We will stray away from the Rays yet again today, and our journey takes us to the north side of Chicago, where ESPN is reporting that former Rays manager Lou Piniella has come to terms with the Chicago Cubs on a three year, $10 million deal with a team option for a fourth year. Joe Girardi and Bob Brenly were also interviewed as possible successors to the fired Dusty Baker.
Over at Bleed Cubbie Blue, Al Yellon has been all over this for days, even weeks in advance, since this story was just a little rumor embryo.. He and nearly every single one of his readers, as well as the Cubs fans I know personally, absolutely detest this move. About four days or so ago, Al asked me to write a diary over at BCB basically detailing my thoughts on Lou's three year tenure with the Rays, and I obliged, writing a rather long-winded piece that pretty much covered all the bases of my thoughts on Lou. My impression of his tenure here, my thoughts on him personally, and what I think this move holds in store for Chicago (hint: not good). So anyways, I highly recommend heading on over to BCB for the Cubs perspective on this story.
As for my personal opinion on just this move, I've gotta say, it doesn't make a lick of sense. With better options, namely Joe Girardi followed by Bochy and Brenly, available, it just doesn't seem to make much sense to hire a guy in Piniella who is, essentially, a white Dusty Baker. Aside from demeanor, they are both essentially the same. They both screw over young players for their precious "veterans", they both are horrible at handling a pitching staff, and they both fill out illogical lineup cards and make bad in-game decisions. Except Baker is much, much more likable.
This move just really doesn't make any...sense...at...all, none. I still can't figure it out. When Girardi was fired by the Marlins, you couldn't pencil him into that Cubs dugout fast enough. What happened? Further, with Andy MacPhail being forced out, why does Jim Hendry have a job? He has outlasted Baker and Don Baylor, and still keeps making the stupidest decisions, year after year. Either that, or he just doesn't do anything at all. Baker may be to blame for what happens with the players Hendry gives him, he deserved the ax, and no one disputes that. But why is Hendry not held accountable for the continued failures of this team? That whole organization is a mess, from the apathetic ownership that will not step in and police Hendry, to the GM himself, and now down to the misguided skipper. This organization just doesn't get it.
A bit of an interesting note, while Piniella's staff has not even begun to take form yet, it is believed that John McLaren, Lou's former Dugout Coach here and in Seattle, will take the same position with the Cubs. McLaren was a finalist for the Rays' managerial position before the team hired Joe Maddon, and currently holds an assistant position from within the front office. That would likely be no obstacle to him departing, as it seems somewhat similar to the position Hal McRae had in the Front Office before he went to take a coaching position with St. Louis last year.
Also rumored to possibly be on Lou's new staff is ex-Rays bullpen coach Matt Sinatro, currently home in Seattle and with no organization. Lastly, it still has not been announced whether embattled pitching coach Larry Rothschild, the first manager in Devil Rays history, will return on Lou's staff. If he does, the staff will feature four former Rays coaches, and two former managers, and interesting novelty, as Lou becomes the first former Rays skipper to take a managerial position after leaving St. Pete.
Meanwhile, in a story completely unrelated to the Rays, but that I found interesting nonetheless, A's manager Ken Macha has been shown the door after being swept out of the ALCS by the Detroit Tigers. This is a particularly odd move for Oakland, considering they had a 'should I stay or should I go' flirt session last offseason which resulted in Macha coming back on a three year contract. Don't you think that if winning Oakland's first playoff series in 15 years would not have been enough to save your job, you would have not signed him to a three year deal to begin with?
I mean, this isn't rocket science. The problems cited in Macha's firing; communication breakdowns with players and the front office, overuse of pitchers, and insensitive handling of injured players were all issues last offseason, which is why not too many A's fans broke a sweat when Beane announced initially that he would not return. I just question the wisdom of giving him a three year deal under such circumstances.
Alas, Macha racked up an impressive winning percentage with Oakland, so despite his shortcomings, he will find work. However the A's are now left to the task of replacing him, and the interview process is expected to start with third base coach Ron Washington and Dugout Coach Bob Geren, though names from outside the organization will almost certainly be interviewed before the process is complete.
Stay with DRaysBay's sister blog, the much more successful, much more read Athletics Nation for all of your blogging fill on this event as it occurs. Tyler Blezinski, the lead blogger over there, has a very tight relationship with A's GM Billy Beane, so you can be sure that he will have all the bases covered on this one. Here was the article he wrote breaking the story at AN, and he has a subsequent article up talking about internal candidates from within the Oakland organization.
So an interesting day around baseball, specifically in the Windy City and the Bay Area, I can't wait for the offseason!