Baseball Toaster Cub Town
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.

2006-10-17 11:05:22
1.   operablogger
According to, it appears that Mr. Rothschild will continue to drag his jammie-topped frame out to the mound for the '07 season. I guess that negates the aforementioned comments, " really depends on who his pitching coach is." Too bad. BTW, Derek - nice interview!
2006-10-17 19:05:17
2.   Rick Houston TX
The Cubs new just keeps getting worse.

The Cubs management team is now fully committed to a short-term focus.

Last winter, when Hendry's contact was nearing expiration, he adopted a short-term focus and made desperate free agent signings and trades in an attempt to win. He signed Neifi Perez to a two-year contact, even though he is an abysmal hitter. He signed Jacque Jones to a three-year contact and now Jones has disclosed that he has been playing with rotator cuff problems. Hendry traded for Juan Pierre as a leadoff hitter despite his low on-base percentage and his defensive deficiencies. It is impossible to explain why Teflon Jim signed John Mabry. The end result in 2006 was nearly 100 losses.

Now we have news that Larry Rothchild was re-hired as pitching coach. With the Cubs recent history of too many injured pitchers and the ones that were healthy walking too many batters, I was hoping for a fresh approach.

We also have news the Mark Prior has genetic problems with his shoulder that have contributed to his countless injuries. According to the Cubs' trainer, his condition has resulted in "arthritic changes" and corrective surgery would apparently be career threatening.

At this rate, the next news will be that Waving Wendell Kim will return as third base coach.

2006-10-18 02:13:52
3.   joejoejoe
Pineilla used to have his pitchers throw at Paul O'Neill just about every time the Mariners faced the Yankees. I'm not sure he has any NL enemies just yet but Sweet Lou will invent some and not let up. My guess is Pineilla picks either Chris Duncan or Scott Rolen as somebody he doesn't like and throws at them all season long. I think he likes the edge it gives his team to antagonize the other team.
2006-10-25 07:31:48
4.   Al Yellon
The above makes no sense. Why would Piniella hate O'Neill? O'Neill put up two very fine seasons (1990, 1991) for the Reds when Piniella managed him.

Know how many times O'Neill got hit by Seattle pitchers in the 8 years Piniella managed there while O'Neill was a Yankee?

ONCE. On April 6, 1998, in the third inning of a game Seattle was winning 2-0, by JAMIE MOYER, and it loaded the bases.

I don't buy this.

2006-11-10 11:24:38
5.   BobbyMac
I wrote about the M's in an annual for 3 years during Lou's "reign", and I thought that the USSM (Derek) comments were spot on. Great interview!

One side note: I would probably be even less apt to believe that Lou will allow a young player to develop than Derek is. I remember him running Bret Boone out of town because he wouldn't listen to Lou, as Boone kept trying to hit for power, while Lou wanted him to cut down on his swing. The year after he was sent away, he hit .320 for the Reds. 8 years after being run out of town, he was "mature enough" to play for Lou, and was invited back.

To be honest, I don't see much difference in store for us Cubs fans except for the method of demonstrating frustration. If Lou brought a kid to the post-game press conference, you'd worry for the kid's safety. And the "demonstrating frustration" will show up in terms of even more "hot hand" reliever usage. Players who get into Lou's doghouse can be MIA for a long time, and he'll ride a pitcher into the ground who is doing well.

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