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Cleveland... And Lou Piniella's bold/idiotic move

OK, as I settle into my seat in the Jacobs Field press box for tonight's Yankees/Indians tilt, it appears as if I am up and rolling with my own, personal log-in to this fine forum. And there's no way in heck I'm going to give my log-in/password info to that Svrluga fellow, who creeps me out with his pantsless posts.

Too early for lineups here. Flew into town this morning, had room-service lunch at the airport Sheraton (where I'm staying tonight because I will turn around and fly back to Boston tomorrow -- part of the game of "Geographical Twister" that Barry described in a post a couple of days ago. Left leg, Cleveland). It was predictably awful.

I noticed a couple of comments in last night's Cubs/Diamondbacks thread about the much-debated move by Cubs Manager Lou Piniella last night, and I thought it could use further exploration. To recap: Piniella pulled his ace, Carlos Zambrano, after six innings and 85 pitches in a 1-1 game. Reliever Carlos Marmol immediately gave up a homer to Arizona's Mark Reynolds leading off the seventh. And that was that. Cubs lose, 3-1. Piniella's stated reason for yanking Zambrano so soon was that he wanted to save some bullets for Game 4, when he planned on bringing Zambrano back on short rest.

Piniella is getting blasted pretty much all over the country -- more than once I've seen references to Steve Bartman, as if suggesting Piniella's decision was on par with the infamous Bartman interference play in 2003 in terms of poor decisions that harmed the cursed Cubs. One Chicago columnist likened Piniella's ill-fated to fitting the Cubs with "cement shoes."

It's true that there is an unwritten baseball rule that mandates never looking ahead. Win the game at hand, and worry about the next game tomorrow.

But I have to say it: I liked the move at the time. And because I feel the need to hold firm to my beliefs, no matter the outcome, I'm here to tell you that I still like the move today.

Why? First of all, he wasn't just bringing in any reliever. It's hard to overstate how absolutely, positively untouchable Marmol has been. He strung together 18 straight scoreless appearances at one point in August and September, until giving up a pair of runs in his penultimate outing of the season. Opposing batters hit .169 off him this season, with a .282 OBP and .226 slugging pct. Those are "video game numbers," in the words of Arizona Manager Bob Melvin. And because of this new, expanded postseason schedule that I wrote about in Wednesday's paper, there was every reason to think Marmol could go at least two innings, maybe more. Frankly, he was a better pitcher, a bigger weapon, a more dependable asset this season than Zambrano.

And yes, Piniella was guilty of looking ahead. But his other Game 4 option, besides Zambrano on short rest, would be Jason Marquis. Which is to say, there is no other option. He needed Zambrano to save something for Sunday. So he took a gamble, and he lost.

If Marmol holds the Diamondbacks down, and the Cubs eke out a win, Piniella looks like a genius. But Marmol gave it up, and now Piniella, in the words of one Chicago columnist, has "fitted [the Cubs] with cement shoes." So it goes. But I liked the move.


I'll be back later with some pregame stuff, including lineups, from The Jake.

By Dave Sheinin  |  October 4, 2007; 2:45 PM ET
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Next: Oddities from Philly


What's to discuss? Sheinin's spot on.

Cub fans need to get their head out of their angst and at least try to understand both sides of the issue. Otherwise, they deserve to have Dusty Baker back managing their pitching staff.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 3:45 PM | Report abuse

If it was such a good move to pull Zambrano and put in Marmol, wouldn't it have been an even better move to pinch hit for Zambrano with the bases loaded and two outs in a 1-1 game just an inning earlier, seeing as how you were going to pull him early anyway?

Manny Acta did this kind of thing a few times this year, letting the pitcher bat and kill a possible rally in the fifth inning or so, only to pull the pitcher an inning or so later. Doesn't make sense to me if you're in a situation where you have men in scoring position and could use some runs.

Posted by: Section 419 | October 4, 2007 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Confession: I am a (recovering) Cubs fan (grew up outside Chi-town) but they have been so frustrating for so long that I've been following the Nats more closely than the Cubs since they came to town.

In general agree with those that say you can't look ahead and that you have to focus on the game at hand.

But I don't think you can pin this loss on Lou's decision. The Cubs didn't score. So would it really have made a difference if Big Z had thrown another inning or two? Probably not. And now he's fresher for Sunday.

Looking at it another way, Bob Melvin removed Brandon Webb after 7 innings, when he had thrown 89 pitches. If the Cubs had come back to score two runs over the final two innings, we'd be talking about Melvin's questionable decision to pull Webb instead.

Posted by: Bob L. Head | October 4, 2007 3:54 PM | Report abuse


The reason you don't pull Zambrano, as opposed to any other pitcher, is that Zambrano is the best-hitting pitcher in the league after Micah Owings of the D-Backs. (I'd rank them Owings, Zambrano, Dontrelle Willis, Livo Hernandez).

Not only do the Cubs routinely leave him in to hit in these types of situations because he's better than many of the other options on their bench, they have been known to use him as a pinch-hitter on his off days, when regular pinch-hitters were still available.

Posted by: faNATic | October 4, 2007 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Probably, 419, but the pitcher in question was Zambrano, not John Patterson (remember that time he pitched?). In Lou's head, he probably imagined giving Zambrano a chance to knock in something, then stay in the game with a lead or to get out, and then bring in your shut-down relief. It's a sort of 51% baseball style that I think is kinda gutless. I'm not quite the Frank Robinson 110% play every out like it's the last one, you're down by five, and you're gunning for the all-time highlights reel desperation type, but a Manny Acta go hard, with no regrets is my taste.

Also, Hendo, "heads out of their angst" is the greatest clause written here in the last month, at least.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 4, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Zambrano is indeed a decent-hitting pitcher. Also, you don't want to burn up a pinch hitter every time you turn around.

On the other hand, there were those baserunners, and there was Matt Murton riding the pine. (Even with men on base, Manny seldom enjoyed such a luxury.)

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Valuable info here Dave. Honestly, I've not paid much attention at all to other teams until now so it's great to get a little of the back story. Thanks.

Posted by: NatsNut | October 4, 2007 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Dave, you make a good argument. But you're missing a crucial fact. When it comes to the Cubs in post-season, if it can go wrong, it will.

Posted by: Ashburn | October 4, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

"...there was Matt Murton riding the pine...."

Not to mention Daryle Ward, although Ward did come in later. I feel like a mutt; I've been a Ward fan since his days in Pittsburgh, if only because he's one of the few active players that I could outrun on the bases.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Give it up for the man with two refrigerators on his back.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 4, 2007 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, 506, I was at the Ward "two fridges" game. That was a lot of fun.

Good grief, did he hit for the Nats last year: .308 / .390 / .567 in 108 ABs!

Barry, if you run into Ward, give him our best.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Go Rocks! Up 6-3

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 4, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Manager pulls starter, inserts ace reliever who promptly issues a tater.

Could eventually wear thin as a theme, but I suppose we'll stick with it for a bit.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Joe Table officiating for Philly. Alfonseca can't be far behind.

The CBP scoreboard operator will earn his or her pay this afternoon.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Joe Table appears to be Jorge Julio in disguise. Walk #1, Walk #2, #3 hits first pitch to bring in the two walkers....

Posted by: Anonymous | October 4, 2007 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Stop everything!! "Nats Journal" linked to off the main page's "other headlines"!

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 4, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

See what pull Sheinen has ? (or maybe the anonymous who appeared in the host's spot several posts ago)

Posted by: one of Barry's Babes | October 4, 2007 5:26 PM | Report abuse

[RF], they could warn a person.

Did somebody run the vacuum in the living room? And put those dirty dishes in the dishwasher right now.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 5:27 PM | Report abuse

New post.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

New post from Philly.

Posted by: NatsNut | October 4, 2007 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Just had to chime in from La Paz, Bolivia. First off, I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to learn last Tuesday that the Mets blew it. Today, I was rocking my Donny Baseball jersey - and my Nationals hat - and my wife had her Red Sox 2004 Championship t-shirt on and we were stopped a number of times with Go Yankees or Go Sox. Worldwide baby!

Posted by: mjwies11, Section 420 | October 4, 2007 5:32 PM | Report abuse

New post.

Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 05:30 PM

New post from Philly.

Posted by: NatsNut | October 4, 2007 05:30 PM

Nah, it's the same old Post; just because they gave us a front page link, doesn't mean they have become baseball supporters.


Posted by: one of Barry's Babes | October 4, 2007 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Good one, hendo

"get their heads out of their angst"
Posted by: Hendo | October 4, 2007 03:45 PM

Posted by: cevans | October 5, 2007 2:01 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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