MLB: Piniella says winning, not reputation, matters
CHICAGO — Fed up with losing, Lou Piniella says he expects his Chicago Cubs to live up to their reputations and salaries.
"Don't let names fool you," he said. "Production wins."
And winning is the only thing that matters to Piniella, whose team has the third-highest payroll in the major leagues ($146.6 million) but took a 15-22 record into Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.
Asked if young outfielder Tyler Colvin might be better off playing everyday in the minors instead of serving as Chicago's late-inning defensive replacement, Piniella raised his voice and changed the subject — to winning.
"He needs to play? What we need to do is win," Piniella said. "We keep talking about at-bats for people. We talk about people needing to play. We talk about everything but winning baseball games. That's what the hell I want to talk about ... period.
"Outside of that, I'd like to see people get hot and stay hot and win games, and everything will take care of itself. I wouldn't be getting asked these questions day in and day out, OK? And having to make excuses and everything else, OK? So, if we start doing the things that we're capable of doing, I won't have to answer these questions all the time."
In his fourth year with the Cubs, Piniella's contract expires after the season. He turns 67 in August and has said this will be his last managing job. But he hasn't said whether he wants to return in 2011; nor has new owner Tom Ricketts said he wants Piniella to stay.
Piniella managed the Cubs to NL Central titles in 2007 and 2008, but Chicago was swept out of the playoffs each year. The Cubs went 83-78 in '09, with Piniella blaming injuries and poor clubhouse chemistry.
The Cubs have been healthy this year but have been hurt by poor relief pitching, a lack of clutch hitting and the horrible starts of former All-Stars Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.
Piniella said he doubted high-priced players such as Ramirez, Lee and Carlos Zambrano were buckling under the weight of their contracts.
"They've had great seasons, and they're rewarded for that financially," he said. "But at the same time, you've got to continue to do it if you want to win. You can't stop the production."
Considering the talent on the roster, what would Piniella have said back in spring training had somebody told him the Cubs would be well under .500 in mid-May?
"If the talent that we had was playing up to (expectations), I'd tell you I didn't think that would happen," he said Sunday. "We're confident that we'll get it going but we've got to score more runs consistently and we've got to keep (opponents) from scoring, especially late, because you can't come back from those things."
Famously hotheaded during his playing days with the Yankees and in a managing career that included stops in New York, Cincinnati, Seattle and Tampa Bay, Piniella mostly has been calm and patient in Chicago — where the Cubs haven't won a World Series title since 1908.
He often has joked that he finally has grown up, making it unnecessary to argue with umpires and scream at players.
"Everybody's trying. Nobody's going through the motions," Piniella said. "It's just a question of being more consistent. Once we do that, we'll win more baseball games.
"And then everybody will be happy. The media will be happy. The manager will be happy. The players will be happy. The fans will be happy. And if not, we'll continue to be unhappy."