Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lou Should Keep an Eye Out for Angry Mobs

Lou Piniella has gone against all good reason and sanity in an effort to fix his bullpen problem by converting a top 20 starter into a set-up man.  He rolled with his veteran corner infielders in an effort to let them hit out of their slumps.  He has moved one of his best early performers all over the lineup in an effort to plug the gaping hole in the offense.

He recently benched fan-favorite Ryan Theriot for reaching Aaron Miles levels of absolutely terrible.  His OPS in May was .502.  Aaron Miles' OPS last year was .462.

He finally benched practically his entire core of players that were supposed to be the guys playing the most crucial roles in returning the Cubs to the playoffs.  The end result was an offensive showing that was exactly the same as the game before that included the benched players.

He has used Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol as much as humanly possible without completely blowing them out before the All-Star Break.  He gave John Grabow every opportunity to earn the money Hendry gave him in the off-season.

Despite all the different things he has tried this year to kick-start the team, Cubdom is up in arms and many people are calling for Lou to be fired.  People are mad he isn't "showing energy" and getting kicked out of games to show the players he is behind them.  If the team is made up of guys who need a 66-year old man to scream at an umpire to get themselves worked up, the team has deeper problems than Lou's reluctance to act like Milton Bradley.

Al Yellon, who has been consistently critical of Piniella this year, is leading the charge at BCB:

I've said this before but it bears repeating. Two recent teams, with talent, struggled like this early in the season. The 2003 Marlins replaced Jeff Torborg at 16-22. Even then, they got worse before they got better; they immediately lost seven of their first ten under Jack McKeon to drop to that magic ten-games-under mark at 19-29. For the rest of the season they went 72-42 to win 91 games and the wild card.

Last year's Rockies were 18-28 when they fired Clint Hurdle, who had taken them to the World Series two years earlier. They went 74-42 under Jim Tracy and returned to the playoffs. Incidentally, almost the same thing happened with Tracy as with McKeon -- the Rockies lost four of their first six under him before going on a run of 17 wins in 18 games (and 20 in 23) that put them back in contention.

He is giving only two examples in over 100 years of baseball history.  But more than that, he is suggesting that the results of firing guys like Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy can give an indication of how the Cubs could rebound with a new manager.  The problem is that Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy aren't that hard to replace.  They are decent managers, but not great.  There is nothing special about them.

To borrow a phrase from Al, I've said it before but it bears repeating: Lou Piniella is the best manager this team has had in my lifetime and probably my father's as well.  If someone wants to argue that Leo Durocher was as good or better, I'll listen because I wasn't around then, but he would be the only one.  At worst, he is the second best manager my father has ever seen in his lifetime (and probably my grandfather's too).  He is not easy to replace.

The problem isn't Lou Piniella just like the problem wasn't Dusty Baker.  Look!  Dusty is a good manager again now that he's been given a team that doesn't involve Neifi Perez, Jacque Jones, and Matt Murton, but does have Joey Votto, a resurgent Scott Rolen, and a talented young pitching staff (that he will hopefully destroy).  I'll bet all the money I have that Lou Piniella would likely be a good manager again if the aliens ever return Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

Last night on Twitter, I asked people who want Lou fired who they would prefer manage this team.  The answers came back, Bob Brenly, Ryne Sandberg, and Alan Trammell.  We might as well throw Jeff Torborg and Jim Tracy onto that pile as well since they are all essentially the same level of manager.  Actually, that isn't fair of me to say.  Ryne Sandberg has yet to do anything to convince me he is capable of reaching that level and Alan Trammell oversaw one of the worst teams in baseball history.

We know what Brenly would do because he tells us at every opportunity on the broadcasts.  He would be a hard-ass who would be benching guys like Soriano and Ramirez for lack of hustle as though it would have any lasting effect besides pissing off his most talented players.  You can't tell me this veteran team will respond to that in a more positive way than they have responded to Lou.

So the best case scenario in a managerial change will result in a team playing exactly the way they have been before but paying another manager on top of what is left on Lou's salary.  It could also result in this team spiraling like the 2005 and 2006 teams and playing in front of a half-filled Wrigley Field.

Nothing will change with this team until the personnel on the field changes and since Jim Hendry has had years to build the team properly through the farm system and the easy way of using a boatload of cash and failed at both, he needs to go.  Let the next guy hire the next manager.

If the Ricketts want to go ahead and fire Jim Hendry and place someone else in charge and the next guy wants to get on with the future and dump Piniella, then that's one thing.  At least that is a forward looking plan and would also presumably involve a fire sale that would stock the system with some real talent.  But making a move just to salvage a team that was projected to be mediocre while including Lee and Ramirez not being pod people is just stupid.  The best hope for this season is Lou Piniella pulling one last rabbit out of his hat.

After that, as far as I'm concerned, anything goes.


Michael Proper said...

While I agree with your assessment that Dusty was somewhat unfairly derided, neither him or Lou could be considered good managers by any sense of the word. Looking at Lou especially, he has no idea how to manage a bullpen, he has shown major issues with logical lineup construction and, most egregious of all, he apparently doesn't look at stats (he has to be told only a few days ago about Theriot's lack of walks in May before he realized it)

Now I am firmly in the camp that the manager, over the long haul, gets too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when they aren't, but the fact remains that Lou has been borderline inept.

But even ignoring this, it's almost a lock that he will be gone after this season and Sandberg will take over. Now from what I've read about Sandberg, he doesn't seem like someone to really be excited about, but he's inevitable so why wait with a lame duck manager like Lou? Really what is another four months in AAA going to teach him?

Aisle 424 said...

Why is it that when Ozzie Guillen throws out racial epithets and curses up a storm in front of the press, he is "taking the pressure off his players and placing it on himself"? But when Lou plays his dottering old-man card, he's a feeb and should be in a nursing home? Couldn't that be his tactic? It seems to be working. Lee and Ramirez and the craptastic bullpen are the problems, but everyone seems concerned with changing the manager.

Anybody who thinks Lou had no idea about Theriot's walk totals and almost any other measure of performance that doesn't involve an Excel spreadsheet is delusional. Lou knows exactly what is going on and uses his old grampa persona when it suits him.

As far as managing a bullpen, he seemed to manage that Nasty Boy bullpen just fine in Cincinnati. You know what that bullpen had that this one doesn't? Talent.

You can rearrange the chairs on this ship all you want, but it doesn't change the fact that the name of it is Titanic. We all want to bitch about him leaving in Lilly, but if he had taken him out and the lead had been surrendered by a reliever, everyone would be bitcing that Lou should have let Lilly decide his own outcome in the game.

Changing to Ryne Sandberg may not matter, but if it doesn't matter, why do it? Why saddle Sandberg with this shitty team when he should have an opportunity to come in and start fresh. It's a no win situation for whoever comes in unless Lee and Ramirez start acting like the Lee and Ramirez we all know and love, and there is nothing any manager can do about that.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your assessment. While I did say that I was a couple of losses away from jumping on gthat bandwagon, I'm not on it yet. There are a little over 100 games left to play and a surge by this team is possible. The losses are magnified because it's the Pirates. The problem is, and has been, the offense that can only muster 2 runs a game versus pitchers with E.R.A's north of 5. A change in manager won't make Lee and Ramirez start hitting again or enable Theriot to take more walks.

Michael Proper said...

I'm trying to figure out what reasoning you are using to defend Lou because it isn't very clear. You say his "dumb, old man persona" is an act, but what proof do you have of this? Yeah, maybe all of the moronic things he says during press conferences IS an act, but it's just as likely if not more likely who he really is. At one point has Lou ever made it seem like he has a grasp on the game beyond the "old school way of thinking?" Making some random prediction that he's smarter than he seems behind closed doors is pretty presumptuous.

And just because he handled the Reds bullpen well, but yeah, it IS easy to manage a really good bullpen with durable arms. When you have a mediocre to decent one like the Cubs have, you can't just pick three guys you assume are the best and just say "screw it" and throw them out the same way you could with Dibble/Myers.

(And by the way, I agree with his call to leave Lilly in last night, but that doesn't excuse the multiple situations where he clearly made the wrong decision over the past four years.)

And another thing I forgot to mention is the patented Lou Piniella Dog House where he holds random grudges against productive players like Michael Weurtz and Will Ohman and all but shun them off the team.

At first I was thinking maybe he was just too apathetic to be successful, but the more I think about it, the more I realize he's just really really bad.

And yeah, a change in manager doesn't mean Lee or Ramirez start to hit, but it can at least help this team improve in the ways that Piniella is undoubtedly taking them in the wrong direction.

thejoshbaker said...

'Productive player' and 'Will Oh-man' should not be used in the same sentence.

Aisle 424 said...

I guess his winning of a World Series, 6 Division Titles, 3 Manager of the Year Awards and over 1,800 wins in the major leagues makes me think he has something to offer.

If his stupidity was so rampant, wouldn't you think Jim Hendry, who has been in job-preservation mode since the Ricketts took over, wouldn't allow a demented geriatric to ruin his chances to retain his job after this year?

If Lou Piniella is "old school," there was nobody in the list of potential managers that would be a change from Lou's methods. Sandberg has been getting thrown out of games left and right in the minors to show how "energetic" he can be and never stops talking about baseball being played the "right way" like back in the old days.

We know Brenly is 'old school" and Trammell was hand-picked by Lou to be his bench coach. I doubt their methods would differ much.

So again, what would be gained by dumping Lou? Nothing. Only bad things can happen. The only good things that can happen are if the guy with the pedigree and experience can manage one last magic trick.

Michael Proper said...

Everything you list in the first paragraph means nothing to me. Like you even said, talent trumps everything and his talented teams won in spite of Lou, not because of him. So my question remains what makes him a good manager? If you want to throw out pointless awards like Manager of the Year, that's fine, but I don't count that as legitimate arguments.

As far replacing him now, again, why not? He's going to be gone after 2010 barring a really, really nice run this summer. And much would be gained from dumping Lou. One.) He would no longer be managing and Two.) Maybe our expectations about Sandberg won't be met and he actually could turn out decent. Again, it's inevitable that he's going to get his shot, so really the worst that can happen is that we come out even, because there's no way he's any worse than Lou. Best case scenario, he's not as much of a moron and provides a spark.

Michael Proper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Proper said...

And to TheJoshBaker, Will Ohman is a productive left-handed reliever. He shouldn't be used against RHB (much like John Grabow, though Lou is, again, too stupid to look at the stats and realize it), but he's a perfectly fine, financially safe LOOGY.

thejoshbaker said...

He had a career ERA+ 105 before these ridiculous two months of 403. He's a replacement level pitcher, and nothing else. If that's your definition of productive, fine, but to me, that's mediocre.

Michael Proper said...

ERA+ is a pretty terrible stat. He's got a 3.91 FIP and a .358 xFIP vs. Lefties for his career. Take away his terrible 2009 and it's even better. That's pretty solid. Not world-beating, but to say replacement level is dumb, especially when you consider we could have held onto him for cheap instead of paying $7m for Grabow. And Grabow might actually be better than Ohman in the long haul (he HAS has past success), but I'll take a slightly worse Ohman and and extra $5m or so than a slightly better John Grabow.

sitrick2 said...

I'm not sure either of them are to blame, honestly. If you look at the way this team performed in 2007 through about the moment that Weurtz was shipped out of town, it looks like a solidly run franchise.

You have to look at what changed over that period, and what changed was Ricketts. Ever since the ownership change the franchise seems to be operating without any kind of plan or direction; the moves have been reactionary and disturbingly in line with what the fans want, which is a dumb way to run a baseball franchise. Now Lou and Hendry will get shitcanned because that's what the masses are calling for, when in reality I get the feeling that Ricketts is pulling a lot of these strings and Hendry and Lou are just trying to do the best with what they've been given.

Aisle 424 said...

OK - then what makes the other people "better" at managing? Bob Brenly rode the hell out of two HOF pitchers (and a potentially 'roided up Luis Gonzalez) for two years and then settled into mediocrity and downright crappy in his last two years.

Alan Trammel didn't have much of a hand to play, but he hardly played it well. That 2003 Tigers team was brutal and the next two years were just bad. He obviously doesn't get more out of inferior players.

The only reason Ryne Sandberg is even a contender for this position is because of what he means to the franchise. I don't hear players singing the praises of his teaching methods when they come up to the majors. You heard more about their hitting coach.

So you have yet to prove to me how one of these guys is better than Lou Piniella, who managed to get a team that had everything humanly possible go wrong last year, finish above .500.

Bottom line, you don't like Piniella and I do, so we aren't going to agree on this and that's fine.

Post a Comment

The easiest way to comment is to choose the Name/URL option from the Comment As dropdown menu below. You do not need to put in a URL for this option to work.

Sometimes upon submitting the comment, you will get an error saying there is a problem. Submit the comment again and it should work. I am looking into correcting this glitch.