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Piniella's tantrum caps 6th straight loss
Maybe Lou Piniella has finally figured out the best way to avoid watching his baseball team—have the umpires throw him out of the game.
Or maybe his baseball team just finally drove him past his melting point.
Either way, Piniella was ejected for the first time as Cubs manager in Saturday's 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves, setting off the Wrigley Field fans, who littered the field with debris.
Just one day after refereeing a fight between his players, Piniella waded into a fray of his own with third-base umpire Mark Wegner in the eighth inning. And he got his money's worth, kicking his cap several times, covering Wegner's shoes with dirt and finally being restrained by crew chief Bruce Froemming.
"The umpire was correct; the guy was out," Piniella said afterward. "I was going to argue whether he was out, safe or whatever. It didn't make a damn bit of difference."
It capped quite a day for Piniella. He met in the morning with Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett before fining them for Friday's scuffle, then insisted there was no rift over personnel with the front office though he claimed he had watched baseball oddities here he had never seen elsewhere.
And he saw more Saturday as his Cubs lost their sixth straight game and 10th in the last 12, assuring themselves of losing their seventh series in their last eight.
Piniella saw the Cubs strand seven runners in a four-inning stretch, pitcher Rich Hill throw a ball into center field, relief pitchers give up the two winning runs and Hill and outfielder Angel Pagan get thrown out at third base.
The Pagan play, when he tried to advance when a pitch got away from the catcher, was the one that set off Piniella.
"We made some mistakes again," he said. "We talked about those before. I'm not going to talk about those anymore."
Then about that ejection …
"I think it was time," he said. "But I really did think the guy was safe."
Then you were frustrated …
"Let's not talk about me," he said. "You all were asking me [Friday] why I hadn't been kicked out of a game. Now you see that I got kicked out of one."
Piniella could just as easily have held his kick-and-scream display with his players, given their continued mistake-riddled play, but he says he is getting tired of those.
"I've had more meetings here in two months with players than I've had in my entire career of managing all these other places that I've been," said Piniella, who has managed for 19 years.
How do you explain that?
"I don't know," he said. "How do you explain it? I wish I had an explanation, I really do.
"I know this," he added with a chuckle. "I've gotten to know the players a lot better, and they've gotten to know me better."
So is he fed up? And does he want immediate changes that perhaps GM Jim Hendry doesn't want or can't make?
"I'm not fed up," he said. "It's part of my job. Believe me, these managing jobs aren't very easy. I am fed up, though, with some of the play that we've had on the field.
"Everybody in this organization basically is on the same page. … Some of the things that I've seen here I haven't seen anywhere else that I've managed. It's got to stop, or obviously we've got to make some changes."
Piniella kidded that he had been "through my freshman and sophomore years in two months" with the Cubs.
Things he has never seen suggests there's something unique about managing the Cubs, who have been through dozens of managers and are closing in on 100 years of frustration.
"I didn't say that," he said. "Every club is unique. Look, I'm proud to be here. I get a thrill every day putting on a uniform and walking out on Wrigley Field and watching this team play. It's something special. This city is wonderful. It's a great sports town. They love their baseball.
"We've just got to give them a better product, and that's what I was brought in here to do. And I hope I don't get judged by my start. Just give me time to get things straightened out."