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Here He Comes To Save The Daaaaaaay!
by Derek Smart
In case you eschew any Cub news source beyond this page, wrapping yourself in the cold comfort of repeated bouts of silence, able to know in your heart of hearts that were anything of real import to occur, like the Channel 4 News Team on a birthing panda, we would be there, bringing you the news that someone else reported first, do I have a flash for you: UncleLou is coming to town.
In fact, not only is this morning's word from the big three poisson envelopper that Jim Hendry's choice is made, ESPN.com - via ESPN Radio 1000 - is now reporting that Piniella has signed a three-year deal worth about $3M per year, and that the official announcement will come tomorrow.
I feel neither elation nor deflation at the prospect of seeing Piniella's peculiar brand of firestorm rage daily across the Wrigley Field landscape. To be honest, I know very little about his strategic tendencies, and the most I can glean from his previous work is that if you give him a good team he's unlikely to screw them up, which is about as much as one can ask.
In the end, this isn't so much about bringing in the best man for the job - although time may prove him to be just that. Rather, it's about gaining instant credibility with the fanbase. Now, when the front office says they intend to be competitive next year, most folks will take them seriously, even if use of logic belies the idea. While Dusty Baker deserved to be sent on his way, this year's specific instance of failure should only serve as one of many data points in favor of that conclusion. Make no mistake about it: had Piniella been at the helm this year, the team would have been just as bad.
This means there is a new reality to this situation - namely, that by hiring Piniella, whether intentionally or not, Hendry has put all the pressure to field a winner on himself. Lose 90 games again, and you have clearly removed the manager from fault, particularly when he comes with Piniella's perceived pedigree. Lose 90 games again, and someone else gets to fill the roster. That's the new reality, one I'm not so sure exists if Joe Girardi is the choice, and one I know remains unformed if Bruce Bochy were the choice.
Which is why, the more I think about it, the happier I am to see Lou on board, for his arrival would seem to me to signal one of two things: a team that will win in 2007, or a team with a new general manager in 2008. I like a) the best, but I'll settle for b) in a pinch.