You had to figure the Cubs were going to drive poor Lou Piniella into the old folks' home sooner rather than later. Trying to manage that bad baseball team up on the North Side would be hard on any man, let alone a 67-year-old who looks like he should be sitting in his rocking chair on the front porch eating his tapioca pudding.
With Piniella being in the last year of his four-year contract with the Cubs, I expected he would walk away at the end of the season. In fact, that's exactly what Piniella is going to do. He announced his intention to retire Tuesday afternoon.
"I couldn't be more appreciative of the Cubs organization for providing me the opportunity to manage this ballclub," Piniella said. "I've had four wonderful years here that I wouldn't trade for anything in the world. I've grown to love the city and the fans but at my age it will be time to enter a new phase in my life.
"It will enable me to spend more valuable time with my family - my wife, my kids and my grandchildren. God has blessed me to have been able to work this many years in the game that I love."
I think this is a reasonable decision by Piniella. It's the best thing for him and the best thing for the Cubs as well. I've said all year that the folks calling for Piniella's head are wasting their time. If you've looked at the Cubs' record (42-52) and roster lately, you know that team sucks. Coming into the year, I figured the Cubs would be a fourth-place team. That's exactly what they are. The Cubs don't have the horses to win, and that's not Piniella's fault. You could fire him and bring in somebody else, and that team would still be struggling.
That said, Piniella is the wrong manager for the Cubs moving forward. They've got a lot of veterans that need to be traded or released. They've got a lot of bad contracts they need to get out from under. They are looking at a potentially lengthy rebuilding process. They need a younger manager for a roster that figures to get younger over the next couple years. They need some new energy.
In addition to a new manager, I think the Cubs need change in the front office as well. We'll see if owner Tom Ricketts has the guts to can the overrated Jim Hendry. It's time for the Cubs to bring in a new GM and let him hire his own guy to manage the club. A change in direction is sorely needed in that organization.
I doubt that will happen, though. Ricketts will probably retain Hendry, and the Cubs will simply promote Ryne Sandberg, who is currently managing at Class AAA Iowa. I think Sandberg could potentially be a good manager, but if he's got Hendry as his GM, he's screwed.
Other potential managerial candidates include bench coach Alan Trammell, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi and broadcaster Bob Brenly.
Girardi is probably the guy they should go after, but what motivation would he have to leave New York? He's already won one World Series with the Yankees, and he has a great chance for another this season. If Girardi were to come back to the Cubs organization, he'd basically be starting from scratch. And if Hendry is still around, Girardi would probably inherit the same crappy, limited roster Piniella is dealing with now. If I were Girardi, I would stay in New York. There's an opportunity to win there every single year. Can't say the same for the Cubs.
There's a reason we can't say that for the Cubs, and that reason is Hendry has saddled the organization with a lot of bad money. Piniella's decision to move on is good news for all involved, but the winds of change can't stop there. The entire Cubs organization needs an enema, from the front office on down.
UPDATE: OK, Ricketts says Hendry's job is safe beyond this season. LOL. That is all.