The worst kept secret in baseball (I mean other than tHom Brennaman’s toupee) was let out of the bag today when the Cubs announced that Lou Piniella was going to pack it in at the end of this horrendous season.
Lou’s agent let the news out today, which made Lou mad because he hadn’t told the team yet, which led to this awkward exchange in the clubhouse.
Starlin Castro: Mister Lou, I hear you are leaving.
Lou Piniella: Ah, ah, ah, let me tell you Sterling, don’t believe everything you read in the papers.
Starlin: How come you get to leave now, and I have to wait six years to get out of here?
Lou Piniella: Because life ain’t fair, kid.
I’m on the record, over and over and over again with my professed manly love for Lou.Â He’s the best manager the team had had in 70 years (not that the bar is really high to clear, there), but I knew when they hired him after the awful 2006 season that it was four years (hell, it might have only been three) and out.
Lou made a splash early in his first season.Â He changed the lineup every day because the team was losing and he basically tried anything to see what would work.Â And before it was too late, the team took off and ended up winning a very lousy NL Central.
The next year they won 97 games before choking away the playoffs in three games.
Last year, he somehow steered a lousy team into first place on August 2 before they careened out of the race.
This year, well this year has been awful.Â Like in 2007, Lou’s tried everything.Â He’s batted guys all over the place, he’s shuffled the lineup.Â He even banished Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen in a move that we all thought was asinine.Â Simple fact is, as mediocre as Tom Gorzelanny is, he’s a better pitcher than Zambrano is now.Â That’s sad.Â But the bad move wasn’t moving Zambrano to the bullpen, it was taking him back out of it.
But give Lou credit.Â He saved the 2007 season by playing Ryan Theriot at short because the team didn’t have anybody better, and he tried to save the 2010 season by kicking the little bastard off shortstop as soon as the Cubs called up a guy who is markedly better.
Lou tried lots of stuff.Â Some of it was brilliant.Â Some of it was boneheaded.Â Some of it worked. Some of it didn’t.Â But working didn’t it make it brilliant any more than not working made it boneheaded.
For once the Cubs had a real manager who came up with ideas and put them to practice.Â In four years he had three bad teams and one really good one, and the sad fact is that the one really good one–in the end–didn’t do a goddamned thing.Â He held his players accountable, but didn’t throw them under the bus to the media, and that must made the meatheads among us think that he didn’t really care.
I wish nothing but the best for those of you who think Lou didn’t care.Â By the best, I mean that I hope somebody hits you in the face with a big bag of syphilis.
His tenure with the Cubs will be judged a failure, because the Cubs didn’t go to a World Series, and that’s fair.Â That’s what we’re all watching this shit for anyway, the off-chance that at some point it will all pay off for us.
But you can’t say it wasn’t interesting (more interesting than most of the 62 seasons before he arrived), you can’t say it wasn’t entertaining (more entertaining than those same 62 seasons), and you’re all about to find out something the hard way.
Those of you, and there are many, who are glad he’s leaving.
You’re going to miss him.Â Because they aren’t going to find somebody better to replace him.
The new guy will just be different.
Maybe it will be milquetoast Ryne Sandberg, the golden boy Cub player who did all the right things in prepping to be a manager.Â I hope this works out, but I’ll be honest with you, it won’t.
Maybe it will be Bob Brenly, a far better analyst than he ever was a manager, and a guy who won a World Series in 2001 as a skipper, despite a string of in-game decisions that set World Series baseball back a generation.Â You get lucky like that maybe once in a 1,000,000 years, so the sun will have imploded and the Earth will be an icy rock before Bob’s turn rolls around again.Â And he’ll probably have BK Kim up in the bullpen just in case.
It won’t be Joe Girardi, because nobody leaves the Yankees for the Cubs unless it’s a trade, and when that happens they cry a lot.
Or maybe it will be somebody else.
So enjoy your moment.Â Say and write your mean things about Lou.Â Go on ponderous rants about how he didn’t have the fire anymore or how he should have thrown bases around or wiped his ass with his hat and shoved it in the umpire’s face.Â Let it out.Â Let it all out.
And get ready to watch subsequent Cubs teams that won’t be as well managed as the ones we’ve seen for four seasons.Â And then think about what kind of suck that’s going to look and sound like.