Monday, March 29th, 2010

Defining Lou's Legacy

Fast forward five, maybe 10 years. When Cubs fans look back upon the Lou Piniella era in Chicago, what will they say? What legacy did he leave behind with the Cubs? It seems all but certain that Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg will be named the next manager of the Cubs upon Lou's departure. Sandberg has moved up through the minor league system as in about to start the 2010 season as the manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.

When Piniella took over the reigns from Dusty Baker in 2007, the Cubs were in shambles. All of the good vibes Baker produced after the 2003 season were destroyed as walked out the door. They had a few good pieces in place, and few pieces from a bygone era that never materialized. By May of that season, the team was dead in the water with little hope of making a run at a postseason berth. With a little tinkering by Piniella, they managed to win the National League Central Division. That setup a best-of-three series against the Arizona Diamonbacks in the National League Division Series (NLDS). The Cubs dropped the first two games in Arizona, then returned to Wrigley Field only to lose Game 3 and end in a three-game sweep. Not much was expected of the team that year, so most fans and critics viewed that as a step in the right direction.

When the 2008 season commenced, expectations were elevated. Management made several moves to improve the team. Yes, fans were aware that the 100th anniversary of the Cubs last World Series win was that season. The Cubs played to their expectations and even exceeded them. The team finished with the best record in the National League. Along came the 2008 NLDS. The Los Angeles Dodgers came to Wrigley Field and won the first two games. Game 3 took place in Dodger Stadium, and the Cubs were swept out of the postseason two years in a row. Piniella's postseason record stood at 0-6 with the Cubs. To his credit, this was the first time the Cubs appeared in the postseason in two consecutive seasons since the 1906, 1907 and 1908 World Series.

Along came the 2009 season. Cubs fans questioned a number of management's moves. Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa were traded to the Cleveland Indians. The Cubs signed the head case free agent, Milton Bradley, to a three-year contract. The team never seemed to click, but they managed to lead the division as late as August. And so came the collapse. The St. Louis Cardinals won the division and the Cubs failed to make the postseason.

What will happen in 2010? Will the Cubs bounce back to solidify Lou's legacy as one of the best coaches in team history? Will they collapse and leave a stain upon his time in Chicago? Will he be remembered as a great manager who become soft? I guess that's why they play the games.


3 Comments
ozthegreat
I can't see a whole lot of reason for optimism this year. They added some low second tier players (Nady, Byrd) but is that enough? The chemistry argument is overrated in my opinion. The Yankees of the 70's hated each other. Reggie Jackson was one of the biggest head cases the game has ever seen, yet he produced and they won. A quickly aging Derek Lee, an unreliable Soriano and your best pitcher has yet to live up to his potential. You never know when it comes to sports, who'll be good from year to year. They may have done enough to win in a fairly weak division, but is this a team that can win a postseason series? We'll see, but I'm not convinced. Lou is old and done. Time to move on and look towards the future.
ozthegreat   Monday, March 29, 2010
stevenheinzel
I guess I'm like Piniella, mellowed out with age. When I was younger every Spring I held hopes that "this was going to be the year" only to be let down again, usually sometime before the All-Star Game. Then would come the mathematical elimination, then the cold and wintry snow. But after the snow was melted and the leaves started showing green in the Spring, Cubbie fever and expectations would run high again, only to be let down once more by mid summer. It is almost cyclic, just like geese flying south in the fall and returning north in the spring - it happens year after year after year!
In a way I hope Sandburg does not become the Cubs manager in the future. I had nothing but respect for him when he played ball. His accomplishments and statistics were earned with his great ability and work ethic. By being elected to the Hall of Fame the baseball world has established that what he accomplished in his major league career was outstanding. I fear if he becomes the manager of the Cubs his great expectations of playoffs and world series may not be realized. He will become known as another Cub's manager who didn't get the job done, rather than the Cub's second baseman who DID get the job done.
I tend to agree with Oz - time to move on and get out of the migration.
stheinz   Monday, March 29, 2010
billpearch
I soured on Lou just as the Cubs were about to start the 2008 playoffs against the Dodgers. I understand that he was trying to take pressure off his players, but he made a comment to the effect of "we'll see what we can do." I understand that his players are not responsible for the 100+ year drought, but expectations have been elevated in recent years. As much as I can't stand the Yankees, I want to be like them. Every year they expect to win the World Series. I was surprised that Lou went soft. He was a Yankee from Bronx Zoo era in the 1970s.
Bill Pearch   Monday, March 29, 2010
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