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Should the Cubs Fire Lou Piniella?

May 17, 2010, 8:18 AM EDT

The thought hadn’t really crossed my mind until I read Ken Rosenthal’s column suggesting just that this morning:

It’s not Piniella’s fault two of the team’s biggest offensive threats,
third baseman Aramis Ramirez and first baseman Derrek Lee,
are under-performing. It’s not his fault Hendry provided him
with an inadequate bullpen.

It’s certainly not his fault the
vibe around the Cubs is forever gloom and doom, which happens when you
go more than a century without winning the World Series. Still,
Piniella played a role in many of the Cubs’ major roster decisions — he
always wants what he doesn’t has, worrying little about future
consequences.

To his players, he remains a demanding, glowering
presence, if less outwardly emotional than in the past. The
Cubs, much as they appear to need a collective kick in the rear, might
benefit more from a little stress relief.

They could stand to
relax.

Rosenthal isn’t out on a limb by himself here. At least one Cubs blogger — Al Yellon at Bleed Cubbie Blue —  thinks Piniella should go too. Like Rosenthal, Yellon is basically arguing mood here as opposed to citing any concrete examples of what Piniella is doing or not doing that is leading to Cubs losses.

I’m having a hard time getting on board with this. The Cubs’ primary problem is that their offense depends on older guys in Lee and Ramirez who are having bad seasons and may be entering their final career descent before our very eyes. Their secondary problem is that their bullpen stinks. I don’t see how either of these things will change if Piniella were to magically disappear.

Both Rosenthal and Yellon seem to base their arguments on mood and tone and all of that, but is that really a problem in Chicago? Sure, it’s gloomy because they’re losing, but that’s a symptom, not the disease. Is there any suggestion that Piniella’s overall temperament is contributing to the losing? And if you believe in the manager-as-motivator theory, shouldn’t Lou actually be credited for, say, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome’s strong starts?

Finally there’s the matter of Lou’s successor.  Most people agree that, ultimately, it will be Ryne Sandberg, who currently has the helm down in Iowa.  It makes no sense to me to either (a) install him now, after such a rocky start to the season, preventing him from setting the tone for a new administration the way he could in spring training; or (b) name someone else interim manager with so much season remaining, potentially complicating the Sandberg ascension.

What if, as Rosenthal suggests, the Cubs name bench coach Alan Trammell interim manager and the Cubs go on a nice run? There’s no bigger Alan Trammell fan on the planet than I am, but do the Cubs really want to put themselves in position where they feel obligated to go all-in with him going forward or, alternatively, throw him over the side despite the improvement and have Sandberg start amidst controversy? And if Trammell doesn’t rally the troops, what was the point in canning Lou in the first place?

I understand that people want to do something in Chicago, but it doesn’t make much sense to me to fire Lou Piniella. There’s no upside to it and plenty of down.

  1. oh Hal - May 17, 2010 at 9:10 AM

    Hollering for the head of the manager is a constant in baseball. One irony is that an hour South, talk radio and the intertubes are alight with criticism for the manager because he isn’t “fiery.” The team needs someone like Lou Piniella say the locals.
    There is so little to criticize in both towns that critiques like Al Yellon’s center on the need for more bunting. When they’re wearing their stathead hats, doing things like Yellon’s squeeze bunt for a tie in the ninth are stupid and old school, but when they’re old fashioned angry at losing Joes, more bunting is called for.

  2. Professor Dave - May 17, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    It’s always seemed to me that in high pressure situations (like Chicago), nothing matters more than the even keel, the ability to shelter some of the players from the pressure, to create a sense of comfort and predictability, to let the players revel in success and to shield them from failure (which, of course, baseball is full of).
    Lou does exactly the opposite. He overreacts to both failure and success, takes credit for victory and casts aspersion for loss. Even the fighting managers like Cox and Gardy actually defend their players when shouting.
    That said, the Ryne Sandberg issue is compelling, so there’s no reason to rush to firing.

  3. Aaron M Hatch - May 17, 2010 at 9:49 AM

    It would be best to let Piniella finish the year. If he is fired now, he and others would claim that the new hitting coach and terrible bullpen were the problem and not him.
    If they struggle for an entire season, he has less to excuse himself for.
    Plus, come on people. He’s had the balls to bat Soriano 6th and 7th, throw Zambrano in the bullpen, and tell the media to screw off when asked about it. Something in me respects that more than going with the status quo.

  4. Gene McCaffrey - May 17, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    Look at his managerial career and it’s hard to avoid: has any manager ever done less with more than Lou Pineilla? The Mariners especially, a team that had two of the best players of all-time at their positions, in their prime, plus Randy Johnson, plus Edgar Martinez, plus several other good players. He left the Rays at the moment they were about to become good – missing what was pretty obvious to informed observers, and he should have been more informed than anybody. Can’t blame Lou for the bullpen? Yes you can because he hasn’t had a good bullpen since 1990. You can also fault him for failing to correct the Cubs biggest problem: they haven’t had a lefty slugger since, oh, Billy Williams.

  5. Joey B - May 17, 2010 at 10:24 AM

    Not that I think he’s done a great job or anything, but it might be a little early for the over-reaction. They can still make a decent run if Lee, ARam, Z, and Lilly start playing up to their capabilities. I still disagree with the decision to put Z in the BP, though I don’t know if that was more Lou than Hendry.

  6. Jonny5 - May 17, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Well, one thing I have to say is, he’s the polar opposite of Charlie Manuel, who is more than a manager, he’s one of the guys. He’s fun to be around and I don’t think there’s a more relaxed club in baseball than the Phills. His style works, and it works very well. And his southern podunk attitude is one very endearing attitude compare to that big Jerk-o this post is about. Maybe Pinella has it all wrong? Instead of ruling with an iron fist, maybe ruling with a pat on the back and encouragement is the best way? Yeah, I know, they’re men playing, and being paid to do so, but who works to 100% when they can’t stand the boss?

  7. Fast Eddy - May 17, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    No it ain’t Lou. How can you blame this guy when his two big men our not hitting their weight? In the midele of the lineup, the Cubs have broken down. And Zambrano? who thought he would fold up this early in the year? A good manager does not have to be your best friend. Some great managers in the past have been hated by the players, but he MANAGED to get them to play for other reasons. Oh yes, I forgot. The biggest reason the Cubs are fading, THE CURSE! Enough said.

  8. funi - May 17, 2010 at 11:19 AM

    This is the most overrated manager there is! He won 114 games with Seattle and lost in playoffs, in a big market in Chicago and still does not win! He won a world series 20 years ago!! If he was manager in K.C or Cleveland, he woudl have been fired a while ago!

  9. brent - May 17, 2010 at 11:54 AM

    long time cub fan….and as our teams do badly fans and analyst always look at the manager and the common phrase is “its not the managers fault players aren’t hitting” so what’s the problem…the players, who’s problem is that Jim Hendry. he’s the one that needs to go. look how accessible he is when the team is doing good, but can’t find him anywhere when the teams is doing bad. He is notorious for getting veteran players on the down side or at least on the the down slope. The problems with veterans is “we’ll do better tomorrow” tomorrow never comes, we need young hungry talent. Get rid of Soriano he’s done and we still owe him 90million and til have him til he’s 41yrs old. seriously a 8yr contract when he was 33! of course he signed it he’s no dummy. Big Z is done, Lee will be done soon, Fukudome is not what he was supposed to do. Jim Hendry is holding the strings on this puppet show, he’s the real problem. He’ll get a good player here and there in order to have a good season just to releive the pressure but he’s not going to orchestrate a championship with his farm system and the players he signs. til hes gone we will be signing the same old song….

  10. adam - May 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM

    It’s no so much the attitude by pinella, it’s the in game decisions… leaving dempster in to face votto, a LH hitter when we had the lead late in the game and Marshal warmed up and ready to go, not bunting the potential tying run from 2nd over to 3rd with no outs, staying the course last season with the veterans and not giving young guys with hot bats a chance (Soriano vs Fox, Hoffpaur vs Koske etc). Get him out because he can’t manage game, not becasue he can’t motivate or he is too fiery.

  11. adam - May 17, 2010 at 12:01 PM

    It’s not so much the attitude by pinella, it’s the in game decisions… leaving dempster in to face votto, a LH hitter when we had the lead late in the game and Marshal warmed up and ready to go, not bunting the potential tying run from 2nd over to 3rd with no outs, staying the course last season with the veterans and not giving young guys with hot bats a chance (Soriano vs Fox, Hoffpaur vs Koske etc). Get him out because he can’t manage game, not becasue he can’t motivate or he is too fiery.

  12. ed-dough - May 17, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    Jim Hendry is the root of the problem. Why? The Soriano mega-deal…eight years for someone who was never a complete hitter and worse defensive player, the idiotic Milton Bradley deal, and trading Mark DeRosa for absolutey nothing. With the Cubs payroll they should be in the upper eschelon of teams.

  13. Preston - May 17, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    I think they should make Sandberg and Trammell co-managers – we could get the ultimate 80s double play combo, only in managerial form. Plus, I think the idea of co-managers would be fun (if a little sitcom-y).

  14. The Rabbit - May 17, 2010 at 1:28 PM

    IMHO, the manager of a major league ballclub is no different than a manager in any corporate setting where you don’t have control of hiring decisions. You do the best with what you have; therefore, winning may not be possible.
    If I use that as my basis, I subjectively evaluate managers on in-game decisions and leadership. Leadership includes non-tangible things like taking responsibility, confidence-building, and motivation.
    That said, I wanted Lou replaced last season.
    I believe he’s prevented Fukudome (and probably others)from reaching potential. He made it publically known in prior years that he didn’t like him. How brilliant is that! Actually, my son and I have gone as far to call some of the Cubs’ losses “the Fukudome curse” when Lou brings in a .190 hitting right-handed hitter to pinch hit for him.
    He’s dumb enough to berate players in front of the media. Whether the player “deserved” it is not the issue. The very fact that he’s done it undermines his effectiveness.
    I have yet to see him take responsibility for any of his decisions, although, I will admit I don’t read the local Chicago sports coverage on a daily basis.
    You raise valid points as to why his firing would be problematic for a successor at this point in time. However, I will pose the hypothetical question: If Lou were to quit (not gonna happen) or become incapacitated (I’m not wishing it) and the Cubs were forced to replace him, who would they choose?

  15. Mar - May 17, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Not All Chicago really cares what happens to the cubs, They are a second rate team, Just can’t understand how there are so many people out there that care for this team- I guess losers attract losers.

  16. kennymac - May 17, 2010 at 5:06 PM

    Not Lou. Rothhschild. Who’s he helping?

  17. tom beckman - May 17, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    Lou’s made several bad judgement calls this season. For example, playing a rookie over mike fontenot, who was playing and hitting well. It’s alright to give the kid some playing experience, but don’t yank out a good player to do so. give the kid a few innings at a time till he knows what’s expected of him. The problems the team is having started before this season anyway. Trading away mark derosa was a major blunder. In my oppinion he was the best utility player the cubs had. You could put him in anywhere on the field and mark always did a great job. And he was a super hitter as well. Putting Zambrono in as a relief pitcher, instead of in rotation is rediculious. He brings to much to the table for the team. As for lee and ramirez, I have no answers. Maybe lou is putting to much stress on the team,and if so then ownership needs to reprimand him for it, and set him straight, before it’s to late.

  18. Gary T - May 17, 2010 at 8:02 PM

    As a life-long Cubs fan, I was not a Lou Piniella fan at first. But when he got the team to the post season in back-to-back years, I thought he might just be the right guy for the job. I am now rethinking that opinion. I personally think the old Lou, the firey Lou, is what this team needs. I happen to like Aramis Ramirez and Derek Lee. But have you ever watched them approach the game? Specifically, watch them go to and from the plate. Their lackadaisical demeanor says they couldn’t care less. They need a kick in the pants aka. Marines drill-sergeant style. Like little cry-babies, they are feeling sorry for themselves. They need “motivation” from a manager, not “excuses.” To prove my point, does anyone here remember the Dusty Baker days of, “It’s alright boys. You’ll be fine. Just keep trying. Don’t worry. Eat a Twinkie or something, it’ll make you feel better. I know it’s not your fault those stupid pitchers won’t pitch the ball in the middle of the strike zone where you can hit it better. Darn pitchers.” One other thing, there has to be a lot of pressure on the players and staff to win on the North side of Chicago. So Lou’s demeaning that very dark cloud in Chicago is totally wrong. These guys are supposed to be professionals. They need to start acting like professionals.

  19. BIGBRUCE11047 - May 18, 2010 at 1:46 AM

    I think Lou Piniella has had enough time to change the Cubs from natural-born losers to winners. What the Cubs need is a manager like Joe Torre, who motivates his players and with that motivation he gets the best ability from his players. The Red Sox had “the Babe’s Curse” on them but they slugged it out in 2004 being down 3-0 to the Yankees to win the next four and win the AL pennant and then swept the Cardinals in the World Series. The Red Sox manager is a motivator and look what has happened. The Red Sox have won two World Series in the last 6 years. If the Red Sox can do it then the Cubs can do it. They need a change at the helm before they can have a chance.

  20. Dave - May 22, 2010 at 9:13 AM

    Last night against the Rangers sealed the deal for me. Not playing Soriano as a DH and having Colvin in the lineup showed once again that Lou will play the veterans regardless of what they can contribute, or take away, from this team. Refusing to move Rami down the lineup while he is in his slump or at the very least put a shoe up his @$$ for not getting help from a hitting coach, that has proven success with Byrd, Theriot, Soriano etc, is beyond reproach… Lou needs to go…

  21. greg singh - May 24, 2010 at 7:38 AM

    Should the Cubbies fire Lou? Can’t we sign a petition to get the sports writers fired instead?

  22. michael - Jun 3, 2010 at 2:19 PM

    Does it really matter? Lou or no Lou the Cubs will continue to suck, look at the 2008 post season when they were one of best teams in baseball, what ended up happening was that they got swept by the Dodgers in the first round! (Despite having home field advantage).
    The Cubs are natural born losers, their players half-ass everything especially once it comes to the post-season. The problem with the Cubs players is they have no heart, they have no desire to win. There is a reason why the White Sox won in 05, and why the Cubs haven’t since 1908. I don’t by that curses nonsense.
    Bring in Joe Torre, bring in anyone else and see what the Cubs will do they’ll choke because that’s all their good for.

  23. seth - Jun 12, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    You sound like an idiot. You talk like every player that is on the cubs has been there since 1908 when they last one the world series. How can people like soriano, who won the world series with the yankees, and derrek lee, who won with the marlins, and kosuke fukudome, who did nothing but dominate in japan, all be natural born losers? They may have done poor before, or are doing poor now, but that doesnt mean they are natural born losers. every player on that team would love to take a team who hasnt won in over a hundred years to the top. obviously the problem hasnt been with the players, but something wrong with the coaching staff or the GM. Lou is an idiot. He makes poor decis Jim Hendrey thinks that you can only purchase veterans for some reason. Signing an 8 year deal with a 33 year old player is the most ridiculous things that he could do. Now we are stuck with a player who hits occasionally, and looks like a t-baller in left field. Losers are not born, they are made by people like Lou Pinella and Jim Hendrey.

  24. biscuit421 - Jun 13, 2010 at 1:18 AM

    If you look at the top teams, they have a stable lineup, a manager who knows the right time to make a move, and a front office who gives him the weapons he needs.
    If you have 5 outfielders, that means you don’t have 3 solid ones, who should play virtually every day. (a team with a quarterback controversy, is a team without a number 1 quarterback!!)If the Cubs have too many outfielders, all of whom want to play every day, keep the best three and trade some of the others for decent relief pitching.
    If Carlos Zambrano and/or Ryan Dempster aren’t performing, trade them for prospects and bring up some of the youngsters to pitch. If Lee and Ramirez are over the hill, give them a push the rest of the way, and stop batting Aramis 4th if he is hitting like a number 8 hitter. Dusty made the same idiotic, stubborn move with Sosa, after Sammy stopped hitting, and kept batting 4th.
    If Jim Hendry has a job after this year, then the new owner is not only rich, but a moron. He went into this season with Marmol and Marshall, and a cast of losers in the bullpen; a platoon at second base, which isn’t exactly the second coming of Ryan Sandberg; and a prayer that 4-6 guys who crapped out last year, would be a lot better this year. If that is a blueprint for success, then fire him and send him to work for BP in the gulf.

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