Should the Cubs Fire Lou Piniella?

24 Comments

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.

The Nats are sniffing around for relief pitching help

Getty Images
1 Comment

The Nationals began the year with Blake Treinen as their closer. That didn’t last long, and now Koda Glover seems to be Dusty Baker’s man in the ninth inning. He earned a save for the second consecutive game yesterday. Glover has been pretty darn good in the early going, posting a 2.35 ERA and striking out six batters and walking only one in seven and two-thirds. That obviously a small sample size, and anything can happen. If it does, Baker has Shawn Kelley as an option.

Not many household names there, which is probably why the Nationals are reported to be interested in the White Sox’ David Robertson and Alex Colome of the Rays. That report comes from Jim Bowden of ESPN, who also notes that the A’s have a number of guys with closing experience on staff and are likely to be sellers too. The David Robertson thing may have more legs, though, given that Mike Rizzo and Rick Hahn pulled off a pretty major trade in the offseason. If you know a guy well, you call that guy first, right?

As far as problems go this isn’t a huge one. The Nats sit at 13-5 and, as expected by most prognosticators, are in first place in the National League East. The Cubs had some questions in the pen this time last year too. They had the luxury of trying to figure it out before making a massive trade for a closer. The Nats do too, and likely will. But expect them to be a part of any trade rumor conversation for the next couple of months.

 

The big flaw in modern ballparks

Getty Images
8 Comments

Travis Sawchik writes about the post-Camden Yards generation of ballparks over at FanGraphs. The ones everyone loves because they’re nice and clean and friendly and are full of amenities. And that’s true! They are nice! But they all have a huge flaw: unless you’re in expensive seats, you’re too far away from the action.

Sawchik uses cross sections of ballparks — available at Andrew Clem’s website — to show that fans sitting in the upper decks of ballparks are way higher and way farther back than they used to be at many old ballparks such as Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Old Comiskey, Tiger Stadium and Ebbets Field.

A lot of this has to do with an admirable impulse: to eliminate the beams which obstructed the view of many seats in those old parks. If you want to move that upper deck closer to the field, you have to have the beams because one can only achieve so much via cantilever effect. But that’s not the only impulse and probably not the primary one. More expansive lower bowls — which feature more expensive tickets — push the upper deck back and up. As do the luxury suites and club level amenities in between the lower and upper decks. Exacerbating this is the fact that most newer parks are built on vast tracts of land with few architectural constraints. If you can sprawl, you will, which leaves the most affordable seats in the land of binoculars.

I don’t agree with everything Sawchik writes here. He spends a lot of time talking about how much better neighborhood parks like Wrigley Field are and how it’d be better if newer parks were built in neighborhoods. I agree, neighborhood parks are ideal, but the fact is, most places don’t have mass transit like Chicago does. In most cities you have to have a place for 40,000 people to park.

That’s a quibble, though. Mostly, it’s a good look at an important thing most folks overlook when they praise the new parks. Important because, if you don’t have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark, you’re not likely to come back. And if you’re not fortunate enough to be able to buy expensive tickets, you may not have a great experience at the ballpark.