Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
What To Expect When You're Expecting
by Derek Smart
With the Cubs' hiring of Lou Piniella becoming official yesterday, and a news conference scheduled for noon today to do the introductions, it seemed like a good time to get some information about the new sheriff from someone who'd know. Thankfully, there's USS Mariner, and thankfully one of its authors, Derek Zumsteg (who has a well spelled first name, and also happens to be the author of the upcoming book, The Cheater's Guide to Baseball), was kind enough to answer a couple silly questions I threw his way.
Cub Town: What is the one thing Cub fans will enjoy most about Piniella's managerial style?
USS Mariner: He cares. At least in his time here - and it does seem like he lost a little of this in Tampa - you knew if an ump blew a call Lou would be out there yelling at him, and you know if a player botched an easy play he'd get chewed out for it, probably right in the dugout after the inning ended. If he doesn't think he's got the tools to get his team to the playoffs, he's going to chirp at the GM until he does.
I think there's something to be said for that -- it's frustrating for fans to see a manager rarely argue calls, for instance.
CT: What is the one thing about Piniella that will cause Cub fans to grind their teeth to nubs?
USSM: Unless he's got a good, strong pitching coach who can take over that part of the game, he's a horrible manager of pitchers and the bullpen. He doesn't like young players. He doesn't like platooning. You'll learn to easily predict when he's going to steal or bunt or hit-and-run, even when it's counter-productive.
CT: The Cubs have a recent history of finding their young arms inexplicably strewn about the roadside. Using the DEFCON scale - 5 being peacetime, 1 being imminent or ongoing attack - what should Cub pitchers' state of readiness be for the next three years?
USSM: Uh, 1. Again, it really depends on who his pitching coach is. He's been horrible about workloads, and he's been really good about it when paired with Bryan Price. Pray for someone like Rick Peterson, who knows pitcher biomechanics and can take the whole pitching staff under his protection.
CT: One of the big knocks on Dusty Baker was that he either couldn't help, or would actively hinder the development of young position players. Should Cub fans expect better from Piniella?
USSM: Possibly. Lou's bad, but I don't know that he's Baker bad. It's possible for kids to hustle themselves into his good esteem, especially if they can really mash, but given the choice he'll choose his veteran hands over promising younger players.
CT: Lou Piniella is named manager of Seattle Mariners today. You go out and buy _________ so that you can _________ . Now tell me why.
USSM:Lou Piniella is named manager of Seattle Mariners today. You go out and buy veteran relievers so that you can finish games.
Lou loves to have a bullpen made up of mean, veteran guys who don't walk hitters, which drives him nuts. You want to have six guys all pretty good, all of essentially the same skill set, because given a choice, he'll tend to chose relievers badly suited for a situation, play the hot hand, keep the young guy in the doghouse if he walks two in an inning, and generally make a mess of the place.
CT: Thanks, Mr. Zumsteg, for the insight, time, and effort.