Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

I Can’t Put My Finger on It, But Something’s Wrong

The Cubs have played their best ball of the season over the last week. And you know what that means – time to find fault with something the team is doing!

What awful, awful thing is Lou Piniella doing? Dave van Dyck provides this week’s litany of horror:

• The Cubs have used 24 different lineups in 29 games
• The Cubs have used a different lineup in 19 straight games
• The last time the Cubs used the same lineup in consecutive games was April 13-14
• Seven batters have hit second, and five each have hit in the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth spots
• Five players have started in right field, four in left, and three in center, at short and at second
Yes, the fact that Piniella is using his roster is a bad, bad thing. Look how much the players hate it:

Though the situation could become a tinderbox, most Cubs seem to relish the everyday excitement of who plays where. Winning has a way of breeding togetherness, and the Cubs have finally embarked on some winning ways, having taken five straight and eight of nine.

"We like to say there's a lot of chiefs on this team and no Indians," DeRosa said. "Lou made it clear in spring training that he was going to play everybody, and he's been true to his word.

"Nobody should be caught off guard."

Said Theriot: "Everybody has to contribute, and contribute a lot, to be successful, and you can see that the last week and a half."

To be fair, Piniella's lineup appears to be more settled than it was in the first month as he learns his personnel, with the permanent move of Alfonso Soriano from center
field to left, the installation of Jacque Jones as the primary center fielder, a platoon involving Cliff Floyd in right field and the demotion of infielder Ronny Cedeno.

But Cesar Izturis' slow start at shortstop and the need for Theriot, DeRosa and Matt Murton to play still creates an unusual situation.

"Honestly," Theriot said, "everybody comes expecting to play, and even though you're not in the starting lineup, it doesn't mean you're not going to play."
Just a few thoughts on this mess…

While a lot of Cub Fans want Matt Murton or Cliff Floyd of Ryan Theriot or [fill in the blank] to get more PT, it’s not going to happen right now. And while it sucks that someone’s favorite player doesn’t get to start, look at it this way: Would you rather have Orange Guy or The Riot come off the bench to pinch hit in the seventh, or Neifi Perez? Or John Mabry? Or Angel Pagan? Or Jerry Hairston? Or Freddie Bynum?

In other words, the group of bench players we had last year who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a flippin’ boat. I, for one, would rather see Floyd, for all his faults, at the plate late in a close game than Neifi.

Van Dyck does his best to gin up some false drama (a “tinderbox?” Please…). But none of the guys he quotes seems to be bent out of shape about it. The winning probably helps assuage hurt feelings. And it probably helps that the guys know they’ve got a good chance to get in the game – if not that day, the next day.

So far I like what I’ve seen of Piniella. He doesn’t suffer the fools in the press corps gladly. He keeps his reserves ready to play. He’s got no problem telling his pitchers to stop mucking around and throw a sprocking strike. And, unlike his immediate two predecessors, he has an idea of how to manage a bullpen. I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s right here…

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  • I've never been a big Lou fan in the past, but I am very impressed by his handling of the Cubs so far this year. As you said, he's done so many things right, and the team is winning.

    Of course, when things are going right, the Chicago sports media spares no effort to find things that are wrong, real or imagined. Until the team actually wins a championship, then they are the first to tell you how they knew it all along.

    By Blogger Jim, at 9:14 PM  

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