Every team starts the season with the same goal: to win the World Series (well in theory anyway. Do the Royals and Pirates think like that right now? I’m not so sure). Only one team can achieve that goal each year leaving twenty-nine others looking back and trying to decide how they can make next year “their” year. Even before The Tigers’ opponents have been determined, teams are busy making big changes for 2007.
When things go wrong, it is often the manager who faces the music. It’s much easier to replace one guy than shipping out a load of players and bringing in new ones. Sometimes the manager can largely be to blame for a team’s failings, sometimes they can just be a convenient scapegoat. Either way, the appointment of a new manager is often seen as the best way to turn around the fortunes of a franchise.
What chance has Lou Piniella got in Chicago? He will not be able to walk in, wave a magic wand and make everything better. Losing 96 games and finishing with the worst record in the National League is bad enough. When you consider that the NL is weaker overall than the AL, it really shows how far the Cubs have to improve if they want to win the World Series for the first time since 1908. A bit of good luck on the injury front would be a big help, but they will need more than one full season from Mark Prior to get anywhere.
Is A-Rod the answer? His previous relationship with Piniella has got the hacks putting 2 and 2 together. For all the grief he gets in New York, he is still a fantastic player and would undoubtedly make a big difference. Is it likely? Not at all. For a start A-Rod is well-known for being very image conscious. Even the most skilled spin doctor would have a hard time painting a move from the Yankees to the Cubs as anything but desperation. No, Piniella’s going to have to find his way out of the mess without simply plucking a superstar from another team. Not that you should feel sympathetic. He has taken on the job knowing the scale of the task. Oh, and I’m sure the $10 million he will be paid over the next three years is some comfort to him as well.
If Piniella wants to be reminded how tough the managing game is, he would do well to spare a thought for Ken Macha. Even reaching the ALCS wasn’t enough to save Macha’s job. This time last year Oakland fans thought they would have a new manager leading the team when Macha’s contract ran out and no agreement was reached; however a week or so after the split the two sides came back together . This time around it looks a lot more final. Many have questioned Macha’s use of the bullpen in the play-offs, along with various other decisions over the season that been brought into question. Personally, I always thought he looked like a lame lab technician with his white hair and thin wire glasses. And he talks like something out of Sesame Street. That’s reason enough for a change in my book!