After calling for his head in this space for much of the year, Lou Piniella handed his own head on a platter and announced this is his last year managing. Unfortunately for the Cubs, it's one year too late. That sounds harsh and you'll have to forgive this writer for appearing so. Lou Piniella has been a personal hero for many, many years. He was a part of those great Yankee teams of the late 70s. Back then, he was the poor man's version of Kevin Youkilis. He didn't have the Boston first baseman's power, but every at bat and every game was a war and he wore it all over his uniform.
Piniella brought that same style to managing but judging from some of the comments from the players who played for him like Alex Rodriguez, Rob Dibble and Derrek Lee, he was also a manager who took time to get to know and care about his players. And certainly, Piniella had his share of managing success. He won a World Series with the Reds. He set a record for season wins in Seattle. His early Cubs years were successful. But time has passed him by.
But perhaps even that is unfair. It can also be said that Piniella was done in by personnel moves dictated by Jim Hendry, who apparently, and unbelievably, will be back next year. Hendry brought in one-dimensional players like Aldolfo Soriano and troubled ones like Milton Bradley. The Cubs of the past two season were an odd fit and the team never seemed to have any chance to gel. So from that standpoint, it's hard to point fingers at Piniella.
But there are little things. Who can tell if he could have handled the Bradley situation better. Give all the blame you want to Bradley, but Piniella never made it work. The same can be said about Zambrano. Sure, these players need to be held responsible for their actions, but the whispers you hear about was an atmosphere of enabling where factions formed that contributed in part to what happened with Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano.
Piniella's facial expressions during Zambrano's tirade are stuck in the Fan's mind. It was a face of bewilderment. And that seems to be the right word for Lou Piniella the last couple of years. To this Fan at least, it seems rare when an older manager can still reach the young players he manages. There are a few exceptions, but with today's players in this modern world, it seems more of a younger man's world. Joe Girardi and Maddon come to mind. Piniella just seemed too far removed from things.
We live in a cynical day and age. It's easy to speculate that Piniella was already told that he wouldn't be retained after the season, or perhaps he saw the writing on the wall. This is the gracious way out. Lou Piniella has seen it all in his nearly 50 years in baseball. He has three championship rings, two as a player and one as a manager. He's had a proud and good baseball career. This Fan hopes he enjoys the rest of his life with fond reflection.