2010 Manager Preview: Lou Piniella
Lou Piniella is loved. Make no mistake about it. An otherwise cynical Cub Fan Nation worships him as if he was able to walk on water, despite the fact that Criss Angel showed us how that miracle is performed through the use of mirrors and trick photography.
Last season, as the Cubs slowly chugged out of the starting block, people like myself felt a growing sense of frustration toward the much-loved Lou. I thought he was lacking in drive. I felt that he was abusing his bullpen. I argued that he was too slow to make a change, such as moving the shitacular leadoff man Alfonso Soriano to anywhere else in the lineup. I created a clever graphic that suggested the Cubs should "axe Lou."
The response was vile anger, and for one GROTA blogger it was the first blow in a succession of them that led him to retire from the site. In other words, don't mess with Lou Piniella.
We are the same fans who chased Dusty Baker out of town. We're the guys who caused Lee Elia to spew a profanity-laced rant decades before they became en vogue. We heckle, we name-call, we are second only to Philadelphia in our ability to turn on even an icon.
And Lou Piniella is hands-off.
This may also be his swan song in a Cubs uniform. In his time with Chicago, he became the first manager in a century to lead them to back-to-back first place finishes. He is the first skipper since Chance to take the Cubs to the playoffs. He has yet to suffer a losing season as a Cub. In other words, the guy has been freakin' amazing.
He's also in his mid 60's. He will be 67 this year. When he walks, his gut leads him as if to announce his imminent arrival. He has "senior moments." He doesn't seem to have the same fire that once defined his career. He insisted on batting Alfonso Soriano leadoff for a long-ass time last year.
If baseball is a "what have you done for me lately" sport, the answer in Piniella's case is "lose 6 straight playoff games, many of which the Cubs were favored to win."
But managers rarely win baseball games. We notice it more when they lose them, and, unlike Dusty Baker, Piniella rarely loses games. We can't assume that the next guy, whoever he is, will do better than Lou, and he may in fact do worse.
Therefore, as the 2010 season starts, we at GROTA put the full weight of our support behind Lou Piniella. May he do fantastically well this year. May he do so well that it elicits a new contract in the off season, and may he return in 2011 do perform just as admirably well yet again.