I like Lou Piniella as a person and consider him a good manager. Still, I have to wonder a little bit about the Cubbies' senior citizen skipper after a game like Monday's 10-8 loss to the sad-sack Pirates.
After Micah Hoffpauir drew a leadoff walk, Ryan Freel bunted him to second. Why?
Why sacrifice an out there, with No. 8 hitter Aaron Miles - whose bat is DOA every time he steps to the plate - on deck? And then, why let reliever Jose Ascanio bat for himself, especially when Lou planned on taking Ascanio out of the game immediately for another reliever, Neal Cotts?
Yes, Freel is even batting Calista Flockhart's weight. But he has been a tough out over the years; maybe he'd accidentally get a hit.
And why not use one of the available position players - Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot or Koyie Hill to pinch-hit for Ascanio? Sure, none of those guys is hitting a lick, but Ascanio had struck out in his only career plate appearance. Lou hesitated for about a minute before sending Ascanio to the plate ... and then decided the inning wasn't worth trying to salvage.
By the way, Miles struck out, Ascanio popped out and Cotts gave up three runs in the sixth to blow the game.
Bad ... badder ... baddest.
With the Cubs now losing 10-7, Reed Johnson and Geovany Soto drew walks to start a possible comeback. After Hoffpauir grounded into a double play, Freel singled home Johnson. Miles somehow managed a soft hit, putting runners on first and second with the pitcher's spot coming to the plate. A single would draw the Cubs within a run, a double probably would tie it, a homer would give them the lead.
A right-hander was on the mound for Pittsburgh, so Lou finally would turn to one of his left-handed pinch-hitters - Fukudome, Fontenot or Hill - right?
Wrong. Carlos Freakin' Zambrano. Who struck out on a wild swing.
And the Cubs - with their $135 million payroll, their back-to-back division titles and their great expectations - are 21-22.
Most of the team's woes are the players' fault. Some blame goes to ownership; the state of flux is hurting personnel decisions. Jim Hendry isn't without fault. Bad luck, injuries and pressure have played roles, too.
But Monday night, the manager had several chances to do something that might have made a difference.
He went 0-fer. The losing streak is eight.
"We cannot be perfect. But I hope whatever happened last week doesn't happen again. We didn't hit. We didn't win. We got swept twice. I hope that doesn't happen again. If it happens again, it would be ugly." - Alfonso Soriano
You mean, scoring five runs during a winless six-game road trip wasn't ugly enough?
The Quote II
"We play one week like we're a champion. And one week we play like the worst team in the league." - Soriano
And then you blow a lead, give up 18 hits to the Pirates and get booed by your own fans. So at least you're good at finding new lows.
The Quote III
"Every team has a bad week or a bad month." - Soriano
Or a bad century.
Going on two.
Sorry, Fonzie, but that was too damn easy.