Lou Piniella began the 2010 season with a 16-5 loss to Atlanta, and on Sunday he ended it, and his career, with another 16-5 loss to the Braves. While Cub fans are still right to feel nothing but disdain and sarcastic indifference towards Lou's tenure as a Cub coach, his press conference following his final game as a manager allowed Cub fans to see that at least the man still cared.
Lou's tears or tender utterances do not make up for the past two seasons of utterly disappointing baseball. They cannot wash away his 0-6 playoff record, and they do not excuse him from not retiring as soon as he announced that this would be his final season.
The normally stuttering Lou instead had his sentences impaired by choking-up as he offered his final sentiments following Sunday's game. Although these tears likely were more due to Lou's lengthy MLB career than simply his stay at Wrigley, Lou finally found a way to again display his passion for the game. At the very least, Cub fans can exit the Piniella era with some assurance that Lou had not completely abandoned interest in the game.
Simultaneously, however, this highlights just how completely Lou had checked-out on this Cub team. But can we really blame him? Many Cub fans themselves, myself included, have checked-out on this team. Lou probably entered this season with sincere hopes of succeeding and making a run at the playoffs, but as the season went on and the team continued to decline, Lou's patience seemed to simply dry up at increasingly rapid rates.
While no one would be wrong to question Lou's efforts from last season, the 2010 campaign featured a Lou that was far beyond what anyone had seen in the past. I completely believe his statement from earlier in the season when he admitted that he simply didn't know what else to do. The season makes since if you believe that. The Zambrano saga, the hesitation to promote Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro, and the frequent days off all make since. Lou still cared about baseball; he just could not manage a team anymore.
There is nothing wrong with Lou taking off for the remainder of the season, but the hesitation on his part, and the organization, is what is condemnable. The situation was certainly clear when Lou announced he would be retiring at the season's end, but he wanted to do the honorable thing and finish the season. This was purely one last example of Lou's shortsightedness, and one more display of Jim Hendry's inability to do what is necessary when it needs to be done.
Sunday's press conference was somewhat therapeutic, and it was nice to see that Lou cared... about what could be up for debate, but he obviously still had some emotion invested in the game. I hope to see Lou return to the booth sometime in the future. There his best remaining abilities- the famous "Lou-isms"- will be productive, and not detrimental, to the sport we all love.