Should the Cubs Fire Lou Piniella?

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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.

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.