Managers arguably might not win many games, but they can and do lose them. Take a look at Lou Piniella’s goof in Tuesday night’s loss to Houston.
Two out in the bottom of the fourth and the bases are loaded, Cubs down by a run. Piniella lets starting pitcher Ryan Dempster bat for himself — even though Dempster has been marginal at best in his first start off the DL, is on a tight pitch count and is already approaching his limit. Dempster is likely to be pulled in the top of the fifth anyway when he approaches his 80-to-85 pitch limit.
So Dempster predictably strikes out, and just as predictably runs out his string and has to get pulled in the top of the fifth. Not a good move by Piniella. He had called a suicide squeeze the previous night, a good and surprising play, but Mike Fontenot bunted through the ball and Milton Bradley was out in an anticlimax. Can’t blame Piniella for that one.
Still, the memories linger of Sox manager Ozzie Guillen making Piniella look asleep at the switch with his “smart ball” tactics in the City Series. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Speaking of asleep at the switch: will GM Jim Hendry wake up before Friday’s trading deadline? Along with the Phillies picking up former Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from Cleveland, Pittsburgh peddled half its double play combo by sending Jack Wilson to Seattle along with starter Ian Snell. If Hendry doesn’t make a pitch for Pittsburgh second baseman Freddy Sanchez, he won’t be playing smart ball with the Cubs’ playoff chances.