Last week, Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced that he would retire at the end of the 2010 season. With that news, there has (not surprisingly) been much consternation over who would replace him. Why, right here at SB Nation Chicago, we addressed the matter here and here and here.
But there's a more important question to be asked in response to Sweet Lou's momentous announcement. That is, how does it affect his place on the SB Nation Chicago Head Coach/Manager Power Rankings?
"What are you talking about, Daver? We know nothing of such a thing." Well, now you do. Welcome to the debut of edition of an occasional and spirited version of our weekly "Top Five" feature: The Chicago Head Coach/Manager Power Rankings, in which we’ll set forth where each of the on-field leadership of the Big Five (Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Bears and Blackhawks) stands and predict where he might be headed. And now, on with the show:
1. Ozzie Guillen
Why he’s here: Check the standings. As of this writing, the Chicago White Sox remain a game up in the AL Central – and this after being 9 1/2 games out on June 9. Then, between June 15 and June 26, the team put together an 11-game winning streak that vaulted them back into contention. So far in July, the team is 13-7, including a nine-game winning streak.
Through it all, Ozzie has remained relatively calm and steady-as-he-goes — for Ozzie, of course. Lately, he’s been trumpeting his team’s excellent chemistry and scoffing at the demands of opposing GMs. Critics say the Sox need another reliable starter to compensate for the loss of injured Jake Peavy and a (preferably left-handed) power bat to account for the inconsistent production of Andruw Jones and Mark Kotsay. But Ozzie may just be stubborn enough to try and prove them wrong.
Where he’s headed: Nowhere, for the time being. As long as the Sox don’t drop as precipitously as they rose, Ozzie appears poised to remain atop these power rankings for the near future. Sadly, the Cubs' lack of success means Lou Piniella poses little threat. (More on him below — way below.)
2. Joel Quenneville
Why he’s here: The Stanley freakin’ Cup, that’s why. Sure, the afterglow of the city’s first pro sports championship since the White Sox's 2005 World Series has faded a bit. And the team’s upper management seems hell bent on tearing apart its beloved roster. But until the puck drops again, Quenneville is assured a place in the upper reaches of our rankings. Coach Q got it done, and he’ll have plenty of "fan capital" in his coffers until the puck drops again.
Where he’s headed: Also nowhere fast. The Bulls and Bears don’t start playing for a good number of weeks and, again, Lou Piniella appears highly unlikely to add another statue to the city’s trophy case. So it looks like Ozzie and Coach Q in the top spots for some time.
3. Tom Thibodeau
Why he’s here: Thibodeau has done nothing wrong … yet. Fans are looking at him as a fresh, strong face to lead a team that finally showed some signs of life in 2009-2010. With Derrick Rose looking like a young superstar in the making, and some key offseason acquisitions in Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, the Bulls are looking to be even stronger contenders in the Central Division of the Eastern Conference.
Will it be enough to get them to past Miami’s three-headed juggernaut, not to mention Kobe and the Lakers? Let’s take one thing at a time. Thibodeau has said all the right things so far and will look to push the team off to a hot start with his defense-first philosophy.
Where he’s headed: If he gets that hot start, the Thibster could shoot up quickly — especially because the NBA season kicks off in late October, as baseball is winding down. (Will Ozzie still be in the picture then? We can only hope.) But basketball, like baseball, can be a long, hard slog — and Thibodeau will have to be prepared to face some ups and downs. If he tells it like it is and shows some fire courtside, he’ll be OK.
4. Lovie Smith
Why he’s here: Let’s face it, the Bears' 2009 season was a disappointment, and Lovie’s stock fell to an all-time low. Now he’s looking to make a comeback with Jay Cutler settled in (we hope) and Julius Peppers shoring up the defense. A healthy Brian Urlacher would be nice, too.
Chief among the uncertainties holding down Smith’s power ranking is whether he’ll be able to successfully integrate Mike Martz’s offense into the Bears overall game plan. Martz has been billed as a miracle worker. But do the Bears need a miracle — or just more consistency? Lovie will have to bring it all together. Until he does, he’ll be living the shadow of Coach Q in Chi-Town.
Where he’s headed: To the top or the bottom on Sunday, Sept. 12. That’s the day the Bears kick off the 2010 season against the lowly Detroit Lions, possessors of a 2-14 record in 2009. A win would obviously get Lovie off on the right foot, though it won’t hold all that much stock being the Lions and all. A loss, however, will send him plummeting and collective shudder through Bears fans nationwide.
5. Lou Piniella
Why he’s here: It’s over. Lou said as much on Tuesday, July 20, when he formally announced his retirement. Granted, he assured Cubs fans that he’s going to work hard the rest of the season. And, indeed, the team just finished a relatively successful 5-2 home stand. Normally, a stretch like that at Wrigley would be cause for celebration. But when your team is mired well below .500 and still loses a series to the likes of the Houston Astros, kudos are in short supply.
We mentioned Coach Q’s "fan capital" above. Well, Lou is fresh out. To be fair, he’s had a relatively good run with the Cubs (at least historically speaking). Three winning seasons, two NL Central flags. But he’s no longer the story in Chicago.
Where he’s headed: Probably nowhere. If he can somehow get the Cubs to within even five games of the top of the NL Central, we could perhaps give Sweet Lou a perfunctory bump up to the four spot — or even third. Hey, a good run is a good run. But he’s going to have to somehow solve the puzzle that is the 2010 Chicago Cubs awfully quickly. We’d love it if he did.