Cubs manager Lou Piniella to retire

July 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It has been a season of discontent for Piniella, which finds the North Siders floundering in fourth place with little hope at making the post-season.

Lou Piniella has been the manager for four seasons. He is one of only five skippers to win at least three Manager of the Year awards, including 2008 with the Cubs. He enters Tuesday night's game against Houston with more than 1,800 wins in nearly 23 seasons as a big league manager. But, at age 66, Lou Piniella has decided to retire at the end of this season.

Piniella has been bench boss of the Cubs for four years and had his best season with the team in 2008 when they won the Central Division crown, only to be swept by the Dodgers in the first round.

The first half of this season has been a disaster for Piniella, but the Cubs did begin the second half with three wins in a four-game series against the Phillies.

Piniella was in the final year of his contract and he seemed relieved to make the announcement now instead of the end of the year.

"I have been extremely appreciative of four years here with the Chicago Cubs. It's been a wonderful experience, wonderful city, wonderful fans. But at the end of the year I turn 67, and it's time for me to get on with a new phase of my life, and at the same time I want to spend more time with my family and my wife, my kids, my grandchildren," said Piniella.

Two names come to the top of the list as a replacement for Piniella. The first is former Cub and Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who manages the Cubs' Iowa team. And Joe Girardi, the former Cubs catcher and Northwestern graduate, who is in the last year of his contract with the Yankees.

Girardi managed the Yankees to the World Series title last season. Piniella may be done managing, but he has given indications that he wants to stay in baseball, perhaps with the Cubs, perhaps with the Yankees, whom he played for and managed.

Lou Piniella turns 67 next month and wants to spend more time with his wife, kids and grandchildren.

A right-handed outfielder, Piniella was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 after batting .282, 11 home runs and 68 RBIs with the Royals. He was traded to the Yankees in 1973 and ended his playing career with New York in 1984.

In all, Piniella played 18 years in the majors -- 11 with the Yankees -- and was a career .291 hitter.

He began managing in 1986 with the Yankees and lasted three years, including a stint as general manager. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. He also got national attention for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble.

From there it was on to a long run in Seattle, where his teams won at least 90 games four times. The Mariners went 116-46 in 2001, but lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. His 1995 and 2000 Mariners teams also fell in the league championship series.

Piniella won 93 games his final season with the Mariners in 2002 before heading home to his native Tampa but had a difference of opinion with ownership, questioning the Devil Rays' commitment to winning before they bought out the final year of his four-year contract.

In Chicago, Piniella's arrival was part of a major overhaul that sent expectations soaring after a dismal 2006 season.

Chief executive officer Andy MacPhail resigned after the Cubs won just 66 games, ending a 12-year run that included only two postseason appearances. A day later, the Cubs announced they were not renewing manager Dusty Baker's contract, and general manager Jim Hendry went shopping.

First, he picked out Piniella, who left the TV booth for a three-year contract worth nearly $10 million, with an option for a fourth year. Then, Hendry committed about $300 million for players.

The Cubs re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez for five years and $75 million and lured Alfonso Soriano with an eight-year $136 million deal, the fifth largest in major league history. They also added Ted Lilly to the starting rotation, but for all the big moves, the results were awfully familiar at first.

The low point came in a series against Atlanta in early June.

Pitcher Carlos Zambrano got into an altercation with former catcher Michael Barrett that started in the dugout and resumed in the clubhouse, resulting in fines for both players. The next day, Piniella got ejected for a dirt-kicking tirade against umpire Mark Wegner during a loss that left the Cubs at 22-31, resulting in a suspension.

From there, though, the Cubs turned things around.

They went on a run that led to the playoffs and kept it going the following year, going 97-64 -- the most wins for the franchise since 1945.

Things have not been as good for Piniella and the Cubs since then. The team missed the playoffs last year and through Monday was 10 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central and 10 games under .500. Zambrano, the onetime ace, was in the minors after another tirade involving his teammates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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