Piniella says Cubs are giving good effort

July, 2, 2010
7/02/10
6:46
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Cubs manager Lou Piniella and his coaching staff appear to be doing everything they can to turn the tide of a season that seems irreversible.

The Cubs have been shut out five times in their past 13 games. The team’s offensive ineptitude is driving fans and management to a fever pitch.

The only real question to ask Lou Piniella following a 12-0 loss to the Reds is if he’s getting a proper effort from his team.

“I’ll tell you this,” Piniella said. “When you don’t do much, you look flat. I don’t see that [lack of effort]. What I see is basically a lack of hitting. You don’t have many baserunners. You don’t get many hits. How are you going to look sprite? You Know? We’re not the quickest team in the world anyway. So, I know it’s ugly at times. But believe me I don’t think it’s a lack of effort. It might seem that way, but that’s not the case.”

Piniella and his staff are in a tough situation of trying to motivate hitters who have outstanding track records but aren’t getting the job done.

First baseman Derrek Lee’s bad back and third baseman Aramis Ramirez’ s thumb injury are just minor part of this collective collapse by this once-outstanding offense.

Just two years ago, the Cubs lead the National League in runs scored with 855. This year’s team is averaging 3.9 runs per a game, on pace for just 648 runs.

Third baseman Mike Fontenot said some of the players might be putting too much pressure on themselves.

“Maybe so,” he said. “In my case today [an error in the seventh inning] it’s one of those things, catching [the ball] before you try to do anything else. Yes, sometimes you try to do so much just because you want to win so bad. [Pressing] just kind of happens sometimes.”

Piniella’s challenge is to keep his players together and not allow the shifting of blame on him and coaching staff for the team’s lack of offensive punch.

The old saying is it’s a lot easier to blame one manager than it is to blame 25 players for subpar play.

The team’s predicament may be summed up best by catcher Koyie Hill.

“I know the feeling of having to play close to perfect can make a team tight,” he said. “But that’s the style we have to play right now.”

Notes

• The last time the Cubs dropped to 12 games under .500 during a season was June 14, 2006. The team lost 96 games that season.

• Friday was the third time this season the Cubs have lost by a 12-run margin. They also did so May 8 against the Reds and June 19 vs. the Angels.

• The Cubs have been shut out five times in their last 13 games.

Bruce Levine | email

Chicago baseball beat reporter
Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.286 13 64 53
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 30
RBIA. Rizzo 71
RA. Rizzo 81
OPSA. Rizzo .889
WJ. Hammel 8
ERAT. Wood 4.72
SOT. Wood 131