silly (and sometimes bizarre) photoshops.  We'll be kicking off the full run starting next Monday and running through the first few days of the season. For today, I hope you'll enjoy your teaser of ...

2009 Player Preview: Lou Piniella

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This article is brought to you by Bench Aaron Miles, covering Cubs positional battles all year long!

I remember exactly what I was up to when Lou Piniella signed his contract to manage the Cubs back before the '07 season. I was pretty well appalled by the guy. He'd been one of three or four guys the Cubs were looking at. The rest were younger and - I assumed wrongly - more open to managing baseball in the new school way rather than using traditional (and very wrong) models.

In other words, I thought he was going to turn into another Dusty Baker, batting his center fielder leadoff no matter what, always starting the veteran over the young guy, burning up the arms of his pitchers, killing the team's chances of winning.

Man, I was wrong.

It's been two years and coincidentally or not, the Cubs are the repeat NL Central Champions. It's their first divisional title repeat in about 100 years. And it may never have happened without him. Even with Piniella, the '07 Cubs were 22-31 on June 2nd, 9 games under .500. They were playing terribly. Their ace pitcher and starting catcher had just had a fistfight in the dugout. They were "dead to the neck up," quickly squandering the talent that Jim Hendry had assembled, and that's when Lou went crazy! It was the 73rd ejection of his career and it was also the catalyst for an improbable playoff run, not that I recognized that immediately.

From June 3rd and on, the Cubs were 63-46, the best in baseball. Last year, the Cubs were 97-64 - the best in the National League. In other words, since June 3rd, 2007, there has been no team harder to beat in the NL than the Cubs. Except for when the playoffs roll around.

October is a harsh month, and Lou has seen his share of playoff failures. As a skipper, he's managed teams into October 7 times - including the 116 win 2001 Mariners - but he's only won a single World Series. Which, to be fair, is 1 more than what the Cubs have won in Piniella's lifetime.

Regardless, the last couple of years have been losers for Lou in terms of his ultimate goals. He's not in Chicago to make money, although he is well paid. He's not there to pad his managerial record, he's already got more than 1,700 career wins. He's there to win the World Series. The Cubs are 0-6 in playoff games managed by Lou. Should they reach the playoffs in 2009 - and all signs point to it happening - will they be swept away again? I don't think they will be, but it's a big question. However what we shouldn't question at this point is Lou's ability to manage and his passion about winning. We shouldn't be concerned about who he'll start wherever - he makes decisions based on ability, not age or contract. I was wrong to doubt him. He's the best manager the Cubs have had in my lifetime, and I look forward to watching him work again in 2009.

This article is brought to you by Bench Aaron Miles, covering Cubs positional battles all year long!

Awesome post about Lou, and

Awesome post about Lou, and I look forward to the upcoming player previews. Pinella was probably who I was most excited about the team acquiring once the dust settled following the spending spree a few seasons ago. The cubs sorely missed having a quality skipper before he got to town, and in the time I've watched the team he's the teams single best dugout presence without a doubt; with his closest competition likely being Don Zimmer who was also a favorite of mine. Pinella is simply a different beast than most managers around the game today. He was a talented player, and he's lost little of the fire that fueled him to success as a player. He's well-respected by his players and peers, and I feel that he would have to be in the top 4 managers in the game today; with LaRussa, Bobby Cox, & Joe Torre in his company. The team needs Pinella to be at the helm if they want to get to the next level because few alternatives can provide everything that he does to a team, so I truly hope he sticks it out and stays aboard until the end of the ride with this group of guys.

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