Do you want to see Lou Piniella back in a Chicago Cubs uniform this season? Maybe you believe he would order Jim Hendry to purchase the contract of a Triple A pitcher rather than give yet another start to lefty reliever James Russell. Or perhaps you miss the days of helpless shrugs and overuse of the word "look" in post-game press conferences. In any case, if you're dying to see Sweet Lou back in Cubbie blue, check out this commercial for Pepsi Max:
Watch carefully because he's not on for long. And you can probably guess the angle of the joke that the good folks at Pepsi are going for. Piniella made the news today as he was part of a media tour promoting the commercial spots, which were obviously made in collaboration with MLB. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald got some great quotes from Lou.
For instance, when asked why he wore a Cubs uniform, Piniella said, "... there was nobody represented from the Chicago area, so it was natural. I would have chosen my last uniform, the Cubs. It was mutual." On his difficult last season, he taps his arm and points to the bullpen: "We had to rely on too many young kids, and they weren’t quite ready for it. We lost games we really should have hung on to."
In addition, Lou gave the dreaded vote of confidence to the Ricketts Ownership Group, saying, "The Ricketts family is going to do a really, really nice job. I’m really impressed with Tom and his two brothers and his sister. They’re going to do a fine job. They’re learning the business of baseball. It doesn’t come overnight."
If you've followed the Cubs closely, you know that none of these quotes are particularly earth-shaking. Piniella was generally quite stubborn at sticking to certain talking points with the media and was maddeningly adept at replying to any questions he didn't want to answer by merely summarizing the play or issue in question. His successor Mike Quade is a little more thoughtful in that regard, though that carries its own risk.
In retrospect, Sweet Lou as a manager was much like any big-name free agent acquisition. The first year of his contract he took a while to get warmed up but showed flashes of his previous managerial success with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. During the second year of his deal, the Cubs got that last bit of water from the stone. In 2008, he truly was the classic Sweet Lou -- the George Pattonesque field general leading his troops relentlessly through the regular season. (Let's leave the playoffs out of it.)
Thereafter, however, he went into steep decline mode. The 2009 season was doomed to be an exhausting slog thanks to widespread injuries and, well, Milton Bradley. And, by 2010, Piniella was pretty much done. Even he admits, "Maybe I should have gone home a little earlier. I tried to see it through. It just didn’t work out."