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Lou Piniella Screwed Up Yet Again; Mismanaged Playoff Rotation

Last year at this time I was criticizing Cubs manager Lou Piniella for his decision to yank Carlos Zambrano after six innings in Game 1 of the NLDS with the score tied 1-1, while Arizona elected to stick with ace Brandon Webb for another inning. At the time I criticized Piniella before the series ended, saying he was wrong for getting ahead of himself; he wanted Zambrano to be rested for Game 4, forgetting you must win a game in order to get to Game 4. Well, it struck me that the same mentality in this year’s playoffs doomed the Cubs yet again. It all would have been worked out had they listened to me last year when I said such a move was a fireable offense.

Anyway, Piniella ordered his rotation for the NLDS against the Dodgers to go Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, and Rich Harden. Now I’m not about to blame Piniella for his team booting the ball around the infield and not hitting for a few games, but I will blame him for not throwing his top two aces in games 1 and 2. To me, it is ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE to not throw Carlos Zambrano in Game 1 of a playoff series if you’re the Cubs. Plain and simple, end of story, no questions asked — you ALWAYS throw your ace in Game 1 of a playoff series whenever possible (and it was possible). Secondly, if your number two pitcher happens to be Rich Harden, who is filthier than Zambrano but just not as much of a “Cub” as Big Z, you have to throw him in Game 2. No questions asked once again. I don’t care how amazing Ryan Dempster was this year, I don’t care what his home splits were at Wrigley Field. If you have Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden in your rotation, you throw them in Games 1 and 2 of the playoffs respectively, unless your three other starters happen to be named Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, and Tim Lincecum. Last time I checked Lou’s other options were Dempster, Lilly, and Marquis.

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In Billy Beane, the A’s Should Trust

I learned my lesson (for the 82nd time) this year, that you can never underestimate Billy Beane. After he traded away Dan Haren and Nick Swisher leading into the season, I said the A’s had conceded 2008. They’re happily in 2nd place in the AL West, well over .500. What the **** do I know. Anyway, I think the Rich Harden trade definitely was one worth making for the Cubs, and was probably smart on the A’s part as well.

At first glance, the A’s got completely ripped off. Which probably means Beane got a steal. Sure, Beane was fleeced on the Tim Hudson deal after Dan Meyer decided to suck upon being dealt to Oakland, but there’s no doubting Beane’s track record — he’s awesome. Beane’s already received at least equal value in both the Haren and Swisher deals, and most of the prospects haven’t even come close to blossoming yet. So let’s break this trade down on both ends.

For the Cubs, they’re getting an ace who’s capable of pitching seven pretty unhittable innings in a ballgame. Rich Harden is one of the harder-throwing starters in the game, also possessing a devastating change up that he mixes in frequently. The dude needs a milk IV pumping into his bones not to mention a bubble to sleep in so he can be healthy, but he’s dominant when he’s out there, however infrequently it may be. The Cubs are essentially getting Mark Prior once again, and everyone knows how frustrating that can be. They’re rolling the dice and taking a gamble that can have a huge reward, and one that probably makes them the favorite at the sportsbook. If it doesn’t pay off, they’re not going to be hurt too much by losing the players they traded away. If it does pay off, they could be looking at winning a World Series. It was definitely a gamble worth taking.

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