Lou Piniella tells his side of hilarious Mark DeRosa lineup story
The year was 2007. The Cubs were coming off a 66-96 season and had just made the switch from Dusty Baker to Lou Piniella as manager.
Mark DeRosa was 31 years old and fresh off a career season in Texas (13 homers, 74 RBI) and cashed in to the tune of a $13 million free-agent deal with the Cubs to be an everyday player.
As the ’07 season began, the Cubs were in Cincinnati and DeRosa, hitting 7th, went 1-for-2 with a walk off Reds ace Aaron Harang in a 5-1 loss.
The next night, Piniella posted the Game 2 lineup…and DeRosa was not in there against Bronson Arroyo.
DeRosa told the rest of the story from his perspective on Off the Mound with Ryan Dempster Friday on Marquee Sports Network:
“When I saw the lineup go up, I went out in the dugout,” DeRosa said. “There was no one in the stadium. I called my dad. I said, ‘Dad, this guy’s testing me Day 2.’ He goes, ‘Go get him.’
“And I went in [Piniella’s] office, he was in his underwear doing his crossword. All he did, he turned around and looked at me and was like, ‘What do you want?’ I was like, ‘Am I your second baseman?’ And he goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I’m like, ‘Alright, I want to be treated [like it]. I’ve waited my whole life to play everyday. I just went [1-for-2] off Aaron Harangutan [Harang] in Game 1, I want Bronson Arroyo in Game 2. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this.’
“He came out and he ripped the lineup card down and he’s like, ‘Hey guys, I gotta change the lineup. DeRosa wants to play.’ It was like the most nerve-wracking thing.”
Piniella recalls the story the same way and explained how DeRosa passed his test.
“I remember that,” Piniella said. “I enjoyed having players come into my office and letting me know what was on their minds and let me know that they wanted to play and they could help us win. And Mark did come in and we tore up the lineup and we got him in there. And basically he stayed in there the whole season. He did a heck of a job for us.
“As a manager, I wanted to hear from my players and I wanted to know how they were feeling and at the same time, if they felt that their presence in the lineup would mean something and help us win baseball games, I’d put them in there to play. Now, if they were [BS], then they wouldn’t stay in there long. But if they were getting the job done, yeah, let ’em play.
“Basically, when you manage a baseball team, the players make out the lineup. It’s not the manager. If the players are playing well, it’s easy for the manager to write their name in the lineup. Now, if they’re not playing well, you gotta make some changes because managers get paid to win.”
As nerve-wracking as it might’ve been for DeRosa, it paid off for all parties. He went 2-for-4 with 2 RBI in Game 2, leading the Cubs to a 4-1 victory.
Piniella managed the 2007 Cubs to a first-place finish and an 85-77 record. DeRosa wound up playing 149 games while hitting 10 homers, driving in 72 runs and posting a .792 OPS.
DeRosa built on that with a big season in 2008, hitting 21 homers with 87 RBI and 103 runs scored while playing everyday.