Monday, September 22, 2008

Again? Really?

I thought I'd seen the last of this crap when Mariotti left. But I forgot one important thing: Rick Sutcliffe still exists.

When you look back at the Cubs the year before Lou Piniella took over as manager, they lost 96 games.

That's true. The team had a .319 OBP. Juan Pierre logged 699 at-bats. .245/.271/.339 Ronny Cedeno had five hundred thirty-four. Derrek Lee, the best player on the team, was hurt a lot and only batted 175 times. 80 starts were made by a pitcher with an ERA 5.32 or higher. They were very, very bad.

Two years ago, Piniella's first year, I was in uniform with the Cubs during spring training. We had a four-run lead in a spring training game and a lot of the guys that were on the field weren't going to be part of the team by April, but most of the team was still there sitting on the bench. Next thing you know, we started kicking it around out there and we'd given up the lead. I'd never been in the dugout for one of Piniella's eruptions, but he got up and started going up and down the line saying, "That's those Cubbies that lost 96 games! Now it's all coming out. Now, I can see what they were talking about. Boys you can't win baseball games like this. You've got to pay attention! Is anybody paying attention?" In other words, he went off.

That's how you turn around a baseball team, all you managing hopeful! Make crazy gestures with your hands! Ask if people are paying attention a lot!

Even the coaches came up to me afterward and said "Now you know, man. That's Lou."

How inspiringly irrelevant.

But Piniella was making the point that if they were going to keep playing like that, they were going to have him all over them every day.

While he certainly knows how to motivate, it's Piniella's ability to evaluate that's helped this team evolve from 66-96 to where they are today.

The additions of Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Jim Edmonds, Reed Johnson, Kosuke Fukudome, Geovany Soto, Rich Harden, and ::gasp:: Jason Marquis had nothing to do with it, I'm sure.

This is the first time since 1908 that the Cubs have gone to the postseason in back-to-back seasons. If you had to just pick one person responsible for the transformation, it would have to be

Derrek Lee being healthy? Soto breaking out? Ryan Dempster putting together a stellar season out of nowhere? Carlos Marmol emerging as a force in the bullpen?



A couple of years ago, Piniella noticed Ryan Theriot starting to press a couple of weeks into spring training. Piniella took him aside and told him to relax, that he was coming to Chicago with him. When everyone was focusing on Theriot's limitations, saying he had a weak arm and no power, Piniella looked right at me and said that he knew Theriot was the kind of guy he could win with.

HAH! Those crazy suckers that thought Theriot had no power and no arm were.....exactly right.

Theriot is slugging .351. That's Scott Podsednik territory. He has a very good .375 OBP, and coming out of 2B or SS, he's fairly valuable. But given all that, his complete and total lack of power reduces him to being a league average hitter, even at that OBP clip. He's also not a good defensive shortstop by any means (which isn't really his fault, he should be playing second base on any team with a shortstop than can hit better than Ronny Cedeno). All of this makes him one of the 15 or so most overrated players in baseball.

And if you look at Theriot, he's won championships in college at LSU and in the minor leagues.

This is not a big deal at all.

He reminds me a lot of Craig Counsell or David Eckstein.

Ya don't fucking say, shithead.

When you see a big inning from the Cubs these days, he always seems to be right in the middle of it.

Gotta love this statement. You can't disprove it! And I guarantee you it holds absolutely no water.

Piniella also recognized the problems with the starting rotation he inherited with Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. He knew something had to be done. They parted ways with Prior, but he saw something that told him that Wood could be the closer. It was his idea to put Ryan Dempster back in the rotation and move Wood to the bullpen, knowing Wood's arm couldn't hold up to the innings needed out of a starter. Piniella figured if he was only going to be able to throw two innings effectively, why not make it the last two.

That move was pretty smart, but it completely takes whatever say Jim Hendry had out of the equation, and also negates the fact that Ryan Dempster has pitched better this season than ever in his entire career. Piniella does deserve some credit for making the move, but you're fucking acting like Piniella is pitching for Dempster or something.

Piniella would be quick to tell you that the players deserve the credit.

Because he likes saying accurate things.

But the one thing a good manager does is put the players in a position to succeed. Take a look at center field, for instance. Back in May, Piniella saw that they had only five home runs from left-handed hitters. He said they couldn't win like that. That's when he decided to give Jim Edmonds a try.

WOAH WOAH WOAH. Stop right there. You're acting like Piniella had this nobody named "Jim Edmonds" just rotting away in triple-A or at the end of the bench and was like, "you know, nothing else is working, let's run this kid out there and see what he's made of!" Jim Edmonds was signed by Jim Hendry. Does Jim Hendry get any credit for any of this? Any at all?

Now, if you look at their production out of center field since the All-Star break, it's completely changed, and they're doing it with two guys that had been released in Edmonds and Reed Johnson.

Reed Johnson was also snatched up by Jim Hendry, not manufactured in Lou Piniella's "Players-I-Need-O-Matic Machine" (TM).

He's not throwing Johnson out there every day, especially against the tough right-handers. That's where Edmonds comes in. Likewise, Edmonds doesn't have to face the best lefties. They are put in a spot where they can succeed.

Woah...careful everyone. Sutcliffe just stumbled upon the idea of a "platoon". It's a very vague concept and entirely new to managing. Very few managers can pull off this hyper-creative and complicated tactic.

As great a job as Joe Torre is doing with those characters in Los Angeles, Piniella is my National League Manager of the Year.

This is so ridiculous. Not so much the Manager of the Year part, but how can you be completely and totally ignorant to how much better the intrinsic quality of the players on the Cubs has become over the past two years? Do you know what a difference a healthy Derrek Lee makes? How about having one of the best catchers in baseball just break out before your eyes? Is that Piniella? What did Lou Piniella have to do with snagging Rich Ha-(Hold on a second, "Home Improvement" just ended, and it has been replaced on the television by "George Lopez." This needs to stop before I can finish that word)-rden? Don't get me wrong, the man has pushed a good amount of the right buttons in his time on the North side, but there are umpteen more important reasons to why the Cubs are good. You, Rick Sutcliffe, are the quintessential example of why ex-players should not be given writing jobs simply because you used to play baseball.


JimA said...

If I remember correctly, Ryan Dempster began his career as a starter. he has been lobbying for a starting shot since he went into the bullpen. Here's a qoute
Dempster spent his first six seasons in the big leagues as a starting pitcher, and only Philadelphia's Tom Gordon -- who spent his first nine seasons taking the ball every fifth day -- has started more among current stoppers

As for Wood, didn't a guy named Stone suggest he would only be able to pitch as he does as a reliever, but Wood stubbornly said no, and the manager at that time didn't have the balls to say anything to him? Now Piniella is a genious, but Stone was a backstabbing creep?

Tonus said...

You realize that if the Cubs lose in the playoffs, all of these "Lou for President" articles will be replaced with "Lou can't win in the playoffs" articles, with the 2001 Mariners as the centerpiece of the conversation. He'll be accused of being a "Moneyball disciple" or something to that effect.

Angelo said...

Is no one going to mention the joe torre comment? I know we're going to have to deal with the media and their impression of joe cool, but leading the dodgers to a 5-over-500 season is nothing to be proud of. The fact that they're going to the playoffs shows how bad the NL West is, not how well torre is dealing "with those characters" in LA.

Aaron B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aaron B. said...

I think Rob Dibble is the quintessential example of why ex-players should not be given... etc., what you said pnoles. At least Sutcliffe can color commentate and could write well about pitchers and stuff (though that doesn't excuse this mess that i ignored when i went to ESPN's MLB page). Dibble was a dick, hot-head, a reliever, and couldn't analyze a backyard checkers match, much less baseball.

What's funny is that because Lou is such a huge figure to most baseball writers, Jim Hendry's the one who's not in the spotlight, though he should be.... i mean, those terrible contracts (*coughSoriano*, ahem) and decisions won't catch up for a few season.

dan-bob said...

1. aaron: dibble is a nasty boy. respect it.

2. i hate dempster. hate hate hate.

3. me and theriot once talked hitting and he actually bragged about hitting one OUT OF WRIGLEY FIELD in bp. lulz, you r teh studz, theriot.