Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lou Piniella

The Cubs really like throwing money at big name managers, don't they? Here's what we know about Lou Piniella:

- He did a decent job with the Yankees, but was fired anyway
- He won a World Series in his first season with the Reds
- He spent ten years in Seattle, making the franchise relevant with the help of some guys named Griffey, Johnson, Rodriguez, and Suzuki, and set the record for wins in a season
- He forced his way out of Seattle for the giant payday and guaranteed losing situation in Tampa
- He's a terrible color commentator

Sorry, I had to get that last one in there. I'm just really glad he's off of my TV for the foreseeable future. More to the point, I think we can say that we're looking at a guy who just wanted to make one last big score (and $10 million over three years is pretty nice), before retiring to a life of ESPN cameos and shuffleboard. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

But is this really what the Cubs want? Piniella is in a no-lose situation: everyone on the north side hates the GM, and the new manager is going to look like a certified genius after following Dusty Baker. Then there's that the 98-year drought, which I suppose could be construed as pressure, but I don't honestly think that Cubs fans expect to win it all, at least not this year.

If they don't at least make the playoffs by year two, he'll probably catch some heat (although most of the blame should be, and probably will be, aimed upstairs). If they don't make the playoffs by year three, he'll be gone, but I don't think he wants to go more than three years anyway. If he happens to win The Series in one of those three years, then hey, he's a baseball hero for life. That's a pretty sweet gig.

How successful he actually is will mostly depend on how the Cubs turn their roster over this off-season and next, and the health of Derek Lee and Mark Prior. He may be worth a few wins here and there, if the right pieces are in place, but until the Cubs prove that they can assemble a major league roster worth a damn, are those few wins worth the $10 million?

I could be wrong, and we could see some sort of Leyland-like turnaround in 2007, but the Tigers had more of the other pieces in place to make that possible. The NL (and especially the NL Central) sucks, so I guess you never know, but I'm not holding my breath.

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