Only Bobby Cox has been kicked out of more games than Lou Piniella among active managers, but the Cubs' skipper wasn't about to bite when asked if -- like Ozzie Guillen's public beef with umpire Phil Cuzzi -- he had any problems with particular umpires.
``The umpires are all my buddies,'' Piniella said, smiling.
Piniella may no longer be an ogre with umpires, but he plays one on TV -- throwing a tirade on a commercial for bottled water currently getting a lot of air time.
Yet even with the make-believe tirade Piniella, whose only ejection as Cubs manager was that planned one last June, was sensitive enough about the message in the commercial that he cleared it through the commissioner's office before agreeing to do it.
``The concern that I had was that when I got kicked out, the league basically discouraged me from theatrics,’’ he said. ``So here I was doing a commercial with theatrics. So I made sure I went through the league, and they approved it.’’
``I’m talking about [kicking] the dirt or [throwing] the cap, those sorts of things,’’ he said. ``My cap’s OK, I think. I learned in New York from Billy [Martin] and from Mr. Steinbrenner. Mr. Steinbrenner used to tell me, `Look, part of your job is to put fannies in the seats. When you get kicked out of the game, put on a show.’
``But I guess the league doesn’t like that, so we do away with it.’’
As entertaining as Piniella is these days, he was a lot more fun when he didn't have so many buddies in blue.