Friday, February 23, 2007

2007 Baseball Preview #1
Cubs' Field Boss, Lou Piniella: Labor Hero

Here's the first in an intended series of posts related to the upcoming MLB season, and specifically Chicago's two teams. I'm not going to clutter things up with the same old speculative crap about Marks Prior and Buehrle, Derrek Lee, Kerry Wood, Jermaine Dye, or even Ozzie Guillen, because every other one of the 80 million baseball blogs out there are doing a damn good regurgatative job of that. I'm going to try to come up with some unusual stuff and see if I can get any long-tail hits out of it. Or not.

Anyway, the first one is, in a roundabout way, about the Cubs. Here it is.

In my last post, I referenced Jim Bouton's book, Ball Four, and my own post inspired my own self to start reading it again. Early in the book is a passage that relates niftily to the upcoming '07 season, about new Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

The book begins just before the start of the 1969 season, with Bouton at age 30 and in decline as a sore-armed former fire-thrower about to join the short-lived Seattle Pilots (who became the Milwaukee Brewers in 1970) in an attempt to revive his flagging career. Also joining the Pilots that Spring -- a young Lou Piniella.

In chapter 2, Bouton describes reporting for training camp on February 26, six days late, due to a brief players' strike. He talks about how, when the strike was called, he had intended to live up to his contract and report on time, because his position on the team was insecure, but then:

What made me change my mind was a phone call I made to Lou Piniella, a twenty-six-year-old rookie who'd been in the Baltimore and Cleveland organizations.

Since the Pilots were not a team yet we had no player representative, so the three or four Pilots at the meeting at the Biltmore [in New York, with players' representative Marvin Miller, where the strike was called] were asked to call four or five teammates each to tell them what happened. I reached Lou in Florida and he said that his impulse was to report, that he was scared it would count against him if he didn't, that he was just a rookie looking to make the big leagues and didn't want anybody to get angry at him. But also that he'd thought it over carefully and decided he should support the other players and the strike. So he was not reporting.

That impressed the hell out of me. Here's a kid with a lot more at stake than I, a kid risking a once-in-a-lifetime shot. And suddenly I felt a moral obligation to the players. I decided not to go down.

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