Friday, June 26, 2009

Lou Says He Still Has The Fire, Doesn't Need To Show It

When a team struggles, people look for answers...and the Cubs just so happen to be in that position this season. The North Siders sit at one game under .500 (34-35) and seem to be playing about as inconsistent as humanly possible. Their performance this year has been nothing short of puzzling, so Cubs fans have started the Blame Train. For one reason or another, Lou Piniella seems to be a popular scapegoat. So today at U.S. Cellular Field, I was in the dugout before the game when Lou Piniella met with the media as usual. Only this time, Lou was ready to clear the air about people blaming things on him, which was a topic that he did his best to avoid up until this point.

So while the Cubs manager may seem quieter these days, he insists that his passion for the game hasn't wavered. "I've got as much fire as ever," says Piniella. "I just don't think that arguing with the umpires is going to help. I really would be making a fool of myself, like when I was younger." Sure, it may be surprising to hear that perspective from a man who was notorious for his tirades, but I understand what he is getting at here. He furthered his explanation by citing the fact that baseball is in a different era. Years ago, it may have been commonplace for a manager to sprint out of the dugout and put on an Oscar performance after a bad call, but maybe Piniella thinks that baseball has recently moved on from the base-throwing, dust-kicking, hat throwing antics.

"Arguing with umps isn't going to change anything," said Piniella. "If you want me to put on a show, I'll give you a show, but the league office is going to end up suspending me." I agree with him; I don't think he needs to go out there and argue. The bottom line is that a manager is hired to put the best lineup on the field, make the proper decisions during the game, and motivate his players as needed. Lou Piniella can't go stand behind his players at the plate and tell them when to swing nor can he can't go out there and pitch. It is up to the players. And the guy has done just about all he can do to try to get the team going. Whether it was changing the lineup, sending guys down, bringing guys up, or making situational moves, Piniella has tried everything that could possibly be a catalyst for this team's success.

I know that some culpability has to come with the manager's role, but when you have someone like Lou who has clearly tried everything across the board, it's exhausting to hear the amount of people calling for his head. You wouldn't believe how many angry Cubs fans we get calling into the radio show asking for Piniella to be fired. The question I always ask them first is "do you really think firing Lou Piniella would actually help the Cubs win more games?" Who else is going to come in? The manager of one of the minor league affiliates? Our pitching coach Larry Rothschild? Lou is the best person to have at the helm in this situation.

Firing coaches isn't always the best thing for a team. Exhibit A: Gerald Perry. The Cubs fired him from his position as hitting coach a few weeks ago because of all of the troubles they've had at the plate. Let's just say it hasn't made the wins start to magically appear. Perry ultimately took the blame for something that wasn't fully in his control. So when people want Lou Piniella out of his role as Chicago Cubs manager, I think that it's simply a cop-out. People want someone to blame, so they don't see why it shouldn't be the manager. But I don't think that is the way to handle a struggling baseball team...maybe in a different sport, but not baseball.

Look, all I'm saying is that the guy took us to division crowns the last two years. Now it's just a matter of actually playing up to our potential in the playoffs. Although the Cubs have struggled this year, they are still in the thick of things in the NL Central. "We are in it, we'll make a run, so just be patient," said Piniella in the dugout before the game. Hey, Lou has enough experience in baseball to be able to properly assess situations. So if he says that the Cubs still have yet to hit their sweet spot, then I'll take his word for it. Until then, people just need to relax and look at the season realistically. If you want to blame someone for the poor start, look at the guys with the bats in their hands. They are the ones who play the game...not Lou.

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