Cubs look ahead after Piniella says he will retire

CHICAGO (AP) — Just like a long line of predecessors, Lou Piniella thought he could lead the Chicago Cubs to that elusive championship and end a drought that dates to 1908.

Barring an epic turnaround, he can forget about that.

General manager Jim Hendry will get another shot, though.

New owner Tom Ricketts made that clear Tuesday, saying there won't be a change at the top after Piniella announced he's retiring at the end of the season and ending a long, colorful career.

"Jim is our general manager, full stock," Ricketts said. "He will be leading the effort to find our new manager for next year and will be our general manager going into next year."

Hendry, the GM since 2002, has come under scrutiny amid mounting losses the past two seasons. Big contracts to players such as Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Zambrano — not to mention signing Milton Bradley, who got banished late last season and ultimately traded to Seattle — have only added to the criticism.

Even so, Ricketts is counting on Hendry to lead the team out of the wilderness.

"I said at our opening press conference that Day 1 was Square 1 for everyone in the organization," Ricketts said. "I think from that day going forward, we had a very good offseason. I think Jim delivered on bringing in some players who contributed a lot this season. And we had a good offseason, no question.

"I think the second thing that I've seen the last eight months that gives me 100 percent confidence in Jim is that we have a good organization," he continued. "The way that you win consistently in baseball is to draft well, to develop players well and to bring those players up to the major leagues to give you flexibility in your payroll and trades. I think we have the organization in place. I have the highest confidence in everyone in our organization, and I think that speaks well of Jim."

Piniella sees hope for an organization that's gone more than a century without winning it all.

"Sooner or later, they'll break that barn door down and win a world championship," he said.

That was the plan when Chicago hired Piniella after the 2006 season. The Cubs won the NL Central in 2007 and 2008 before things fell apart, but without a title, Ricketts said no era could be viewed as a success.

"Our goal is to win a World Series," he said. "Our goal is to put a team on the field that can win the World Series every year. I can't envision an era without that and still calling it a success."

Now, they're trying to pick themselves up while Piniella plans to move on after 18 years in the majors as a player and another 22 as a manager.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, the man Piniella beat for this job, has an expiring contract. So does the Los Angeles Dodgers' Joe Torre.

Bob Brenly, who managed Arizona to a championship in 2001 and interviewed with the Cubs four years ago, is in the team's broadcast booth.

Bench coach Alan Trammell and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have both managed in the majors.

There's a popular choice at Triple-A Iowa, where Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg is managing, and Hendry said the former MVP is in the running.

"He's done a very good job in the system the last four years," Hendry said. "I have a lot of respect for the way he's handled himself. A Hall of Fame player working in the minor leagues, he deserves to be a candidate."

Sandberg is interested.

"I need to focus on what I'm doing here in Des Moines with these players and what my job is right now," he said. "If the time came, if I was considered for that job in Chicago, I think that'd be a terrific thing just to be considered. The whole goal of any minor leaguer is to get to the major leagues, and I think that includes coaches and managers like myself."

The 66-year-old Piniella, who made five trips to the World Series in his career and has three championship rings, is 1,827-1,691 overall and 308-271 with the Cubs after Tuesday's 14-7 win over Houston. He trailed only Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Torre in victories among active managers.

"Lou is an emotional guy and I know he's been frustrated because they reached the postseason and it looked like they were going to do it on a regular basis," Torre said.

Known for his dirt-kicking tirades, Piniella had mellowed with Chicago. He made it clear Tuesday he was tired of the daily grind but didn't rule out consulting for the Cubs or another team.

Piniella began managing in 1986 with the Yankees and lasted three years, including a stint as general manager. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. He also got national attention during his time there for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble, who downplayed the incident and said "we've been family ever since."

After Cincinnati, Piniella had a long run in Seattle, where his teams won at least 90 games four times and 116 in 2001.

Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who played for Piniella with the Mariners, called him "a Hall of Fame manager and a great player."

Woody Woodward, who hired Piniella when he was Seattle's GM, said, "He came out here and made believers out of the Northwest."

Now, after three tough years in Tampa Bay and two in Chicago after a good start, Piniella's career will likely end on a disappointing note.

"Everybody knows he's not going to let up," All-Star outfielder Marlon Byrd said. "It's Lou Piniella. Have you seen one year where he's let up in his playing career or his managing career?"


AP Sports Writers Luke Meredith in Des Moines, Iowa, Howie Rumberg in New York, Beth Harris in Los Angeles, Gregg Bell in Seattle and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.