This post is difficult to write. Lou Piniella has always been a favorite ever since his playing days. He's always been a passionate, feisty player and manager in all his years in the game. As a manager, his teams have come in first place six times including two in a row for the Cubs. He won a World Series championship in 1990 with the Cincinnati Reds. But perhaps he isn't the right guy managing the current Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs came into the season after two first place finishes with extremely high expectations. Universally selected to win the division, the hopes of a desperate fan base again hope that this is the year. And it sure feels like the Cubs are playing tighter than a suspected heretic on the rack during the Inquisition. That tightness may well explain the blow ups we have seen all year by Zambrano, Bradley and others. In such a situation, Lou Piniella isn't exactly a loosey goosey kind of manager.
Piniella's intensity is perfect for a team that has lacked a spark for years. The Reds, Mariners and Cubs are perfect examples. He came in at a time when all three of those teams were spinning around and he brought intensity and turned them around. But it is possible that the same intensity wears on his players. The year after his Reds won the World Series, they came in fifth the year after. In Seattle, despite guys like Alex Rodriguez and Junior Griffey, his teams finished first three times, but never sustained that success the year after.
Obviously, the Fan does not have any inside dope on what goes on in the clubhouse or in the heads of the Cubs players. The observation while watching them playing lately is that they are so tight that they can't perform. They seem paralyzed.
Perhaps Pineilla has done all he can do. Perhaps he isn't the right person for this current situation. The Fan feels the same way about Jerry Manuel of the Mets. Manuel's body language is all wrong in the dugout. He is wearing too much on his sleeve. Torre and Cox are great because you can never tell from their demeanor if they are winning or losing. The Cubs, and the Mets for that matter, may still pull it together and win their respective divisions. But this observer isn't sure they can get it done with their personalities and the personalities of their respective teams.