06/22/07 6:09 PM ET
Piniella surprised by strange start to '07
Cubs manager sees club improving, learning how to win
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
And he's seen things in less than three months with the Cubs that he's never seen before. There have been more than a few games in which Piniella has walked away scratching his head.
"I'll be honest when I say that -- I didn't expect that," Piniella said of the variety of weird plays. "I really didn't expect that. It's calming down and it's getting better. We've been working a lot on these things."
When Piniella took the Cubs job, he was very positive and upbeat. He's still positive, but now he realizes how much work there is to be done.
"The biggest job a manager has coming into this situation is change the culture," he said. "[If]I don't change the culture here, I'm not going to succeed as a manager. It's a tough job. It's not an easy job. I've found that out.
"You've got to change the culture, and if not, there will be a new staff here in a short period of time and they'll be talking about the same thing."
Piniella has no complaints about the effort from the players.
"We've made some silly mistakes," he said. "We're starting to eradicate most of those. At the same time, we lose some awfully, awfully tough games. You leave the ballpark and you're shaking your head and say, 'How?'"
Thursday's 6-5 loss was an example. With the game tied at 5 against Texas, the Rangers rallied in the ninth, getting a hit off a ball that Alfonso Soriano nearly caught. They kept the inning alive with a botched rundown play by the Cubs, and then scored the game-winner on an RBI single that hit Angel Pagan's glove.
Piniella was obviously bothered by the sloppy play after the game, which dropped the Cubs to 7-15 in one-run games.
"I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I take this seriously," Piniella said. "I want this organization to prosper. Obviously, you get frustrated at times. It's not the easiest thing in the world. At the same time, I recognize we're getting effort, and we have a good chance to get better."
The Cubs are going through some growing pains.
"We're basically a very competitive team that hasn't learned how to win yet," Piniella said. "That can change rather quickly. That's what we're looking for is that change. We're only in June. We're not in late August or Labor Day yet."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.