The Cubs did Lou Piniella a favor yesterday, allowing him to announce his plans to retire at the end of this season. While I agree that it is the respectable thing to do, allowing Lou to "ride off into the sunset," as some have put it, this is more than he deserves. Why should the Cubs keep this vacant-minded shell of a manager around for another two and half months just to ride-out his contract? They shouldn't; but they did. In the end, with the season as it is (despite some fun recent success), it makes no sense for the Cubs to rush putting a new manager in immediately, so why not do something nice for a guy who really tried hard for a couple of years before checking out and giving up.
There is nothing wrong with this decision, but a couple of factors are somewhat more alarming than I would have hoped after watching the Hendry/Ricketts press conference.
Truth be told, the Cubs should have fired Lou Piniella after last year's stunning underperformance, one which followed the 97 win team that was one of the best Cubs rosters or regular seasons... arguably ever. Lou's detachment from the team was glaringly obvious from about the All-Star break on, as he watched his team streak up and down throughout a .500 season.
Similarly obvious was the fact that the Cubs were not going to fire Piniella going into this season, but rather give it one more push with the core of aging and declining veterans. While Geovanny Soto has turned last year's woes around, and Soriano is turning in very consistent production, the Cubs apparently did not see Derek Lee's numbers last year as the odd miracle career year that it was, and no one counted on Aramis Ramirez nodding out at the plate until half-way through the season either.
This was all simply too much for Lou to take, and it's all been clearly evident. From the infamous move of Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen, his hesitance to start Tyler Colvin despite the poor-to-mediocre production of Xavier Nady and Kosuke Fukudome, to his relatively recent admission of having nothing else left to try, the 2010 Saga of Lou had anyone paying attention aware that this would be his last season as Cub manager. This conjures up a debate I had presented earlier in the season, and surely will be re-addressing soon.
The biggest drawback to Lou finishing out the season is that he surely still wants to make the best of it. This is a mistake (open in new window and scroll halfway down). While I have thoroughly enjoyed this recent stretch of exciting and winning Cubs baseball, it has not changed my mind about this season whatsoever. I would love to see the Cubs make a legitimate run at the division, but with two much more consistent teams above them, ontop of the sheer number of games behind that the Cubs are, hoping for a true run at the division is still a long-shot.
If Lou's lingering around for the remainder of the season hinders Jim Hendry acquiring prospects for some of the aging talent on his roster, then keeping Lou after the retirement announcement is a wild blunder. At the very least, and it pains me to keep saying it, Ted Lilly must go. The Cubs will not be resigning him next year, and with the Yankees now Andy Pettite-less, along with the value a productive veteran lefty starter generates annually this time of the year, Hendry should easily be able to get some talent in return for the Cubs' ace lefty.
I must admit that Ramirez's recent rampage has left me more open to the thought of him sticking around for awhile, nothing can erase his terrible first half, and that must remain alarming to anyone concerned about the future of the Cubs. As it is, I have to stand strong and say that any trade in which Hendry could acquire some talented youth for Lee, Ramirez, Zambrano, Fukudome, Silva or Gorzelanny needs to be highly considered- and possibly jumped at.
Anything that happens this season that stunts the Cubs from moving forward and beginning to build a new team is a mistake. Likewise, some sort of assurance from Ricketts that Hendry will not be the one making all of these decisions would be fantastic. However, look for this situation to play out much like what we've seen here with Lou. Ricketts said Hendry would be the GM "going into next year," not "next season." Quite literally, this could simply mean January.
Furthermore, his comments only revealed that Hendry would be "leading" the search for a new manager. Obviously Hendry has guys around him to help with his work, but hopefully, at this point, some or all of these "guys" are Ricketts' people. Once the grunt work for the new manager search is done, and possibly some interviews even conducted- say... maybe around January- Ricketts could easily conclude the best thing for the organization is to ditch the lame duck GM in a similar fashion as it did the lame duck Coach; in an undeserved, but professionally accurate, blaze of over-amped glory.
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Tags: Alfonso Soriano, Andy Pettite, Aramis Ramirez, Baseball, Carlos Silva, Chicago Cubs, Coaches, Coaching Change, Derek Lee, Geovanny Soto, Jim Hendry, Kosuke Fukudome, Lou Piniella, Lou Piniella Retirement, Managers, MLB, New York Yankees, Retirement, Roster Moves, Rosters, Ted Lilly, Tom Gorzelanny, Tom Ricketts, trade deadline, Trade Rumors, Tyler Colvin, Xavier Nady