Piniella won't blame woes on chemistry
Cubs skipper reflects in wake of Bradley's comments
CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella said Thursday the current Cubs team does not have the best chemistry of any team he's managed, but the skipper didn't blame that for its underachieving performance on the field. He also tried to limit any distractions caused by Milton Bradley's comments in which the outfielder implied he doesn't want to be on the field.
Piniella did not want to comment on Bradley's statement that he hopes games go quickly so he can go home.
"I can't speak for Milton," Piniella said Thursday.
A reporter said it seems as if Bradley doesn't want to be with the Cubs.
"He's getting paid to play," Piniella said. "I'm getting paid to put out a lineup, and that's exactly what I'm doing."
After Tuesday's game, Bradley said he's had to deal with "hatred," and when asked on Wednesday to clarify what he was talking about, the outfielder didn't blame the Wrigley Field fans specifically.
"All I'm saying is I pray the game is nine innings, so I can go out there the least amount of time possible and go home," Bradley said.
Was Piniella upset to read those comments?
"We've had enough problems here with injuries and so forth that we don't really need any more controversy of any sorts," Piniella said. "That speaks for itself."
Back to the subject of chemistry. Does winning breed good chemistry or do players need to take charge in the clubhouse?
"Winning has a lot to do with chemistry," Piniella said. "It makes a team come together a lot quicker. I told you all this spring, we had a big turnover. Sometimes it takes a while. It doesn't necessarily fall in your lap, you know? This hasn't been one of my better chemistry teams. Look, is that the reason we're winning or losing baseball games? No, I don't think so. You can go beyond that."
Piniella said the Yankees teams he played on in the late '70s didn't have great chemistry off the field, but on the field, they played as a team.
"When you start looking at chemistry, on-the-field chemistry is the best chemistry you can have," Piniella said.
Earlier this season, Piniella was criticized by some in the media for losing the fire to manage. He disputes that.
"I've addressed everything that needs to be addressed here," Piniella said. "I don't know what else I could do. Look, invariably when things don't go right, it's always the manager's fault. You want to blame me? Take your shots. It doesn't bother me one bit.
"I'm the same manager I was this year that I was last year that I was the year before," he said. "Same manager. No different. When you don't win, somebody's got to stand up and be the scapegoat. If you all want to say it's the manager, say it's the manager. Fine with me."
In 2007, Piniella's first season with the Cubs, he led them to the National League Central title, and they repeated in '08, winning an NL-best 97 games. This year, the Cubs are nine games behind the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals and closer to .500 than first place.
There has been a lot of turnover and injuries, but the chemistry issues could be based more on the subtractions. The departure of popular players like Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood have definitely affected the clubhouse mix.
Piniella turns 66 on Friday and has been managing 20-plus seasons. How has he changed?
"I'm older, a heck of a lot more patient," he said. "I look the other way more. I'm a fairly easy guy to play for, to be honest with you. All I expect is players to go out there and give 100 percent and do the best they can, hustle. I respect players and I want to see them do well.
"When I was younger, I was not as patient," he said. "You learn these things, the same way you learn to become a good player, you learn to become a better manager, and you keep adjusting to the times. If you don't adjust to the times, things pass you by."
Players have changed, too.
"The one thing that's changed more than anything else is the longer-term contracts, that's changed," he said. "Outside of that, the game is still baseball."
He predicts the game will change slightly. When Piniella played, there was a premium on speed, and then the home run became more prevalent. He expects the game to revert back to the way it was played in the '60s and '70s when teams had power but the emphasis was more on athleticism.
The Cubs lost only 64 games last season. They entered Thursday's play at 63-61. Piniella said the losses still hurt, and that hasn't changed over time. He feels he's a fair manager.
"I play the people who I feel should be playing," Piniella said. "There are no doghouses -- everybody gets an opportunity -- but I let the players play. It's their game, it's not my game, it's not the coaches' game, it's not anybody else's game. It's the players' game. All we can do is encourage them and give them an opportunity. Outside of that, there's not much else.
"I do care about wins and losses," he said. "That's what I get hired for. I get hired to win baseball games. That's my batting average, that's my ERA. Do I take it personally? No. There's only so many things I can do as a manager and the rest of it is certainly not in my full control."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.