When he was a player, Torey Lovullo demanded more of himself than just about anyone in the Buffalo Bisons' clubhouse. The same is true now that he's a manager. That means he's not going to be happy if the 2007 season ends the same way 2006 did -- with the Herd out of the International League playoffs.
"I took it hard. Sometimes I couldn't figure out how to get things right and it was frustrating," Lovullo said Friday after the Bisons' Hot Stove Luncheon in the Pearl Street Grill. "The bottom line is I give myself a failing grade. You make the playoffs and win a championship here or you flunk."
In their first year under Lovullo, the only returning Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer to manage the team, the Bisons went 73-68 and missed the playoffs for just the third time in 12 years as a Cleveland affiliate. They went 43-29 at home but were ruined by a 30-39 road mark and finished third in the North Division.
Lovullo had a difficult clubhouse, a mixture of top Cleveland prospects and free-agent veterans who knew there was no room for them with the Tribe. For some of them, playing for a job in 2007 wasn't enough motivation.
"Dealing with different personalities and figuring out how to push their buttons is huge," Lovullo said. "Whether they're six-year [free-agent] guys, prospects or non-prospects in the organization, I need to figure out how to get them on the same page. Last year, we were all scattered."
Lovullo didn't want to micro-manage the game or his players last year because he didn't need to be cajoled much as a player. One common criticism was that he was too laid back when dealing with umpires and didn't protect his team enough. Lovullo said he'll be more hands-on in all areas this year but that doesn't mean a totally different style either.
"People here saw me play a certain way and I manage totally different," he said. "I think there were expectations of fans that I was going to be 'Johnny Rah-Rah' and go out there throwing my cap around and sticking my foot up the umpire's butt whenever I could but that's not who I am. I have to be the manager I've always been."
Lovullo figures to have plenty to work with when the Bisons take the field for the season opener April 5 against Richmond in Dunn Tire Park.
Well before spring training even opens, the team already appears to have a set outfield (Ben Francisco, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Cooper and Shin-Soo Choo), a third baseman and shortstop (Jake Gautreau and Asdrubal Cabrera) and four starting pitchers (Fausto Carmona, Adam Miller, Brian Slocum and Jake Dittler).
It's pretty rare in Triple-A to have that many questions already answered. Barring injuries, it figures to give the Bisons a quick jump on their division counterparts.
"If it happens the way it's supposed to, we could have one of the best pitching staffs in this entire league," Lovullo said. "I know these guys so I know what they're capable of doing."
As part of the luncheon, the Bisons unveiled the "20 Years Together Downtown Logo" they'll be using to celebrate their 20th season in Dunn Tire Park. The logo features downtown landmarks silhouetted behind a drawing of the park. The Aug. 25 game against Scranton will cap the celebration, with several events to be announced in the coming weeks.
The Scranton franchise has dropped the name "Red Barons" and will be called the Yankees in honor of its new parent club. It will wear classic New York pinstripe uniforms.