Sweet Lou is coming to the City by the Bay. Yep, that barrel-chested man famous for profanity-laced on-field tirades has been hired as a special consultant to San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean.
On the surface, this appears like another Sabean genius move. Pick up a smart baseball mind, particularly one with an offensive lens on the game, to complement what has become a pitching-heavy club.
On the other hand, Lou's been in the dugout for the last 40 years, which means showing up at game time in street clothes will be an unfamiliar role for him.
Piniella's arrival in San Francisco begs the obvious question: How might Lou help (or hurt) the Giants' chance to repeat as World Champs?
First, five reasons why Piniella will be a boon for the Giants' chances to repeat in 2011.
1. He knows the game as well as anyone, and his experience as a position player will come in handy as the Giants struggle to find the right lineup with the chemistry needed to win games down the stretch and in the playoffs like the 2010 team.
2. He's won in the postseason (including twice as a player with the Yankees and once as a manager, guiding the 1990 Reds to a World Series title over the favored Oakland A's), so he's got some good pattern recognition when it comes to what needs to come together on the field and in the clubhouse for a team to win it all.
Will Lou Piniella Help or Hurt the Giants in 2011?
3. He can be a great sounding board to Bruce Bochy and someone the current Giants skipper can trust as a guy who's not there to take his job if the team starts scuffling around the All-Star break.
4. He can be a great sounding board to Brian Sabean, particularly in the context of deciding which of the Giants farmhands down in Fresno might be able to have the kind of impact Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner had on the team last season.
5. He will add another personality to an already personality-rich organization, whether it's as a post-game guest with the KNBR Radio crew or on CSNBayArea's TV coverage. Lou will be a great ambassador for Giants baseball and someone who can help deflect some of the heat that would be directed at Bochy or the players if things hit a rough spot during the year.
Now, despite all of the positive points above, there at least five good reasons why Piniella's presence could hurt the Giants' chances of winning in 2011.
1. He's never been a guy who minces words, so it's not clear he'll understand when he's supposed to be toeing the "company line." Imagine the first time he gets quoted questioning one of Bochy's game decisions or one of Sabean's player personnel decisions.
2. He's a former Rookie of the Year and All-Star, so what happens when he's roaming around the field before games? What if he decides to help Buster Posey tinker with his swing during a slump? That won't exactly go over well with Giants coaches.
3. He may show up one day a bit confused and put on a uniform, walk in to the dugout and start filling out the line up card and then waltz out to home plate to go over the ground rules with the umpiring crew. I'm guessing that one would create a bit of an issue for the Giants.
4. See No. 2 above, but imagine this time he mentally shifts back to his days managing the Reds when he probably thought he was the genius behind the Nasty Boys' pitching success, and he decides to start giving Tim Lincecum a few pointers on his mechanics. I can just see Dave Righetti and Lincecum's dad Chris gang-tackling Lou out by the bullpen mound.
5. By all appearances recently, Lou looks like a healthy eater. San Francisco is not an easy town on healthy eaters...in fact, it's down right unfair. There's some real risk here that Lou gets distracted running around town from great restaurant to great restaurant, and he doesn't stay focused on the job at hand: advising Sabean. I can see it now, Lou showing up late to a meeting with Sabean and Bochy and explaining, "But guys, I've never even heard of pumpkin creme brulee, I just had to try it!"
Giants fans, enjoy your season of Lou!