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Lou's long goodbye far too long
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/23/2010 7:59 PM

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Didn't we do this already?

Seriously, we've been singing goodbye to Lou for, like, three months already.

We could have started two years ago as Piniella stopped managing and began his retirement in uniform.

Piniella was great in 2007 and about half of 2008, but that's when he disengaged and began a slow decline on the North Side that ended in April this season.

By then, it was clear the Cubs were in trouble and Piniella had thrown in the towel.

So when the Cubs conceded, they should have sent Piniella home with full pay, a sweet Lou retirement party and a thank you for bringing class and dignity back to the manager's office at Wrigley Field.

There would have been no shame in that, no sense he was quitting or that he'd been fired.

Just time to go home at 66 to enjoy life on the water, drinking in the wine and sunshine with many millions in the bank.

We should all be so lucky someday.

Instead, even after announcing he was leaving in July, the Cubs insisted on continuing with this farce, losing valuable time the next manager could have used to get to know his team and lay down the law for 2011.

Now, they've blown yet another chance to bring in a new guy, and if the Cubs eventually name Ryne Sandberg or Bob Brenly - or anyone else who was available this summer - you'll have to seriously wonder about the Cubs' decision-making process.

That being said, we've assumed all along the next choice is Joe Girardi or someone like him who isn't currently free to pursue this job.

Otherwise, why the wait?

In the meantime, Piniella has reasons to go home, though you can be sure those reasons would not have torn him away had the Cubs been in contention or even reasonably competitive.

Nevertheless, he leaves to take care of his family, and leaves behind an awful mess, not of his making.

So while it was a sad weekend for Piniella, taking off the uniform for the last time, it should not be a sad moment for Cubs fans.

They had a manager who wasn't managing in the dugout or in the clubhouse, and young players like Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin were subjected to watching veterans like Aramis Ramirez play with all the enthusiasm and energy one would display at a funeral.

Ramirez hasn't put in a day's work in the field in three years, and the next ball he puts his body in front of will be the first in a long time. It remains to be seen what impact Mike Quade will have on guys like Ramirez, and we wish him luck with that.

And while they play out the string under the Prospect High School grad, the Cubs are left to ponder what might have been, and where they go from here.

Piniella, bless him, gets to go home and forget this disaster, taking care of his mom and the rest of the clan, hopefully regenerating after four difficult years in Chicago that took a toll on him he never would have imagined.

Piniella was yet another manager who thought he'd be working in front of a soft fan base and that losing lovably was still OK.

But it is not soft. It is not OK. And it is a nightmare.

Nevertheless, we wish Piniella nothing but the best and know that during his 48 years of professional baseball Piniella gave an awful lot to the game.

So rather than remember the Lou of the last two years, we choose to think of the guy who would fight anyone on the other team, or even his own players, if it meant winning games.

That Lou Piniella was a heck of a baseball man and put together a career many think is Hall of Fame worthy.

Even if it's not, it's quite worthy of celebration, and one to remember.

Good luck, Lou, and here's hoping the next baseball game you watch brings not a scowl or tears but instead a smile to your face.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.