OK, so I was wrong. The signs seemed at one point to turn away from Lou Piniella being the 48th manager of the Cubs, but it's apparently going to happen, perhaps as early as tomorrow, more likely on Wednesday, depending on how contract negotiations go.
This would be the second club Piniella has managed where his old playing number, 14, is retired.
I'm posting this early so you can all begin to leave your thoughts -- I ask that you not put up a dozen different diaries on this.
Here's what this move reminds me of. It mirrors the Cubs' hiring of Leo Durocher in 1965, for the 1966 season. Durocher had been viewed as a "tough-guy" manager, someone who could light a fire under what was seen as an underachieving team. Remember, the 1963 Cubs had, with young stars Billy Williams and Ron Santo and a still-good Ernie Banks, and young pitcher Dick Ellsworth, had a winning record for the first time in 17 years. They regressed in 1964 and 1965, and it was decided to dump the College of Coaches -- one of the first things Durocher said, in fact, at his hiring press conference was that he was the manager of the Cubs.
Durocher had successfully managed both the Dodgers and the Giants for many years, winning two pennants and one World Series. Then he got out of managing and spent some time broadcasting -- sound familiar? -- and then returned as a coach for the Dodgers before his hiring by the Cubs. He was older -- 60, Piniella is 63 -- and seen as someone who could "light a fire" under an underachieving club.
The difference here, of course, is that the Cubs didn't underachieve in 2006. They sucked. That roster couldn't have been managed to much better than their 96 losses by anyone. So the job falls to Jim Hendry to fix that. Unless the Cubs are willing to commit more resources (read: money) than they ever have before to putting better players on the roster, this hire is pointless.
I've been against the hiring of Piniella for many other reasons from the first rumor that he might be coming here, not the least of which is that it smacks of The Same Old Thing. Piniella, as has been stated here by me and others many times, is almost exactly like Dusty Baker in the way he constructs lineups, uses and abuses pitchers, and treats young players. As was said by BCB reader JoshinLA, it'll be like having Baker, only all his players will hate him.
This club doesn't need "kicking ass". It needs better players. Hiring Piniella isn't fixing the problem we've lived with for the last four years. Until they show some commitment to improving the roster, I'm going to be very, very skeptical of Piniella, especially until I hear who his coaching staff will include -- and it had better not include Larry Rothschild, who I blame for a lot of what was wrong with this year's pitching staff.
Incidentally, get used to this for the next three years (most likely). It's spelled P-I-N-I-E-L-L-A. Two "I's".