10.16.2006

Rain rain, go away

Hats off to Jeff Suppan, who silenced the Mets' Murderers Row, and hit a home run himself in a stellar Game 3 performance. And hats off to the Mets Murderers Row, who awoke in Game 4 to remind me what a superior 3-4-5 looks like. With today's game rained out, I'll take a moment to reflect and predict. Considering that we're knotted up at two games a piece and the Cards have yet to get a maximum performance from either Pujols -- who is getting on base but not driving them in (because there hasn't been anyone for him drive in) -- or Carpenter, I feel pretty good about our odds to take two more games in this series. The home/road split now favors the Mets if the series goes seven. But we've got our two best pitchers slated to pitch in Games 6 and 7, and Mr. Weaver -- who all of a sudden has found his groove -- goes tomorrow. I think our pen will rebound well enough to keep us in games, and I hope that Pujols walks the walk against Glavine tomorrow (after talking the talk last week). La Russa says that Pujols is battling a sore hammy, and that is zapping some of his power. Hmmm ... not sure I believe that entirely, but whatever. The dude has been robbed a few times on hard hit balls this series; I think he's due.


In other news, the Cubs hired Lou Piniella to a three-year deal. Piniella, who just got his broadcasting partner Psycho Lyons fired, had been widely rumored to be taking over for Torre in New York. The guy was a Pro with a capital P as a player, a .291 career hitter for the Royals and Yanks. And he's been a successful Major League skipper, too, boasting a .517 winning percentage and World Series title. But more importantly, he's got a good record of turning around underperforming teams. In '90 he led the Reds to the title after the year's previous team -- much the same roster -- finished 14 games under .500. That team featured a lot of younger talent: Barry Larkin, Paul O'Neill, Eric Davis, Hal Morris, Chris Sabo, Mariano Duncan, Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, Jose Rijo, and Jack Armstrong -- all between the ages of 25 and 28. And under Piniella in '90 they gelled, burying the NL West competition by 9.5 games by July 1.

In '93, Lou took over in Seattle for a team that had won just 64 games in '92. The '92 club was near the league bottom in runs scored and runs allowed, but with Lou at the helm they improved markedly and finished two games above .500. After a set-back in the strike-shortened '94 season, Piniella's '95 Mariners won the division in a tight race down the stretch with the Angels. Again, Sweet Lou was working with several key younger guys like Griffey and Tino Martinez and some 19 year-old named A-Rod. The M's went on to greater heights -- including the remarkable 116-win season in '01 -- under Piniella.

After a great stretch with the Mariners, Piniella bolted for the money in Tampa Bay following the 2002 season, and here's where his managerial career takes a turn for the worse. But it's hard to blame Lou for the Rays woes, as no one could have done significantly better with such mediocre talent in a stacked AL West division. And Lou did get the most out of his young position players, as 21 year-olds Rocco Baldelli and Carl Crawford both had outstanding campaigns in '03.

Given his track record for righting the ship, and the Cubs solid mix of veteran and youthful talent, I expect good things from Piniella's new club next season. If he still has that fire in his belly -- his tirades against umps are legendary, and he once wrestled his own reliever in the clubhouse (and who can blame him considering it was Dibble?) -- then I expect the Cubs to find new motivation next season. Of course, a lot depends on what offseason moves they make. They have serious issues to work out in their pitching staff. And at 63 years old and shortly removed from the rebuilding Rays, one has to wonder if Piniella has the patience to handle a slow, youth-oriented makeover. It will also be interesting to see how his hiring affects the Cards-Cubs rivalry. It's safe to say that Baker and La Russa weren't best buds; but La Russa and Piniella are actually good friends who have bonded over their Tampa roots. Of course, they do have some history, thanks to Tony's stint in the AL prior to coming to the Cards. I wish I had the time to look up their head-to-head stats. (Oh, fuck it, here goes ... Take it for what it's worth, but Tony's teams have gone 40-32 against Lou's teams. But Lou got the best of Tony on the big stage, sweeping the A's in the '90 Series.)

Any Cubs fans care to chime in?

2 comments:

Mary said...

Cubs fan here to say... Isn't baseball over yet??!!??!!

thenoiseboy said...

Ah Mary, always good for a laugh. (And yes, it is almost over.)

Bring on the Illini (and the Bulls!).