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Sweet science (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday October 18, 2006 12:08PM; Updated: Wednesday October 18, 2006 12:20PM
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What other initial impact did Piniella have on his teams? On a per-team net average, his teams attempted almost the same number of steals (+4), hit virtually the same number of homers (+0.25), made small jumps in runs (+29) and walks (+28) and had no difference in strikeouts.

What mostly stands out, though, is the improvement in wins of between eight and nine games, with big jumps by his 1990 Reds (+16 wins) and 1993 Mariners (+18). That kind of breakthrough would bring the Cubs back into contention. That kind of overnight improvement is not out of the question for the Cubs, depending on their offseason moves. But you can bet that Piniella's greatest contribution at the start will be changing the hitting philosophy in Chicago.

The Curse of Kenny

Kenny Lofton's teams invariably end up losing in the most painful fashion imaginable.
Kenny Lofton's teams invariably end up losing in the most painful fashion imaginable.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

I've said if before but it bears repeating: Any club interested in winning the World Series should steer clear of Kenny Lofton. Baseball's bad penny brought down his sixth franchise in October, with the Dodgers joining the Indians, Braves, Giants, Cubs and Yankees as victims of the Curse of Kenny. Lofton has been to the postseason 10 times and never won a World Series, usually losing in some of the most gruesome ways imaginable.

Lofton often has contributed to the defeats by playing poorly himself. He is far worse in his 84 postseason games (.244/.314/.344) than in his regular season career (.299/.372/.423). Here are the 10 postseason teams poisoned by Lofton:

1995 Indians: Only team to lose a World Series clincher on a one-hitter.
1996 Indians: Lost two games in the ALDS with leads in the eighth and ninth innings.
1997 Braves: Lost to wild-card Marlins in six NLCS games, including the Eric Gregg game, in which Livan Hernandez capitalized on the umpire's huge strike zone.
1998 Indians: Blew a 2-1 ALCS lead, losing three straight to the Yankees.
1999 Indians: Blew a 2-0 ALDS lead, losing three straight to Boston.
2001 Indians: Blew a 2-1 ALDS lead to Seattle, losing two straight.
2002 Giants: Blew a 3-2 World Series lead to Anaheim, including a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 6, losing two straight.
2003 Cubs: Blew a 3-1 NLCS lead to Florida, including a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning of the infamous Game 6 Bartman Game, losing three straight.
2004 Yankees: Blew a 3-0 ALCS lead to Boston, the first team in history to lose four straight games needing only one win to advance.
2006 Dodgers: Swept by Mets in NLDS.

Lofton will be a free agent. Consider yourself warned.

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