Defining Lou's LegacyFast 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.