Certainly looks to be a busy one today, so we'll get right to it early and then head downstairs for Lou's thoughts about his end-of-season retirement. As you probably know by now, Lou made it official this afternoon after his longtime friend from the New York Daily News, Bill Madden, broke the news about Lou retiring at the end of the year.
Lou, GM Jim Hendry and owner Tom Ricketts also will be in front of the media today. Let's hope Mr. Ricketts is ready to give a definite answer on Jim Hendry's future after he equivocated in L.A. on the last road trip after reluctantly giving the writers a few minutes.
The most important relationship on a baseball team is the one between the field manager and the GM. Will it be Jim Hendry picking the next dugout boss or someone else? Let the speculation begin about Ryne Sandberg, Bob Brenly and whomever else.
That said, I've been fortunate enough to work over the past 13 years with some great guys as manager. Gentleman Jim Riggleman was the manager when I moved from weekend baseball duty to the Cubs beat in the winter of 1997-98. I knew Jim from my weekend watch, and we got on great. On my first day of spring training in 1998, Jim actually greeted me at the front door of Fitch Park in Mesa and walked me around the fields. Jim was and still is a great tactician in the dugout. He's always prepared and has an answer for why he made a move.
Don Baylor was as decent a guy as I've been around. It's too bad the team quit on him in 2002, and only Moises Alou stood up for Don.
Dusty Baker is, well, Dusty Baker. He's one of a kind, and one of the more interesting guys I've ever met. We could go 'round and 'round about on-base percentage and the like, and the next day, he'd ask how my kids were doing. When the Reds came to town a couple weeks back, the first thing Dusty said was, "Hey, how's your daughter?"
All that said, Lou Piniella is at the top of my list. I've learned more about baseball from talking to Lou as I have from anybody. A couple years ago at Dodger Stadium, Lou was talking about why a seemingly fast guy (not D-Lee, by the way), was hitting into double plays. "It's not because he's not fast," Lou said. "It's because when he swings the bat, he screws himself into the ground and can't get a good jump to first base." He suggested a couple of springs ago that Angel Guzman move to the third-base side of the rubber because, as a former hitter, he noticed that Guzman could give himself a better angle, especially against right-handed batters. When talking about a young hitter this year, Lou said, "He's just got to learn not to chase (pitches) in too many areas. You can chase in one area, but not more than one."
Lou came here at the end of 2006 to turn a bad situation into a good one. He sized up quickly who could play and who couldn't. Soon, Cesar Izturis and Michael Barrett were gone. I didn't agree with Lou pulling Big Z early in Game 1 of the 2007 NLDS, but that's baseball. With the Tribune Co. looking to go out in a blaze of glory, the Cubs had their window in 2007 and 2008 to get it done, and they didn't. Then, management had to cut back on its free-spending ways.
But it was always fun to run into Lou in the concourse after a game and have him vent just a little bit or talk some baseball.
The Cubs job is a job that gets them all in the end, isn’t it?
On to other things. Reliever Jeff Stevens has been called up from Iowa with Mitch Atkins being sent down.
We’ll do a quick minor-league wrap here:
Big Z threw an inning yesterday in Mesa and got all three batters. I’m told he threw it at about 92 mph. He’s set to head to Iowa later this week. He’ll be back either in Houston or Colorado next week.
The other pitcher to watch is Chris Archer, who won for Class AA Tennessee yesterday to improve to 3-1 with a 0.00 ERA. In the Smokies’ rain-shortened 4-2 win over Montgomery, Archer worked 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits and 2 unearned runs while walking one and striking out six. He has not allowed an earned run in 22.1 innings at Tennessee. We’ll see him in big-league spring training next year. Brandon Guyer homered in that game (No. 7) while extending his hitting streak to seven games (13-for-29). Luke Sommer, a converted outfielder, notched his fifth straight save.
At Iowa (AAA) Thomas Diamond was hit for 8 hits and 8 runs in 4 innings as the I-Cubs fell 8-0 to Oklahoma City. Rehabbing reliever Brian Schlitter struck out four in 2 innings.
At Daytona (A), Michael Brenly extended his hitting streak to 18 games (27-for-69, .391) by going 1-for-4 in the Cubs’ 4-3, 19-inning win over Charlotte. Matt Matulia, originally an infielder, worked 5 scoreless innings of relief. The game-winning hit went to Kyler Burke, who doubled home Ryan Flaherty.
Peoria (A) committed 6 errors in falling 7-5 to Bowling Green. Justin Bour hit his team-leading 10th homer.
Boise (A) beat Spokane 11-10. Recent draftee Pierre LePage extended his hitting streak to eight games. Local guy Elliot Soto went 3-for-4. Got a chance to talk to him when he was with Peoria for the Road to Wrigley game. Scouting director Tim Wilken told the Idaho Statesman that this year’s No. 1 draft pick, pitcher Hayden Simpson, likely would not pitch for Boise this year because of that nasty case of mono we reported on a couple days ago.
"Maybe this is a blessing in disguise," Wilken told the paper. "Not for Boise and not for the selfish Tim Wilken, who wants to see him in a game."
Back with more later.