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Piniella's Surprising Candor Grabs Cubs Fans Attention

Chicago’s “Big Two” newspapers – the Tribune and the Sun-Times – both ran articles today in which Cubs manager Lou Piniella spoke with surprising candor about the team’s immediate future and his long-term one.

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Piniella told the Sun-Times, “We probably will be sellers.” But then clarified that he and General Manager Jim Hendry have barely discussed the matter. Characteristically, Hendry has not yet commented and probably won’t. (And, if he does, he’ll likely give one of his cagey, GM-speak replies.)

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In the Tribune, Piniella scoffed at the idea that he’d quit and reiterated that the Chicago Cubs are the last major league team that he’ll manage, saying:

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I know that this will be my last managing job. I do know that for a fact.

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What does all this mean for Cubs fans? Well, the Sun-Times quote is probably a simple fair warning of what’s to come. Unless the team finishes a sweep of the Diamondbacks tonight (which, granted, is feasible) and goes on to sweep the Dodgers in LA (which, quite frankly, doesn’t seem feasible at all given their historical struggles on the West Coast), the Cubs will head into the All-Star Break almost hopelessly out of contention. So savvy Trader Jim is likely to swing some deals to either clear some salary or at least free up some roster space.

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(Speaking of the Dodgers, I wonder whether they’d be interested in Ted Lilly, who’s a pitcher very much like Randy Wolf who started 34 games with a 3.23 ERA for LA just last season. Lilly might give them a shot at catching the Padres and could still re-sign with the Cubs during the off-season. But I digress…)

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Regarding the Sun-Times quote, it really just reaffirms what Lou has said all along. He’s not going to quit this high profile of a gig, and the Cubs are his last stop on the managerial merry-go-round.

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What’s more, I wouldn’t hold out any hope that Sweet Lou will be handed his walking papers. Lou Piniella is one of the winningest managers in baseball history. Lou Piniella, both as a manager and as a player, has won a World Series ring. Lou Piniella was a member of the ’78 Yankees. Unlike Fredi Gonzalez, who was fired by the Florida Marlins earlier this season, Lou has a long and storied history with Major League Baseball and cannot be dismissed lightly – yes, even when his team is (as of this writing) ten games under .500.

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Of course, that history doesn’t absolve Lou of some of his in-game (not to mention pre- and post-game) foibles of the last two seasons. And, sure, maybe the team would’ve gotten a bounce by a managerial change earlier in the season. But one of the risks you taken when signing a “legacy” manager such as Lou is that he’s not easy to get rid of.