Normally affable before the game, Lou Piniella went on a pre-game rant Friday before dueling the White Sox in a manner never seen in his three and a half years as Cubs manager.
Sweet Lou's explosions have usually been post-game. But he equaled those outbursts with his stream of consciousness that was not provoked by any specific question. Piniella made a transition out of nowhere to defend himself against "nitpicking" by media critics and insist his nearly quarter-century as a manager lifts him above "damn dummy" status.
Here's the money shot. Sweet Lou said critics should come to him first to get his explanation why he does what he does. Fair enough. It's been done.
And he's exploded, or performed the misdirection play.
I personally like Lou. He shook my hand on Opening Day, asking me who my trainer was, that I looked five years younger. That was a hell of a compliment on my diet. I figured I could do the Harry Caray trick and shave six years off my age without that extra chin, and still with a full head of hair.
But there are other times when, with the lack of one-on-one, manager's office access that has been a staple of the Cubs since Jim Riggleman's firing, Piniella just cannot handle a question head-on.
You all heard my query about whether he considered having Mike Fontenot bunt Marlon Byrd over to third with the potential tying run in the eighth inning of a game against Riggleman's Nationals. Lou was hot over the one-run loss, and he responded with the famous, "What kind of baseball are you playing?"
There are other times when you'd ask about a pitcher, and Piniella would hand off like a quarterback. "Ask the pitching coach," he'd often say, not even naming ol' buddy Larry Rothschild.
I asked when the Cubs were flying high in 2008, "When do you think a team is mentally ready to win?" "Where do you come up with these profound questions?" he immediately responsed. The next day he termed my questions "cerebral," although he pronounced it "celeblal" or something to that effect.
Still other times Piniella will start answering a question before you've finished asking it, thereby missing the punch line or angle of the query, and responding with something totally different than the subject you were pursuing.
Some of these questions are sensitive and are best asked privately, or one on one off to the side and not in a public-speaking, press-conference mode. But there is so little opportunity to pull him aside. And, as stated previously, you simply don't walk into Lou's office without an appointment.
Piniella isn't just upset at Steve Stone, after Ken Rosenthal recently called for the end of his mangerial tenure. He called David Kaplan of CSN Chicago and WGN-Radio aside the other day over comments he heard about second-hand on Kaplan's post-game radio show Tuesday.
The bottom line is Piniella has been asked specifically about all kinds of matters. He hasn't always explained himself. That part of him has puzzled me from the first day he managed the Cubs.
But the way things are going this season, Piniella's complaints about how he's been criticized will end with Game No. 162 and the conclusion of his contract.