The Lou Piniella era is about to begin on the Northside and a new wave of expectations and excitement will come along with him. Personally I'm looking forward to every mention of Sweet Lou being accompanied with the term "fiery
". It's really been an underused term in our lexicon over the last few years and particularly when it comes to Cubs managers. The last Cubs manager to be bestowed the "fiery
" label was probably Lee Elia who coincidentally was a coach under Piniella in his previous stints. Otherwise you need to go all the way back to Leo Durocher who was about as "fiery
" as they get.
As for the man himself, there's the public perception of Lou, which is of course "fiery". But it's always good to see what people who watched him on a day-to-day basis have to say. So I went to the very fine U.S.S. Mariner
and pestered them for their opinion. Derek Zumsteg, author of the soon-to-be released, "The Cheater's Guide to Baseball"
, was kind enough to humor me. I would have asked a Devil Rays blog, but I'm not sure if they exist and I'm kind of pretending those years didn't happen for Piniella. So let's touch on some manager traits, the board is yours Derek:
Traditional. Likes speed at the top, bunters.
Okay, honestly wasn't expecting anything else. As long as that speed comes with some on-base ability, fine by me.
He wants big guys who throw strikes. Hates pitchers who walk hitters. He can manage a veteran bullpen pretty effectively, but who wants to hand him a bullpen with six guys all paid 2-5m? Has, probably like all managers, a weakness for going to his guy.
Used to have one guy be the designated plunker, but he's really backed off that in recent years.
Sounds pretty standard, besides the "designated plunker" which sounds like it would be pretty cool to put on a business card.
predictable. Despite his reputation as a riverboat gambler, like most managers once you've seen how he uses different players, you can reliably predict when he's going to steal in games.
Not breaking any new ground here and he's coming in for a million less a year.
Treatment of young players
Generally bad. Prefers known quantities to veterans. Sometimes publicly critical of players he doesn't like in a really unproductive way. Likes scrappy youngsters without talent. Haaaaaates players he pegs as lazy or not grateful for their shot, which means players with a laid-back attitude or who don't sufficiently show their dismay after losses get run out.
That certainly sounds familiar with the added bonus that if you're untalented but get your uniform dirty who may get playing time. I wonder what Aramis is going to think about all this?
History of Pitcher Abuse
Ooooooooooh yeah. He really needs a good, strong pitching coach to reign him in. He was terrible with the M's staff in general and young pitchers in particular until Bryan Price took over pitcher management for him.
If those rumors of Rothschild coming back are true, I don't think he qualifies as a "strong pitching coach to reign him in.
Poor? He clashed with management here repeatedly over player decisions - he wants the players he wants, and he wants the players he doesn't like gone - and with management, then weaseled his way to Tampa Bay, where he spent a couple years whining. Maybe being with a new team will rejuvenate him. I doubt it, though.
Oh yeah, more whining. We didn't get enough of that the last time through. Please serve us some more along with a side dish of excuses.
Dealing with the media
Wahhahahaha! It's Lou! His press conferences are hilarious. Generally, the media guys love him because he's so quotable and willing to slag people.
Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh!!!
Wildly erratic. For all the whining about his ill treatment of young players, his decisions on who can't hit or pitch turn out to be pretty good, but is that because he breaks them? I don't think he looks for talent in a standard way: Lou takes a shine to certain players and then will find ways to use them, rather than look at his lineup and say "gee, I really need to work in this 4th OFer into two, three games a week". He's thinking "I like the way Rich Amaral gets his uniform dirty, let's give the kid another start."
On the other hand, he's also a guy who can take veteran super-utility players like Mark McLemore
and utility outfielders like Stan Javier, who both had limited but useful skillsets, and manage to get them a ton of at-bats against pitchers they can do well against while limiting their exposure in situations where (for instance) their lack of defense might hurt the team.
Well that sounds better than giving a ton of AB's to players who are in there for their gloves but in the end he sounds like Dusty's long lost brother who can tell a good joke. I couldn't be more thrilled.
Thanks to Derek for his time and his answers just confirm my suspicion that all fans end up hating their manager unless they win the World Series that year. It has to be one of the most thankless jobs in America. It's not that criticism is necessarily unwarranted or anything, just that fans get so close to the situation and so embittered by unrealized expectations and the one constant during most of that time is the manager, that they end up getting assigned the bulk of the blame.
But now that the regime change is place, it's hard not to be a little excited. Yeah sure, it could be just more of the same, but it's going to be very hard to be any worse that what has gone down the last three years and Piniella is cheaper and for less years. More importantly though is the tidbit reported here
that the payroll will be raised to $115 million. If you say it three times that means ití' true. Either that or you bring back Beetlejuice, I forget. But if Lou's presence gets the Trib to open up their pocketbooks, even if it's just coincidental, it's got to be considered a good move.
From the pure fan standpoint, I imagine Lou's press conferences and tirades will at least be entertaining. Also, when you're one of the worst teams in baseball, any change, even if it ends being only cosmetic, can only help. Sometimes all that is needed is an attitude change, and that's likely all this move will accomplish. The last guy set the bar so low that I go into this managerial change with absolutely no expectations, no hopes for a better tomorrow. Not to get all George Constanza on you for a moment, but if you could consistently get hired to replace someone who failed to meet all expectations, all you need to do is be mediocre and you'll be praised a genius. Here's your chance, LouPa.
But mostly I'm excited about the term "fiery"
accompanying just about every piece associated with Lou in the next three years. Because if you're "fiery"
at least we know that you care, or you have anger issues, but why split hairs?
Welcome to Northside Lou, may it treat you better than the last 49 guys.