Lou Piniella will be 66 years old in August and this is his 22nd year as a major league manager. Many of us who have followed his career remember his base-throwing tirade and his physical attack on one of his players (Rob Dibble) while he was managing the Reds.
Now he just seems tired and, at times, out of it. He's joked about having "senior moments", but in the course of managing a major league season for a team that purports to be a contender, you can't really do this and there seem to be more and more of these occasions.
Last night, Lou changed his mind about a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and it denied him flexibility in the ninth, perhaps costing the Cubs the game. Koyie Hill had been announced as a PH for Aaron Heilman, then called back. Plate umpire Mark Wegner told Lou that Hill had officially been in the game. That meant that, with Mike Fontenot and Andres Blanco already out of the game, and Kosuke Fukudome, who batted in Hill's place, having walked, the only remaining position player was Micah Hoffpauir.
Hoffpauir could have been sent up to pinch-hit for Jake Fox in the ninth inning with the bases loaded (kudos due to Milton Bradley for his outstanding bunt single) and two out, but had Hoffpauir sent the game into extra innings, he would have had to go to left field and Alfonso Soriano to second base. That would have either meant Bobby Scales would have had to shift to third, or Fox would have remained at third. Either way, the way this team is constructed gives it very little flexibility in late-inning situations. (And did Lou forget about the possible Hoffpauir-Soriano switch? If so, he missed the chance to put the lefty Hoffpauir up to bat vs. Ramon Troncoso instead of Fox.)
Personally, I wasn't unhappy to see Jake Fox, who had already singled as a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning, at bat in the last of the 9th. Fox made the only defensive play he was asked to at third base, handling a grounder from Matt Kemp and attempting to start a double play, which might have been completed if Russell Martin hadn't tackled Bobby Scales attempting to make the relay (Kemp, who runs well, probably would have beat the throw anyway).
Look, I happen to like Lou and what he did for the Cubs in 2007 and 2008 -- the mindset of the major league team seemed to completely change from what we had known for decades, and the 97-win regular season result in 2008 was a season we hadn't seen in more than 70 years. But we have discussed here many times Lou's obsession with "making the team more lefthanded" because of his feeling that was the reason the Cubs lost the NLDS to the Dodgers. In so doing he and Jim Hendry also made the team less flexible, and it showed last night. Lou didn't attend the postgame press conference last night, either. I won't speculate on his reasons for that.
What more can be said? (And I don't have more to say about Carlos Zambrano's six-game suspension, either; all it does is push back his next start by two days.) The Dodgers are a good team and manufactured two runs early off Randy Wells, who had his fourth straight good outing and held on for a 2-1 win over the Cubs. All the Cubs can do is come out this afternoon -- the sun is out in Chicago at last, hooray! -- and try to even the series.
And I would expect to see more of Jake Fox at third base.