Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Monthly archives: October 2006


What To Expect When You're Expecting
2006-10-17 06:56
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.

Here He Comes To Save The Daaaaaaay!
2006-10-16 12:52
by Derek Smart

In case you eschew any Cub news source beyond this page, wrapping yourself in the cold comfort of repeated bouts of silence, able to know in your heart of hearts that were anything of real import to occur, like the Channel 4 News Team on a birthing panda, we would be there, bringing you the news that someone else reported first, do I have a flash for you: Uncle Lou is coming to town.

In fact, not only is this morning's word from the big three poisson envelopper that Jim Hendry's choice is made, - via ESPN Radio 1000 - is now reporting that Piniella has signed a three-year deal worth about $3M per year, and that the official announcement will come tomorrow.

I feel neither elation nor deflation at the prospect of seeing Piniella's peculiar brand of firestorm rage daily across the Wrigley Field landscape. To be honest, I know very little about his strategic tendencies, and the most I can glean from his previous work is that if you give him a good team he's unlikely to screw them up, which is about as much as one can ask.

In the end, this isn't so much about bringing in the best man for the job - although time may prove him to be just that. Rather, it's about gaining instant credibility with the fanbase. Now, when the front office says they intend to be competitive next year, most folks will take them seriously, even if use of logic belies the idea. While Dusty Baker deserved to be sent on his way, this year's specific instance of failure should only serve as one of many data points in favor of that conclusion. Make no mistake about it: had Piniella been at the helm this year, the team would have been just as bad.

This means there is a new reality to this situation - namely, that by hiring Piniella, whether intentionally or not, Hendry has put all the pressure to field a winner on himself. Lose 90 games again, and you have clearly removed the manager from fault, particularly when he comes with Piniella's perceived pedigree. Lose 90 games again, and someone else gets to fill the roster. That's the new reality, one I'm not so sure exists if Joe Girardi is the choice, and one I know remains unformed if Bruce Bochy were the choice.

Which is why, the more I think about it, the happier I am to see Lou on board, for his arrival would seem to me to signal one of two things: a team that will win in 2007, or a team with a new general manager in 2008. I like a) the best, but I'll settle for b) in a pinch.

Still Other Venues
2006-10-06 05:30
by Derek Smart

In keeping with my apparent theme this week of writing more at other sites than my own, I have a "postmortem" on the Cubs' season over at Beyond the Boxscore. Head on over, and see why "postmortem" is in scare quotes!

Other Venues
2006-10-05 11:10
by Derek Smart
Once again, the fellas at the Cub Reporter were kind enough to ask me to participate in a year-end roundtable with some other Cub bloggers, the result of which can be seen here. Swing on by, enjoy, and feel free to tell me just how nuts I am.
2006-10-02 07:06
by Derek Smart

Rarely has the end of a season held such relief. Rarely have I been so grateful for the cessation of baseball activities, for the opportunity to rest my weary eyes, to no longer feel the pull to watch the unspeakably foul train wreck horror show that was this latest Cub season.

Adding to the palliative nature of the day is the word that Andy MacPhail will no longer be steering the ship, with marketing whiz John McDonough taking over, at least on an interim basis.

There's a part of me that finds the idea of the man behind many of the things that have made a day at Wrigley less and less about baseball over the years repulsively appropriate, but despite my initial sneer, I'm left with this thought: if anyone in the organization has been an unqualified success at his job, that man is McDonough, and if he is as committed to winning as he has been committed to marketing, he could turn out to be an inspired choice.


Barring a series of events too odd to explain, Dusty Baker will finally be given his walking papers, told that he will not be asked to rejoin the team now or ever, ending what has been the baseball equivalent of a 1000-mile walk to the gas chamber. It will simply be good to have some sort of resolution, however anti-climactic.


I had this plant once. It was a hanging plant, the kind with flat, green and yellow mottled leaves. I'm exquisitely awful with plants, to the point where I should have my photo up in any nursery, the botanist's equivalent of Public Enemy #1. Yet I kept this plant alive for years.

The problem was, the plant should have died many times over. Because my thumb couldn't be more brown if I soaked it in henna for a week, I would simply forget to water it for extended periods, only remembering when I noticed the poor thing's severe droop and crunchy texture, at which point I would promptly moisten and revive.

I did this time and again, allowing this poor thing to reach the brink of death, to nearly escape this sad existence, only to cruelly pull it back, restoring it to health for no other purpose than to re-enter the cycle, to nearly die, then live again and wish for the end.

Finally, we moved, and lacking the will to transport it to our new digs, we left the plant in the alley to die or be claimed by a passing stranger. Either it would meet its eventual end and find the peace it so richly deserved, or be picked up by someone who would hopefully be more responsible. Just because it was a plant doesn't make it okay.


In the end, I'm just happy that it's over, that no matter who manages the team next year, no matter what players are brought on board, no matter what Jim Hendry's eventual fate might be, we have a few days, maybe even weeks, where we can at least rest, and in our weaker moments, dream of a time when the end of the season will be a source, not of relief, but of unmitigated joy.