Lou Piniella did the right thing by stepping down now

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella stands for the playing of the Star Spangled Banner before the game against the Atlanta Braves at Wrigley Field in Chicago on August 22, 2010. Piniella announced Sunday that the game would be his last game as manager.   UPI/Brian Kersey Photo via Newscom

I don’t blame Cubs fans if they feel cheated by the way Lou Piniella has decided to step down as manager with 37 games remaining in the season. After all, if they have to sit through the rest of this miserably year, why doesn’t he?

But the fact of the matter is that neither Piniella’s heart nor his mind is in it right now, so why drag the thing out any longer? And besides, does it really matter who’s managing the Cubs at this point?

Piniella has had to take two leave of absences to attend to personal matters this year, which mainly consists of him visiting his 90-year-old mother who has been ill for most of the season. There are more important things than baseball and seeing as how he was going to retire at the end of the year anyway, there’s no sense going through the motions for 37 more games.

Following another horrendous loss on Sunday, Piniella had this to say about starting his retirement early:

“Cried a little bit after the game,” he said, before choking up further in his postgame news conference. “This will be the last time I put on a uniform. This has been very special for me. I’ll go home, do what I have to do there…and enjoy my retirement.”

Obviously this wasn’t the way he or Cub fans envisioned things ending this season. While the club also struggled last year, many pundits thought they would bounce back and that just hasn’t been the case. The team’s roster is littered with overpaid, underachieving veterans and the youth movement has just begun. It’s a sad way for a World Series-winning manager to walk away from the game, but not everybody can go out on top.

Piniella wasn’t going to be part of the Cubs’ future and it was probably right that he has decided that they won’t be a part of his present.

When it’s time, it’s time.

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Report: Cubs’ Lou Piniella to retire at the end of season

June 21, 2007 - Arlington, Texas.Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella watches the action in the game against the Rangers at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington, Texas on June 21, 2007. .The Rangers defeated the Cubs 6-5 ..Photo  Jeff Etessam / Cal Sport Media Photo via Newscom

The New York Daily News is reporting that Cubs’ skipper Lou Piniella will retire at the end of the 2010 season.

The 67-year-old Piniella, who led the Cubs to NL Central division titles in 2007 and 2008, is in the last year of his contract and has endured a particularly stressful last two seasons in which so many of his high-paid players, including outfielder Alfonso Soriano, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and pitcher Carlos Zambrano have underperformed to their salaries. This year, the Cubs are mired in fourth place, 10 1/2 games back and Piniella, who is in the last year of his contract, wanted to end to the speculation about his future for the good of the organization.

Earlier this season, he had to suspend Zambrano after the volatile pitcher got into a dugout fight with teammate Derrek Lee in the middle of a game. Last year, Piniella had numerous similar confrontations with temperamental outfielder Milton Bradley, who was traded to the Seattle Mariners last winter.

While Piniella has been one of the most successful managers in baseball history, there’s no doubt that the Cubs need to go in another direction at the end of the year. Their struggles this season can hardly be pinned on Piniella and Piniella alone, but it’s clear that his style has run its course on the North side of Chicago.

Speculation continues to grow that former Cub Ryne Sandberg will take over as the club’s next manager. He has stated that managing the Cubs is his ideal job and after moving through the minor league ranks over the past four seasons, it appears that he’s suited for the position as well. We’ll see what management decides after the season.

Getting back to “Sweet Lou,” this wasn’t the way he wanted to go out (i.e. marred in fourth place in a weak NL Central) but the timing is right. The Cubs will be undergoing a lot of changes this offseason and Piniella isn’t the right fit for a (potentially) young club that needs a lot of massaging.

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