New Cubs Manager Lou Piniella – What's New?

Looking back at the past to anticipate the future. New Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker.. er.. Lou Piniella comments on his challenge taking on the helm of the lovable losers. (Make sure you read this all the way to the end.)

CHICAGO – Lou Piniella won the World Series and now he's going to Wrigley Field. After once running one of baseball's most consistent winners, he'll be managing one of its biggest losers.

It's a tough assignment, one that many have confronted before, only to fail.

Piniella says he's ready.

''I love baseball, No. 1. I love challenges, No. 2,'' Piniella said as he accepted the formidable assignment of managing the Chicago Cubs.

''I'm not a miracle man. I don't know if it will take two or three years or whatever, but we're dedicated to winning. A number of players have indicated that they would like to come to Chicago and possibly play for me. They are dedicated to bringing in the best players.''

Piniella, a two-time American League Manager of the Year, agreed to a three-year contract, a deal thought to be worth about $10 million.

Cubs president John McDonough said Piniella was general manager Jim Hendry's first choice, his second choice and his third choice, even though he interviewed several other candidates.

''We're very thrilled to have him,'' McDonough said. ''His record speaks for itself. He's an enormously popular manager with his players. As result, the field of players that would like to play for the Cubs has increased with tonight's announcement by a large amount.''

Piniella becomes the second-highest paid manager behind Joe Torre of the New York Yankees. The sides began negotiating Tuesday and on Thursday agent Jeff Moorad said the Cubs needed to dip deeper into their pockets to get the deal finished.

''They dug a little deeper,'' Piniella said. ''We were creative and came up with ways to make it work for both sides to be satisfied.''

Known for his fiery personality, Piniella has spent 19 seasons as a major league manager, starting with the New York Yankees in 1986. His 1990 Cincinnati Reds were World Champions and his 2001 Seattle Mariners club won a record 116 regular season games. Piniella did not manage in 2006 after guiding his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays from 2003-2005.

Piniella replaces Dusty Baker, who was not retained at the end of the Cubs' 66-96 season after four seasons at the helm. After winning the National League Central Division in Baker's first season, the Cubs then dropped to third in 2004, then fourth in 2005 and finally rock bottom in sixth place with the worst record in the League this past season.

Hendry also interviewed Bob Melvin, Ken Macha, Buck Showalter and Fredi Gonzalez, but it was no secret Piniella was the man the Cubs wanted and that's why they waited until he was free from his commitment to FOX Sports, to see if he would come to Chicago.

''I thought we had a good list that we were comfortable with, but we felt Lou was the guy,'' Hendry said. ''We felt he was worth waiting for.''

The Cubs will be Piniella's biggest managerial test. They haven't won a World Series since 1908 and have made the playoffs only four times since 1945, their last World Series appearance.

Since 1945, they've had only 18 seasons at .500 or better. They have only managed back-to-back winning records once since 1972.

But Piniella is well aware of what he faces. Asked about baseball's lovable losers, he's said the manager who got the Cubs to win would be ''the mighty man of Chicago.''

And if anyone can get the Cubs winning on a regular basis, it could be Piniella. His career record is 1519-1420 and he posted winning records at every stop except Tampa Bay.

''It might take some time, but the name of my game is progress. Once your start seeing that, you can determine how far away you are,'' Piniella said earlier.

Piniella said one of his first tasks would to talk with current players and hire a coaching staff.

He also plans to chat with former Cubs like Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson and Billy Williams and find out their opinions on the effect afternoon baseball -- the Cubs play more than 60 home day games -- has on players and performance.

''I want to get rid of the stigma that the Cubs can't win and that they can't win playing daytime baseball,'' Piniella said.

Piniella said he might stay in Baker's former Chicago condo until he finds the place he wants to live.

Piniella said he's happy to be coming to Chicago for several reasons.

''You got to go where you are wanted,'' he said.

Editor's admission:

I have to come clean now.

No, stlcardinals.scout.com did not secure an exclusive with the new Cubs' manager. In fact, Lou Piniella isn't even scheduled to be announced in his new job until Tuesday.

And even with the Cardinals NLCS Monday night game rained out (the NLCS is part of the playoffs, Cubs fans), I knew I wouldn't have time to cover this story Tuesday.

Instead, I did what any good history buff would do. I used the past to predict the future.

You see, the above story wasn't written by me at all. It was posted by ESPN.com one month short of four years ago – on November 15, 2002.

All I had to do is replace every mention of "Dusty Baker" with "Lou Piniella" and former Cubs president's name "Andy MacPhail" with new man "John McDonough". Amazingly, general manager Jim Hendry is still employed there.

I did substitute the particulars of Piniella's record and contract for Baker's and shorten the article a bit. I kept the agent and the other manager candidates from the original 2002 story because I thought they were interesting names.

But, every single quote above is 100% accurate – straight from 2002. Only the names were changed.

Cubs fans, welcome to the future!

Original source: "Baker takes job trying to turn around Cubs".



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.


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