Lou Piniella's Replacement: Who Will Be Chicago Cubs Manager in 2011?
Unlike his counterpart on the other side of town, you’re not going to find Lou Piniella tweeting any time soon.
As you probably already know, Piniella responded to a minor Twitter controversy early in the spring sparked by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who joined the social networking site to communicate with fans.
Sweet Lou has never been tagged as a web-junky, and do not expect to find the old-school manager updating his Facebook status at your local Starbucks.
In an era when players expect to be coddled every step of the way, Piniella has stuck with his traditional hard-nosed way of things throughout his 22 years as a big league manager. Lou has lost a little bit of that explosive spark he had in the late 1980s and ‘90s, but he has not shied away from stirring things up in the Cubs’ clubhouse during his tenure.
Unfortunately for Lou, the hot-tempered approach is a dying breed. You would have better luck finding volatile managers like Lou (see Phil Wellman, manager of the Class AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves) in the minors than in the majors, as more teams are hiring player-friendly managers to accommodate young rising stars.
Coaching legends Joe Torre and Bobby Cox are the prototype, and their success as two of the winningest managers in major league history speaks for itself.
Piniella’s contract is up at the end of '10 season (with an option for '11), and Lou has already hinted that this year will be his last. While he could come back, ownership will most likely move in a new direction to put a time stamp on the beginning of the Ricketts’ regime.
However, it looks like the decision is going to be up to General Manager Jim Hendry, who also finds himself on the hot seat. Can Hendry afford to keep Lou on if the Cubs underachieve this season?
It is highly unlikely.
So, who is the next Cubs manager going to be? There are many who believe the organization already has its next manager-in-waiting at Triple-A, but should the team trust a first-year guy to deliver the Cubs their first World Series since 1908?
Here are my top three choices for the next manager of the Cubbies.
3. Jose Oquendo, St. Louis Cardinals' Third Base Coach
He may not be the most popular choice for the North Siders, but one of game's historical utility players can do even more than play every position on the field: he can coach too.
Oquendo served as manager of the Puerto Rican team of the World Baseball Classic in '06 and '09, and he moved quickly through the Cardinals’ minor league system. Although he is a likely successor to Tony La Russa, I have a feeling the chance to become a big league manager may be itching pretty hard right now.
Even if he does not turn into a Hall of Fame manager, wouldn’t it be rewarding enough to see Jose’s antics on the North Side versus Ozzie’s on the South Side? Now there is a reality show.
2. Bob Brenly, Cubs Broadcaster; led the Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series Title
Talk about an immediate impact. Brenly landed the D’Backs their first Series title in his first season as manager, but he could not get Arizona back to the Fall Classic and was fired in the middle of the '04 season. Brenly quickly found another job in '05, replacing baseball guru Steve Stone, in the Cubs broadcast booth.
Brenly is on a laundry list of former major league backstops to find success at the highest managerial level, and he already knows the ins-and-outs of the Cubs organization. The Cubs must see something worthwhile in Brenly; otherwise, he would have been long gone after stark criticisms (similar to Steve Stone before his departure) about past Cubs teams.
Brenly knows how to dish it out in the booth, and I am sure he can take the criticism that comes with being the Cubs skipper.
1. Ryne Sandberg, Triple-A Iowa Cubs Manager
It appears the Cubs are prepping Sandberg for a chance at the big leagues, and he might get his shot in ’11. Ryne started coaching in '06 with the Class-A Peoria Chiefs and he gets the nod at Triple-A this year.
Sandberg might have the inside track to the job, but the team needs to make sure not to rush the former second baseman. One thing is guaranteed with Ryne: his team will “play the right way" (as quoted in his '05 Hall of Fame Induction speech). And that is soothing to any Cubs fan's ears.
It won't be long before you see "Ryne in '11" shirts and buttons on Clark and Addison.
Who do you think will be tabbed the next Cubs' manager?
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