Lou Piniella deserved better than this.
Having spent the last four years with the Chicago Cubs, the veteran manager left the dugout for good Sunday to leave a Cubs team which had largely given up on him months ago, and the same could be argued in reverse, but there were unquestionably intervening circumstances.
Piniella’s 90-year-old mother is gravely ill. He’s missed a great deal of time away from the dugout this month going to Tampa to be with her, this coming after he said he wouldn’t seek a contract extension with the team when his deal expired at the end of the season.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, I’ve some pretty bad teams over the years. This one is among the worst, and the manager, regardless of circumstances has to shoulder the blame.
The very significant flip side is that Piniella guided the Cubs to consecutive playoff appearances – something that hadn’t happened in a century. He was, however, like his predecessor Dusty Baker – another big name manager with a long-term career – been unable to translate that experience and leadership into the World Series title that is 102 years gone and counting.
It also is a study in grief. Piniella knows his mother is going to die soon. His managing career, highlighted by over 1,800 wins and a Series title 20 years ago in Cincinnati, ended with a thud both this season as a whole and yesterday in another drubbing, this time 16-5 at the hands of likely NL East winner Atlanta.
Piniella thanked God for his success and longevity in the game, a nice touch to be sure, but it was anything but a fitting end for a career ending enveloped in sorrow.