Perry pays price, but Cubs bats will revive
“Why don’t we focus on the positive thing, which is our pitching has been good?” he said. “Why don’t we talk about pitching? Why don’t we talk about some of the good defensive plays that we make and the fact that these kids are playing hard and they’re trying? Why don’t we focus on those things?
“Why do we always have to focus on what we’re not doing?”
For the same reason no one focuses on a warthog’s exceptional sense of smell: You can’t help but notice its inability to take a good photo.
About a half-hour after Piniella’s plea for encouragement, the Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry and replaced him with Von Joshua.
So much for centering on happy thoughts.
Mixed signals aside, everybody knows the focus needs to be on the Cubs’ hitting problems. General manager Jim Hendry, who made the decision to can Perry, knows it, and so, presumably, does Perry. If Perry doesn’t know it, that might explain something about the Cubs’ struggles at the plate.
Was the team’s .246 batting average his fault? Only if he’s allowed to take credit for the Cubs’ big offensive numbers last year.
A team makes a move like this for the sake of change, to shake things up, to adjust the thermostat. So if you believe in cause and effect, a struggling Geovany Soto had two doubles and a single Sunday in the Cubs’ 3-2 victory over the Twins.
Baseball is a strange, strange game, and there’s no explaining a teamwide slump, unless you’re willing to accept the explanation that these Cubs are tighter than a speech class full of introverts. They have been invisible at the plate with men in scoring position.
A change was necessary.
“We’ve got a lot of real good players that have struggled simultaneously,” Hendry said. “Offensively, it’s been something that none of us ever expected to see.”
The pirouetting Kosuke Fukudome looks intent on boring himself into the dirt after each missed pitch, the way he did last year when things went bad for him. Alfonso Soriano, always streaky, hasn’t hit well in more than a month. As Hendry rightly points out, the Cubs’ struggles are not a result of Aramis Ramirez’s absence. Five of their starters Sunday were All-Stars last year.
It’s no secret why the Cubs are a .500 team rather than the dominant team they should be. They either stopped hitting (Soriano) or never started (Milton Bradley). But that’s going to change, and not because of anything Perry didn’t do or Joshua will do. Most of the hitters are too good to remain 40 points below their career averages.
When Bradley finally gets untracked, it’ll be because it simply happened. He ripped a double to right field in the fourth inning Sunday. Perhaps that will get him going. Don’t ask why. It’s baseball.
But ignoring the topic of poor hitting would be silly.
“If we allow the guys to relax a little bit and not talk about the deficiencies and talk about the strength a little more, it would be ... helpful to this team here turning its fortunes around sooner than later,” Piniella said.
The manager clearly is out of answers. When he met with the media Sunday, there were a lot of long pauses as he tried to explain his team’s lack of offense. He held up his hands in supplication. The long and the short answers were the same: He didn’t know.
This being baseball, that’s not a bad answer. Sometimes you simply don’t know. Sometimes you don’t know why you’re hitting, and sometimes you don’t know why you’re not.
The one thing everyone knows is that the Cubs are better than this. Ted Lilly gave them another strong effort Sunday. Imagine if their hitting ever matches their pitching.
Piniella suggested waiting until the end of September to decide whether the Cubs are good or bad. Sort of takes the boos out of the equation, doesn’t it? And what’s a Cubs season without some booing?
Piniella obviously was trying to take pressure off his hitters.
“Just relax and let it happen,” he said of his players. “It’s not the end of the world if you don’t. You’re still going to get a paycheck. Your dog will still like you.”
I talked with Soriano’s dog the other day, and she was thinking of putting herself up for adoption.
“Three years from now, nobody’s going to give a damn anyway,” Piniella said.
These are Cubs fans, Lou. Their long- and short-term memories are in perfectly painful working order.
Rick Morrissey writes for the Chicago Tribune.