What does Lou have to do with the Cubs this year to distinguish himself as either better or worse than Dusty? On this, I offer you a little help...
First let's look at the obvious: the records. Dusty Baker finished his stint in Cubbie blue with a final record of 322-326 (.497). Lou on the other hand, after three seasons with the club, currently resides at 265-219 (.548). This means that even if the 2010 Cubs matched the 66-96 record they earned under Dusty's fourth season, Lou would finish with a final Cub managing record of 331-315 (.512), better than Baker's.
In fact, the club would have to finish with a 55-107 record for Piniella to match the number of regular season losses that Dusty accrued. That being said, it seems safe to assume that the Cubs will be better than a 55-win team this season. But you know what they say about assumptions...
Anyways, this brings us to the focal point of the conversation. As it seems clear that Lou's overall record will be better than Dusty's, how much do you value playoff success? Although the Cubs only made the playoffs once under Dusty, as we all bitter-sweetly remember no doubt, he got the club to a mere five outs away from the World Series.
You can take "closeness-to-the-World Series" out of the equation and state that Dusty actually won a playoff series. Furthermore he had a playoff record of 6-6 after the club beat Atlanta in the divisional round in five games and lost the NLCS to Florida in seven games.
Despite a far superior-- to this point-- regular season record, we all know that Uncle Lou is now 0-6 in the playoffs with the Cubs. So if the club were to make the playoffs this year, not only do the Cubs need to advance for Lou to even approach Dusty's Cub playoff record, they have to be six games better than their opponents for Lou's Cub playoff winning percentage to match Dusty's.
That means even if the Cubs win the World Series this year, they would have to do it with a 11-5 record for Lou's Cub playoff record to hit .500. Now, OF COURSE, if the Cubs win the World Series, Lou is undoubtedly a better Cub manager than Dusty, and I am not debating that. This simply isolates how much work must be done for Lou to drag his playoff percentage as Cub manager up to where Dusty's is.
So what if the club slips again this year and drifts under .500? If the Cubs go 80-82, Lou's final record as Cubs manager would be 345-301 (.534), still notably better than Dusty's. But this would also entail his 0-6 playoff record, also signifying an obvious inherent lack in playoff advancement.
If the Cubs don't make the playoffs this year, will you consider Dusty Baker or Lou Piniella a more successful Cub manager? If they do make the playoffs, is making it enough to cement Piniella as superior, or would he have to lead the club at least to the NLCS to match (by round) what Dusty accomplished?
I myself am somewhat undecided. I know that if Piniella cannot lead the team out of the NLDS this year, I will have to consider the Cubs to be a massive failure under his tenure (remember all the World Series talk when he was hired? This was the appointed goal of Uncle Lou). If he makes it to the NLCS but looses, I have no problem saying that he was far and away a more successful manager than Dusty, but both of them will linger on in my head, complaining and making excuses for eternity, as additional bullet points on the list of Cubs disappointments.
In the end, the only true way I will feel good about the Lou Piniella tenure is if the Cubs win the World Series. Using Dusty Baker as a measuring device is nothing to pride your baseball franchise on, and expectations under Lou's tenure have already gone vastly unfulfilled. Perhaps this debate is not on who will be considered more successful after Lou's final year, but which of the two managers will be viewed as a bigger disappointment.