Posted on: June 16, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: June 16, 2011 6:03 pm
For years, the Tigers wouldn't retire Sparky Anderson's number.
For months, the Yankees wouldn't speak Joe Torre's name.
On June 26, the Tigers will retire Sparky's No. 11. That same day, Torre will put on No. 6 for Old-Timers' Day in the Bronx.
The honors are deserved. The feuds were petty. They usually are.
And at least Torre has made up with the Yankees while he's still alive. The Tigers waited for Sparky's death last November to finally do the right thing and honor him.
Sparky left the Tigers on not-so-good terms at the end of the 1995 season. He came back for one Sparky Anderson Day, convinced that the Tigers were going to retire his number -- and they didn't. He came back two years ago, for the 25th reunion of his 1984 champions, but the honor was for the team, and not really for him.
Torre left the Yankees on not-so-good terms at the end of the 2007 season. When they closed old Yankee Stadium a year later, the Yankees pointedly left Torre's name completely off a video tribute. He came back last year for the unveiling of a monument to George Steinbrenner, but the Old-Timers' return feels more significant.
Old-Timers' Day means more for the Yankees than it does anywhere else -- do they even hold Old-Timers' Day anywhere else anymore? -- and thus Thursday's announcement of the 2011 participants held some significance.
Torre is on the list for the first time. So is Bernie Williams, who had his own not-so-good departure, but has since returned with some regularity -- and always to huge cheers. So is Lou Piniella.
They should be there. Torre should feel welcome at Yankee Stadium, just as Sparky Anderson should have always felt welcome at Comerica Park.
At some point, everyone remembers that. You just hope it's not too late.
Speaking of not too late, good for the Padres for announcing Thursday that they'll retire Trevor Hoffman's No. 51 on Aug. 21. Not that it's a big surprise. Hoffman left the Padres on not-so-good terms in 2008, but he returned in a front-office role after retiring last year.
Posted on: October 19, 2010 12:22 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 12:57 pm
For a decade now, the Cubs have gone with celebrity managers.
First Don Baylor, who stayed 2 1/2 years and had one 88-win season. Then Dusty Baker, who stayed four years and inspired the 2003 "Dustiny" run that ended a win short of the World Series. And then Lou Piniella, who won two division titles, won 97 games in 2008 and then presided over a year and a half of more disappointment.
Piniella retired in August, and when it came time to name his permanent replacement, the Cubs didn't go high-profile this time.
Instead, they've given the job to 53-year-old Mike Quade, who today signed a two-year deal with an option for 2013.
Quade is a baseball lifer, as colleague Scott Miller detailed in a column last month. He earned plenty of respect for his work during years in the minor leagues, and as a major-league coach. He earned even more for the way he handled the job of interim manager after Piniella left, and the Cubs' 24-13 record under his watch no doubt helped convince general manager Jim Hendry to give him the job full-time.
Hendry had other options, higher-profile options. He could easily have handed the job to Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg, who deserved a chance after going to manage in the minor leagues (and by all accounts doing his job very well). He could have tried throwing money at Joe Torre. He could have waited to see if Joe Girardi would leave the Yankees.
Instead, he stuck with Quade, who was barely known when he took over for Piniella and not much better known now. He never played in the major leagues, spending five seasons as a player bouncing around from Class A to Double-A and back. He worked all over the minor leagues as a manager, and even won the Caribbean Series once as a manager in the winter league in the Dominican Republic, but that doesn't exactly get you notoriety.
He'll be known now, all the more so if he can do the impossible and become the manager who finally takes the Cubs back to the World Series.
It's a huge challenge. It always is on the North Side of Chicago. If anything, it's a bigger challenge now, because the Cubs are a flawed team stuck with a bunch of bad contracts.
Is Quade the right guy? That's hard to tell. If September is a bad time to judge whether players are ready for the big leagues, it's just as bad for judging managers, and many teams have made mistakes holding onto interim managers who had once good September.
You wonder what this says about Sandberg, and also what it says to Sandberg. So many star players have refused to go manage in the minor leagues, and many of those have been given managerial jobs (Don Mattingly, for instance). Sandberg not only went to the minors, but Cubs people said he worked hard to learn every part of the operation (asking for advice on how to write scouting reports).
You wonder how this affects Girardi, who was never all that likely to leave the Yankees, but now is left without much leverage in his coming contract negotiations.
But Hendry knows that this hire needs to be a good one. He has enjoyed great support so far from the Ricketts family, who just finished their first season as the Cubs owners. Hendry knows that support could easily fade if the Cubs keep losing.
He knows that his fate could be tied to the next manager. Now, it's tied to Mike Quade.
You may not know Quade very well. Soon, you will.
Posted on: August 20, 2010 1:57 am
Edited on: August 20, 2010 9:09 pm
Between them, they've managed nearly 8,000 major-league games. But do you want to guess how many games Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella have managed against each other?
It's not as many as you think. Only 81, with three more coming this weekend in Chicago -- presumably the final three, with both Cox and Piniella saying they'll retire at the end of the season.
The tally so far, according to research through baseball-reference.com , has Cox with 41 wins and Piniella with 40. They've never met in the playoffs, even though Cox went to the postseason 15 times with the Blue Jays and Braves, and Piniella made it to October seven times with the Reds, Mariners and Cubs.
Cox, whose Braves lead the Phillies by 2 1/2 games in the National League East, has another chance at the postseason this year. Piniella, whose Cubs are 22 games under .500, has a chance to go home when the regular season ends on Oct. 3.
And that, of course, is why Derrek Lee agreed to leave Piniella and join Cox, approving the trade that gave the Braves their new first baseman. The trade was finalized while Lee was sitting in the Cubs dugout during their Wednesday loss to the Padres, and Lee's first game for the Braves will be Friday afternoon against the Cubs.
"I told him to go get his uniform off, he wasn't on our team anymore and I didn't want him stealing our signs," Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster joked with reporters after the game. Dempster will be the first Cubs pitcher to face Lee, as he's the starter Friday. "He started trying to bribe me and asked me how I was going to pitch certain hitters. Sneaky dog."
On to 3 to watch:
1. According to Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News , the Giants sent playoff ticket invoices to their season ticket holders this week. As Baggarly said, incredibly bad timing, with the Giants falling six games behind the Padres in the National League West, and dropping out of the wild-card lead, as well. It doesn't help that ace Tim Lincecum has been pitching poorly, and it may not help Lincecum that his next start comes against Chris Carpenter, in Giants at Cardinals, Saturday night (7:15 ET) at Busch Stadium . A year ago, Lincecum against Carpenter would have been a Cy Young elimination battle. Now, with the Cards falling 3 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central, it looks more like a wild-card elimination battle.
2. The Braves have the worst road record (27-33) of any team that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today. With the Phillies getting healthy and hot, that may need to change if Cox is going to get that going-away postseason gift. This weekend against the struggling Cubs would be a good place to start. We'll know by the time Mike Minor faces Randy Wells, in Braves at Cubs, Sunday afternoon (2:20 ET) at Wrigley Field .
3. No matter how good or bad the teams out West are, East Coast teams always seem to fear West Coast trips, especially late in the season. Sure enough, the Rays lost the first game of their current seven-game trip to the coast, falling to the A's, 4-3, on Thursday night. The Rays are actually 6-4 on the Coast this season, but they're 16-19 since the start of 2008 (basically, since they've been good). The big game this weekend is the matchup of Dallas Braden and Matt Garza, in Rays at A's, Sunday afternoon (4:07 ET) at the Coliseum , in a matchup of two of the five pitchers who have thrown no-hitters this season.
Posted on: July 20, 2010 2:30 pm
Edited on: July 20, 2010 2:34 pm
Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced today that he will retire at the end of the season.
The Cubs' disappointing year has seemed to wear on Piniella, and there had even been some speculation before the All-Star break that he would leave before the season ended. The Cubs are 42-52, in fourth place in the National League Central.
Piniella, who turns 67 in August, is in his fourth season with the Cubs, after previous managerial stays with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays. His first two Cubs teams won division titles, before exiting in the first round of the playoffs.
Posted on: March 6, 2010 3:12 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2010 5:17 pm
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs say that reliever Angel Guzman has a "very unstable shoulder" that is serious enough to leave his career in doubt.
"Obviously, this wasn't good news," general manager Jim Hendry said this morning, after announcing the results from the MRI exam that Guzman had on Friday.
Guzman has a significant tear in a ligament in his right shoulder, and there isn't good history of pitchers coming back from the type of surgery he would need. While the Cubs and Guzman haven't yet decided on a course of action, he could try to treat it for 4-6 weeks and hope that he's able to return without surgery.
In any case, the Cubs won't be able to count on Guzman, who they were hoping to have as one of their main set-up men in front of closer Carlos Marmol.
Hendry said that he has already been looking outside the organization for bullpen help, and that he'll continue to do so. Manager Lou Piniella said that the Cubs could rely on some of the pitchers currently competing for the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation.
Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells occupy the first three spots in the rotation, and Ted Lilly will also be there once he is ready to pitch. But Lilly will miss the start of the season, so the Cubs need to choose two more starters from among Carlos Silva, Jeff Samardzija, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall.
The 28-year-old Guzman appeared in 55 games for the Cubs in 2009, with a 2.95 ERA and a .192 opponents batting average.
"At one point, this guy was as good a prospect as [Carlos Zambrano]," Hendry said.
More revelations from a day with the two Chicago teams:
-- Lou Piniella uses an iPhone. But don't get the idea that Piniella is suddenly becoming tech-savvy. Asked if he used any apps on the phone, he responded with a blank stare. "I'd rather talk to someone face to face than e-mail them," he said.
--Ozzie Guillen said that because he considers Piniella a friend and because he has such respect for Hendry, he doesn't root against the Cubs. "The only reason I don't want [the Cubs to go to the World Series] is the fans," he said.
-- Guillen said that when he wrote on his Twitter account that today was "a big game," he was referring to the other White Sox split-squad game, because Freddy Garcia is starting. But then he said, "I tied Mike Scioscia [on Thursday] and lost to Joe Torre [on Friday]. I hope I can beat Lou Piniella."
-- The Cubs continue to rave about what good shape Geovany Soto is in this spring. The Cubs are counting on bounce-back years from Soto, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. Soriano played left field today, and said: "It's great ot play this game with no pain. If I stay healthy, I'll have no problems putting up good numbers for me and the team. Just stay healthy. That's the key."
-- Silva doesn't look slim, and neither does his spring ERA after giving up six runs in two innings (including two long Carlos Quentin home runs) in his Cubs debut today. "I've been working on a lot of stuff, and there's still a lot of stuff to work on," he said.
-- Cubs coach Alan Trammell said he's been asked often about the comparison with 19-year-old Starlin Castro, the Cubs big shortstop prospect who came to camp with a longshot chance to make the team. Trammell had just turned 20 when he made the Tigers out of spring training in 1978, and Castro will be 20 by opening day. "The one thing against him is that we're the Chicago Cubs and we're expected to win," Trammell said. The '78 Tigers were coming off an 88-loss season.
Posted on: February 17, 2010 5:53 pm
MESA, Ariz. -- First day of spring training, and the first stop had to be the Cubs.
After all, it was on reporting day last year that Lou Piniella revealed that he spent the winter reading motivational books, and that the sting of two straight three-games-and-out playoff failures still lingered in the organization. How would Piniella react now, after a 2009 season in which the Cubs went no-games-and-already-out of the playoffs?
Turns out 83-78 doesn't linger like a flop in October. Turns out Piniella already has a positive spin on 2009 ("We finished second in the division with a lot of things not going right") and that he has a forward-looking message for 2010.
"Let's get back on top," he said. "I like our baseball team."
There does seem to be an optimism around the Cubs, even after a winter where the big move was getting rid of Milton Bradley. Or maybe that's why they're optimistic.
Actually, I think some of it has to do with the new owners, because by all accounts the Ricketts family have made a terrific first impression with Cubs people.
"They're going to be like the O'Malley's," general manager Jim Hendry predicted. "I think they'll own the club for decades. They really care about running a first-class organization."
It seems reasonable to expect that the Cubs could be major players in the July trade market (last year, they could only make revenue-neutral deals), and maybe on next winter's free-agent market as well. It's worth remembering that while the Cubs could only afford minor moves last July, the rival Cardinals were getting Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa.
It's also worth remembering that as late as Aug. 7, the Cubs and Cardinals were tied for first place.
With the new ownership, there's no doubt pressure on the Cubs to make something happen this year. Piniella is in the last year of his contract. Hendry has two more years left after this one, but after spending $845 million to buy the Cubs, it's not like the cost of eating a contract would stop the new owners from making a change if they wanted to do so.
There's no indication so far that they do, and Hendry said the need to impress the new bosses doesn't affect him.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself every year," he said. "I'm going to be the same guy."
So can the Cubs "get back on top"?
Sure, if you assume that Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and others can bounce back from disappointing/injury-affected seasons. Sure, if Ted Lilly really is back from offseason surgery by May 1 or even by April 15, as Piniella said today he might be.
The point today was more that the Cubs seem to have normal spring optimism, that 2009 doesn't seem to have lingered into 2010 the way 2008 lingered into 2009.
Piniella on reporting day 2008: "I felt like I was run over by a Mack truck, I'll be honest."
Piniella on reporting day 2009: "We're ready to compete again this year."
And now, spring training can begin.
Posted on: November 12, 2008 2:55 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2008 3:39 pm
Did Lou Piniella really have the best year of any National League manager?
There's no way he did, now that we know that Charlie Manuel led the Phillies to the world championship, while Piniella's Cubs made an embarrassing division series exit. If you vote now, Manuel wins, and it's probably unanimous.
But the voting for manager of the year, along with all the other BBWAA awards, is done at the end of the regular season. So Piniella is the NL Manager of the Year, and Joe Maddon (who would have won whenever the voting was done) is the AL Manager of the Year
Here's my question: Should we, the baseball writers who give these awards, be voting after the postseason is done?
Back in 1931, when the BBWAA first gave out the Most Valuable Player award, it made perfect sense to vote at the end of the regular season. The NL and AL MVPs could be determined then, because there were no NL or AL games left to play, only the World Series.
Now we're in a world of three-tier playoffs, and we're in a world where teams aren't always judged a success or failure based on the regular season alone. Managers get fired after losing playoff series.
Piniella isn't getting fired by the Cubs, and he deserves credit for leading them to the league's best (regular-season) record. But 2008 is never going to be looked at as a great year for the Cubs, because of the way it ended. Piniella wasn't at his best during the playoffs, when he told club officials he wanted to change the roster after losing Game 1, then called out Kosuke Fukudome after Game 2.
"Time heals a broken heart, I guess," Piniella said on the conference call to announce the award. "We had an outstanding year in Chicago, and won 97 games. Then in the postseason we went away rather quietly, in three games, which is quite disappointing. The postseason is a very fickle thing."
There's an argument for leaving the voting where it is. The postseason already has separate MVP awards (for the LCS and also for the World Series). Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee deserve the Cy Young Awards, and perhaps would have been penalized because their teams didn't make the playoffs.
I'm not sure the award voting should be moved, but on this day, when a manager who had a bad October is still the Manager of the Year, I'm not sure it shouldn't be.
Posted on: October 2, 2008 8:34 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2008 9:20 pm
It's a little shocking to hear one of the Cubs say it.
"I think it's pretty do-or-die," Mark DeRosa said this afternoon. "You don't want to get on a 4 1/2-hour plane ride down 0-2."
Let's think about this for a moment. The Cubs would seem to have an edge with Rich Harden against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3. They wouldn't feel bad with Ted Lilly against Derek Lowe on short rest in Game 4. And if they won two in LA, wouldn't they feel pretty good about having Game 5 back at Wrigley?
Maybe so, but not if the Cubs really believe that Game 2 is do-or-die.
"I think it would be a huge advantage for the Dodgers, but do-or-die?" manager Lou Piniella said. "If we lose tonight, well, might as well just stay home and forfeit the game in Los Angeles. I don't see us doing that."
Incidentally, in Game 1 Wednesday and before the game tonight, there's been none of the buzz that there was at Wrigley in the 2003 playoffs or even in the regular season this year (and nothing like the buzz there was at U.S. Cellular Field for White Sox-Twins on Tuesday). Hard to say why, but you wonder if some of the Cubs fans have just assumed this team was headed for the World Series, and looked at this series as nothing but the prelims.