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Piniella Not The Problem

By Garrett Monaghan

When it comes to the Cubs' inability to perform this year, a lot of pundits have gone out of their way to criticize Lou Piniella's drive/fire/desire/ability/what have you. Pay attention for a minute, folks. Piniella doesn't play the game. No manager does. Has Piniella made mistakes this year? Absolutely. Fighting with Milton Bradley and batting Alfonso Soriano in the leadoff spot until last week aren't moves that are going to get him into MENSA anytime soon. That said, the ultimate responsibility for the team's performance comes down the players themselves, and whether they make the necessary adjustments in order to turn around sub-par seasons.

Case in point is Soriano. Here's a guy who has steadfastly refused to change his approach at the plate since they day he was called up. Now that National League pitchers have figured out that he can't hit anything that isn't belt-high and going 90mph, he hasn't seen a hittable pitch since the middle of May. Sure, the coaches bear some of the responsibility for pampering him and stroking his ego rather than teaching him how to hit, but it's ultimately up to Soriano if he's going to listen or not.

Baseball might be the only sport where it's actually impossible to "outmanage" your opponent. Basketball and Football have their different offenses and defenses and a host of trick plays, but once a baseball manager's lineup card is filled out, it's pretty much hands-off from there on out. Either the guys get the job done or they don't. If the Cubs lose the upcoming series to the Cardinals, it's because they can't hit, pitch, field, or run very well; not because Lou didn't come up with some miraculous strategy to force La Russa into coughing up the series. Expecting Pinella to win the series for the Cubs is patently absurd. Expecting the players to win is a different story.

The problem for the Cubs now is the same problem they've had all year: a lack of consistent offense. So instead of lashing out mindlessly, let's put the blame where it belongs: on the shoulders of Soriano, Bradley, Soto, and Fontenot. Some of those guys deserve a lot more blame than others. If we really want to widen the field up a bit, let's talk about the miserable job Jim Hendry has done in saddling to the Cubs with so many huge long-term contracts that they'll almost certainly be unable to make any significant moves at the deadline. Piniella hasn't done a perfect, or even a great job this year, but he's not the one who should be taking the blame for the way the season's worked out. In fact, he deserves a lot of props for benching prissy little whiners like Soriano in favor of guys who show up ready to play and deliver good fundamental baseball.

The Cubs need to focus on what's important, and so do the fans.


  1. the batting order, defensive alignment, and a penchant for pushing the right buttons does come down on Lou.

    How many games of .280 OBP did it take for Lou to take Sori out of the lead off spot?

    The blame has to be partly on Lou for mistakes. He was also a pundit of this whole "we have to get more left handed" philosophy.

    Lou has been slow to adapt to the changing face of his ballclub from an offensive juggernaut to one that has to scratch for runs. Lou can't push the same buttons he did last year, yet he is still doing so.

    Not giving Angel Guzman more weighted innings, running Carlos Marmol out there 40 plus times already this season, giving Aaron Heilmann important innings, these are all mistakes that Lou makes because he isn't adapting to change. That's how you get outmanaged.

  2. I already mentioned that I've never been a fan of hitting Soriano leadoff, and that I put the blame for that on Pinella.

    I think the world you're looking for in relation to Pinella there is "proponent." Ultimately, Pinella doesn't make the personnel decisions for the Cubs. Hendry does.

    Changing face of his ballclub? The faces on the ballclub are just about the same as they were last year, minus De Rosa and plus Bradley. The problem is that big parts of the lineup just haven't been producing. I agree that the Cubs need to focus more on manufacturing runs, but a substantial portion of their lineup can't bunt or hit the ball to right field.

    The team's bullpen has been a little erratic this year, but it's not because of gross mismanagement. Heilmann is a terrible pitcher, but Pinella didn't go out and get him, and now he has to use him where he can. As for Guzman, he looked terrible in spring training and since this is his first full season in the majors, I can't blame Pinella for being cautious with him. Marmol's workload hasn't been awful, but his mechanics have been.

    It's easy to say Pinella isn't adapting to change, but he's dealing with a new bullpen and veteran players who just aren't producing. I don't think it's unreasonable to spend the first part of the season figuring how what works best. What he does in the second half is going to count for a lot more.