Today I noticed that cubs.com was the latest site to confirm the apparent inevitability of Lou Piniella coming to the North Side. In this scenario, the dominoes will begin to fall this week when Piniella signs with Chicago; San Francisco will then scramble to sign either Brenly or Bruce Bochy, Washington will hire Girardi and Texas is expected to go with their bench coach Don Wakamatsu or Hokkaido’s Trey Hillman. In this year’s game of managerial musical chairs the music has stopped and there’s no chair left for Dusty.
Although Piniella was not one of my two favorites I am somewhat anxious to see what he can do. I remember Lou as a fiery New York Yankee leftfielder, one that wasn’t afraid to take on Reggie Jackson if he felt that the big slugger was dogging it. Since first managing for the Yankees, Piniella has made stops in Cincinnati, Seattle and Tampa Bay; each of those teams improved the year that Sweet Lou took over, by an average of over 14 games per team.
The website Management by Baseball broke down Piniella’s turnaround philosophy as follows: “1. Start at the bottom of the org chart and solicit suggestions in the “What needs changing/improving around here” line; 2. Act quickly and publicize the change, and 3. Follow up with more right away so you can accustom staff and adjacent departments that change is an on-going thing, and that it has payoffs.”
The site went further to elaborate by quoting a book entitled “Out of Left Field” by Art Thiel:
“Upon taking the job, one of his first phone calls was to trainer Rick Griffin, seeking an assessment of personnel from the ’92 team…
“I trust trainers as much or more than scouts,” Piniella said, “Be honest and don’t sugarcoat–nobody knows we’re talking.”
In a conversation that lasted two and a half hours, Griffin spelled it out, saying there really was only one guy who didn’t fit. A couple of days later the oft-injured, portly outfielder Kevin Mitchell was traded to Cincinnati for relief pitcher Norm Charlton, who would become vital in the Mariner’s climb.
Piniella called Griffin again: “How do you like that?”
“Wow,” Griffin said, “You work fast.”
“From now on, we’re going to work fast.”
And that is precisely what Sweet Lou must do, move quickly with respect to the “walking wounded” – the clock is ticking in Chicago for his new boss Jim Hendry as well as for the Cubs faithful, who have all waited so very long.