Lou Piniella won't be making the trip to San Francisco with the team because his 90-year-old mother has been hospitalized in Tampa and he wants to be with her. That's absolutely the right thing to do for him, I believe.
But things like this are making me believe, more and more, that Lou should simply retire now, and go home. I was wondering why the Orioles would have hired Buck Showalter now rather than wait till the end of a miserable season, and many of you told me -- I think now, correctly -- that they want him to start turning things around and getting an idea of what he has and doesn't have during the last two months of this season. (It appears to be working, at least so far -- the O's are 5-1 under Showalter).
So while I wasn't in favor of it at the time that Lou announced his retirement, maybe now IS the time to give the job to Ryne Sandberg, let someone else finish up the season at Iowa, and get him a head start on 2011. It's clear that these players have quit on Lou -- they're 5-12 since the retirement announcement date (July 20) and have now lost 10 of their last 11. It's reminiscent of the way Jim Riggleman's players quit on him the last couple of months of 1999. That team actually contended for two months, then stumbled, and by the time August came, they were as dead as this bunch. The 1999 team went 19-42 from August 1 to the end of the season, and this group could end up that badly, which would put them close to 100 losses.
There's a difference between then and now -- ticket prices are much higher and there are likely to be a ton of unsold tickets for many of the night and weekday games remaining (16 of the 22 games will qualify under that condition). Making Sandberg manager now would create a little buzz, sell some tickets, and let him get a head start on 2011.
I wasn't in favor of it before, but I've changed my mind. Make a bold move. Thank Lou for his service and let him go tend to his mother, and make Ryne Sandberg Cubs manager.
There's something the same between then and now -- all the rookie pitchers on the staff. In 1999, the following rookie pitchers made appearances for the Cubs: Andrew Lorraine (11 starts), Micah Bowie (11 starts with an ERA of 9.96), Brian McNichol, Richie Barker, Kurt Miller and Steve Rain (who had "top prospect" written all over him after a 1999 minor league season with a 1.66 ERA and 26 saves between AA and AAA, but posted a 5.46 ERA in 53 major league games).
None of those men really belonged in the major leagues.
Can any of you really, TRULY tell me that Thomas Diamond, Casey Coleman, James Russell and Mitch Atkins belong in the major leagues? Of those four, only Russell, I believe, truly has major league talent. Diamond's a nice story, but he's really only here because Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush was his college coach and they're trying to reward him for his hard work in attempting a comeback from Tommy John surgery with a few starts. He's Richie Barker. Casey Coleman -- another good story, the first three-generation pitcher family, but he really doesn't have the velocity, repertoire or mound presence to be a major leaguer. He's Andrew Lorraine. As for Mitch Atkins? He's Brian McNichol, Triple-A roster filler.
James Russell has had some good outings and could be a good back-of-the-bullpen guy. And while I'm at discussing the bullpen, I would like to challenge the next manager (Mr. Sandberg, I'm looking at you) to go with an 11-man pitching staff and quit overworking every man in the pen by using them for only one inning at a time. Get that extra guy on the bench and you won't have to resort to using Carlos Zambrano as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of a game when you've actually got a shot, with a couple of hits, at coming back from an 8-0 deficit. Yeah, yeah, I know. Z gets all kinds of cheers when he comes out to PH and maybe he can connect and slam a ball over the bleachers, but the reality is this: Zambrano is now 2-for-25 in his career as a pinch-hitter with 13 strikeouts. He's a terrible choice. The Cubs should have a six-man bench and an 11-man pitching staff. Enough of the seven-man bullpen.
You may have noticed that this recap has almost nothing to do with what actually went on during the Cubs' 11-4 loss to the Reds this afternoon, apart from the remarks about Z. Travis Wood is a fine young arm and held the Cubs without a hit until Koyie Hill broke it up in the sixth inning. I truly wish the Cubs had some arms like that in the upper minors, but the reality is -- with all due respect to Josh and others who write about these things -- they don't, with the possible exception of Jay Jackson (and Andrew Cashner, who is already here). Why don't the Cubs recall Jeff Samardzija and put him in the rotation, and at least get some of their money's worth?
Sorry, I've gotten away from the recap again. OK, here goes: the late-morning rain that ended around 1 pm might as well have stuck around all afternoon, because the Cubs played shoddy defense, walked way too many hitters and please remind me why on Earth Xavier Nady is still on this team? The official scorer was generous to Nady in not charging an error on a ball that Nady just dropped in the ninth inning. That, unfortunately for Atkins, cost him an earned run. Seriously, how much money is left to pay to Nady -- $1 million or so? Just release him. He doesn't belong on a major league roster.
Enough. This is getting 1999-level ugly, and seriously -- maybe it is time for Lou to go home and move on. Ryne Sandberg for manager. Now. It's time.