Lou Piniella didn't do his best work this year. But maybe if Aramis Ramirez hadn't waited until July to start hitting and if Cra-Z Zambrano had performed like a $91.5 million pitcher and if Jim Hendry hadn't saddled his manager with the likes of Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, Aaron Miles, Milton Bradley and John Grabow, and if, well, you get the idea.
These last few years, those in my profession in Chicago have been pretty damn lucky, getting to deal with interesting managers such as Lou, Ozzie, Dusty and Jerry Manuel. The fact that Piniella was one of my favorite players when I was a Yankees fan as a teenager growing up in Connecticut made it even more fun to cover him as a manager. I got to know him pretty well and, while we certainly aren't friends, we have a very good working relationship.
I admit it: I like the guy.
Still, when the team hired Piniella back in the 06-07 offseason, I cautioned Cubbieland not to expect too much. Lou couldn't get to the World Series with either the mega-payroll Yankees or a Mariners team that included A-Rod, Junior, the Big Unit and several other outstanding players. Sure enough, he'll leave Chicago having never won a postseason game.
And so now the Cubs will get to search for their next savior. Let's handicap the field ...
RYNE SANDBERG: Most Cubbie fans love this idea, which cracks me up. Here's an organization that has had a past filled with futility, but the fans constantly want to dig back into the past for saviors. Can Ryno manage? Maybe, maybe not. Hey, he's worth a shot as much as the next guy. 3-to-2.
BOB BRENLY: He's an intelligent, strong, World Series winning manager and he's right under their noses. It's almost so obvious that he won't be the choice. Of course, Brenly could make a better case for himself if he could go into the Way-Back Machine and bring Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling - in their primes - along for the ride. 5-to-1.
JOE GIRARDI: Hendry wouldn't hire him four years ago when he was an even more obvious choice than Brenly is now. Besides, just because Girardi grew up a Cubs fan, it doesn't mean he'd rather manage the Laffable Losers than the Yankees. I mean, he did go to Northwestern, so you know he's no dummy. 10-to-1.
ALAN TRAMMELL: He's the classic example of a guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time - with the hapless Tigers early this decade - but who has gone on to grow and learn. In other words, just the kind of guy who excels when given a second chance. It's hard to believe the Cubs would be the team that gives him that chance, though. He's not "exciting" enough. 25-to-1.
JOE TORRE: He'd be right in line with the superstar managers Hendry has pursued in the past. He's also 105 years old. And he hasn't won squat without a $200 million payroll backing him up. This would be such a ridiculous hire that even the Cubs won't screw this one up. Right? 50-to-1.
GREG MADDUX: Even though Hendry reveres him - a little too much, methinks - he has neither the personality nor the experience for the job. And I think Hendry knows it. 100-to-1.
TALK RADIO HOSTS: Remember the College of Coaches? Well, how about the College of Radio Yakkers? I mean, they have all the effen answers! 500-to-1.
OZZIE GUILLEN. Maybe the only one who could handle Cra-Z. But he's too afraid of those Wrigley Wrats. He's also under contract to an owner who appreciates him and is with a franchise that has won a championship in the last century. 1000-to-1.
MIKE NADEL: Only if I get to make Erin Andrews my bench coach. 1 gazillion-to-1.