Posted: Sunday October 15, 2006 7:10PM; Updated: Monday October 16, 2006 11:40AM
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The Cubs were expecting to begin negotiations Monday that they hope will result in Lou Piniella becoming their next manager, but could even move things up a few hours, as Piniella is done with his Fox announcing duties thanks to the quick-ending ALCS. Piniella already has taken himself out of the running for the Giants and Nationals jobs, yet another sign he's ready to sign with the Cubs.
Piniella has been GM Jim Hendry's choice from the start, and while insiders say new Cubs head honcho John McDonough liked Peoria, Ill., native and ex-Cub Joe Girardi from a marketing standpoint, Hendry always viewed Piniella as best equipped to kick-start the Cubs and maybe steal a woefully weak division in 2007.
The idea isn't without merit but is fraught with potential for trouble for the perennially losing team in that Piniella isn't the most patient man. Can you see him demanding more free-agent spending by the notoriously cheap Tribune folks? He even did it in Seattle, where he had a 116-victory team. And he isn't exactly cut out for rebuilding teams, as he tends to waste time stewing when losing. Note his last stop in Tampa Bay.
Piniella is better suited for the Yankees and would have preferred that job had George Steinbrenner stuck to his original intention to jettison Joe Torre. But ultimately, Steinbrenner listened to GM Brian Cashman and also family members who didn't want him wasting $7 million next year to pay Torre not to manage.
Hendry has two years to go on his own contract, but if the Cubs fail again next year, it could turn into a one-year thing for him in a hurry. Understanding as much, Hendry figures Piniella is his best hope to rescue the team, and him.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday that Piniella is the front-runner after interviews with Girardi, Bob Brenly and in-house candidates Pat Listash and Mike Quade. Piniella wants to get back to managing and back on his road to the Hall of Fame, and his Chicago-based agent Alan Nero and the Cubs will almost surely work it out.
Vindication, no job, for Girardi
Piniella's offer will at least put to rest any idea that Girardi purposely got himself fired to get the job with his hometown team. The reality is, if anything, Girardi's troubles with Marlins management hurt him with Hendry, who is said to be close to Marlins decision-makers. (They've made several big deals together, including the Dontrelle Willis, Derrek Lee and Juan Pierre trades.)
Girardi would be a great hire for the Nationals, although there might be some pressure on that ownership group, which included fewer minorities than the losing bidders, to strongly consider minorities, especially after firing Frank Robinson. MLB is not thrilled to be down two minorities after this offseason's early firings.
Out like a Lyons
Piniella's Fox TV partner Steve Lyons was justifiably fired after his unfunny, off-color remark about needing to stay away from Piniella and watching out for his wallet following Piniella's use of a couple of Spanish words. This wasn't Lyons' first brush with inappropriate remarks, as he was the one who criticized Shawn Green for sitting out one of two games during Yom Kippur in 2004, suggesting that Green wasn't religious enough to miss a game. Green insisted Saturday he harbored no ill will and in fact said, "Steve's a good guy.''