Thursday, July 9, 2009

You asked for it. Now has Lou gone too far?

It seems like just a few weeks ago, the Cub community was practically begging Lou to let his inner rageaholic erupt all over the friendly confines. And in the last couple of weeks, we've seen the Old Lou rearing his steaming little puce head.

He got ejected arguing a blown call at 1st base that cost the Cubs a rare 2-out run. Everybody loved that one.

Lou was overheard calling Milton Bradley a piece of tin (Ferris Bueller dubbed-for-TV version). Milton was overheard responding with respect and *gasp* self-control. Even though 98% of the city of Chicago has been overheard calling Milton Bradley a piece of tin, I don't think anybody can genuinely call that appropriate employer-employee communication. What's worse, instead of declaring a genuine public apology, Lou told us that he and Milton talked and then issued a classic theya culpa in which he blamed the rats in U.S. Cellular for leaking the outburst.

And before the dreadful finale against the Braves, Lou pulled Soriano out of the lineup without letting him know his underperforming butt would be riding the bench. Soriano was none too happy to be led astray, although he had no intentions of discussing it with Lou. The conventional wisdom says that the chronically slumping prima donna has no business being upset, especially if he's not willing to confront Lou about it. This is one of those frequent instances in which I find the conventional wisdom to be full of crap.

A) Soriano gets paid too much to be benched willy nilly. One of the downsides of giving athletes mega-million-dollar contracts is that it forces you to have to deal with rich people who won't take your crap. B) The only way Soriano doesn't get upset about an unannounced benching is if he doesn't care. He definitely gets paid too much not to care, and most fans have been complaining he doesn't care enough. C) Whether they're stock clerks or left fielders, people expect consistent treatment from their managers. Unexpected frostiness always ticks off employees, especially really, really rich ones.

All that said, it isn't clear that Piniella being a jerk is the wrong move. Maybe he got through to Milton Bradley. Maybe he's lit a fire under Soriano. The trouble is, if Lou keeps going to the jerk well, eventually players' tolerance will dry up. I wonder if the pre-game drama may have affected the team during that last game against the Braves. Scoff if you will, but I don't doubt that Soriano getting jilted could have put the whole lineup on edge. His post-game tirade may have pushed some players over that edge.

The thing is, Lou gave a great answer, in essence, to the redundant questions about the lagging offense. Absent of emotion, Lou's answer to the press was just, "Hey, you keep asking me why guys aren't hitting, and you're asking the wrong guy. I don't hit, and I don't instruct guys how to hit. As journalists, you really ought to direct your questions to the appropriate parties." But that's not how the media, fans, and (perhaps) players may have interpreted it.

Most fans and media seem to think Lou was heaving blame on the players and hitting coach, Von Joshua. I don't think that's what Lou was doing, but if the players think he's ripping into them and a guy the younger players have liked and respected for a long time . . . they might shut down. But with this offense, could we even tell the difference.
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