Monday, October 23, 2006

Piniella Adding to His Coaching Staff

Bill Madden from the New York Daily News is reporting that Lou Piniella has pegged former Detroit Tigers manager Alan Trammell to be his bench coach with the Cubs. Trammell was last seen managing the Tigers to an AL record 119 loss season in 2003. After the 2005 season, Trammell was replaced by Jim Leyland and the rest is history.

It had been believed that Piniella would opt for his former bench coach, John McLaren , to be his bench coach in Chicago, but last week, McLaren signed on as the bench coach and heir-apparent to manager Mike Hargrove in Seattle. Rumors out of Seattle are that McLaren was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

As a player, Trammell was hard-nosed and got the most out of his natural ability. As a manager, Trammell was hard-nosed, but couldn’t get his team of misfits to perform. Some have claimed that the players just weren’t talented enough to win. Others have claimed that Trammell wasn’t a good enough leader to get his players to play together as a team. In the end, it may have been both.

Trammell may actually be a good choice to be bench coach. He’s a baseball man through and through, and he’s a guy that players respect. He also is a guy that can be quietly effective without drawing attention to himself, a quality necessary in a successful bench coach.

Piniella’s pitching coach next year will be none other than Larry Rothschild. Rothschild has weathered the storms of three different Cubs managers. Piniella will be his fourth (Baylor, Kim and Baker were the others).

Rothschild is highly regarded in baseball circles, but I fail to see exactly what he is bringing to the team. His main strength is that he is supposed to be a master of pitching mechanics. Yet, the Cubs problems, at least in the last few years, seem to center around pitchers with bad mechanics. It’s good if Rothschild can recognize problems with pitching mechanics, but he’s not very useful if he can’t fix them.

Many believe that Rothschild is Hendry’s hand-picked pitching coach and that Piniella had to agree to taking Rothschild before Hendry would agree to a contract with Piniella. Although there may be some truth to this, it is also true that Rothschild is very familiar to Piniella. Rothschild was Pinella’s bullpen coach in Cincinnati in 1990, the year the Reds won the World Series. Rothschild also won a World Series ring as the pitching coach of the 1997 Florida Marlins.

In all fairness, under Rothschild’s tutelage, Cubs pitchers have lead the majors in strikeouts every year he has coached in Chicago. Although this fact hasn’t translated into wins as often as I would like, it is an impressive stat nonetheless.

The Cubs success or failure in 2007 will not be decided by Rothschild, Trammell of even Piniella. That determination will be made largely this off-season by the moves (or lack of moves) made by Jim Hendry. The next few weeks and months will tell that tale.


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