A Fond Adieu to Sweet, Sweet Lou

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Despite all of the rancor, the calls for his head, the snarky comments that he should have been managing this season from the dugout while wearing a smoking jacket and drinking a martini…yes, Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella will be missed.

By Paul Schmidt

One of the most difficult decisions any person ever has is when to call it quits.  We see it all the time in EVERY walk of life, and not just professional sports, so Piniella’s decision to come back for another year despite extenuating circumstances in his personal life isn’t the craziest thing in the world. It’s called being human.

He thought he could balance taking care of his mother versus taking care of the Cubs.

He, like so many others put in that same position, couldn’t do it.

There is no conceivable way his mind was completely on the Cubs this season, and many people — fans and detractors alike — signal this as the reason Lou was “a bum” and why he needed to be run out of town, or tarred and feathered, or whatever it is we do to the varmints that let us down.

I only present that as a fact, and not as a criticism. One of the least talked about reasons why athletes go through slumps is things in their personal lives get the best of them. Frank Thomas, for instance, had the second-best season of his career after his particularly nasty divorce was finalized and he could finally concentrate on baseball.

Is getting a divorce the same as caring for a very ill parent? According to most studies about the most stressful events in people’s lives, divorce and bereavement/loss of a loved one are always occupying the number one and two spots (sometimes, with public speaking mixed in, but that’s another topic for another day…), so for the purpose of what we’re talking about, I think it is safe to say that, yes, even though, Lou’s mom is still alive, we can assume that this is just as stressful.

The constant thoughts that you should be there, even though you’re working.

The constant fears that you’re not doing enough.

The constant fear that you’re failing your mother as a son.

This is what was dominating Lou’s mind every day.

Does it make him a bad manager?  No.  It simply makes him a human being.

Piniella had a great four-year run with the Cubs. He took them to two division titles and three straight winning seasons. No, he never won a playoff game, and no, he didn’t win the World Series.  Still, the success he experienced was unparalleled in my lifetime — And yes, typing that just made my brain hurt. The success he experienced was unparalleled in pretty much EVERYONE’S lifetime — the last time the Cubs had three straight winnings seasons and made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons…umm…well, I won’t invoke that year everyone knows.  It was a long time ago.  We all know when.

He didn’t bring us the title we burn for, the one that he truly yearned to bring to Chicago. But much like the gentleman Derrek Lee, he will be fondly remembered here in the city for his sense of humor, how much he did care while he was here and just how much positivity he did bring to the Cubs Nation.  And make no mistake — just because he is quitting, and leaving the team behind with six weeks to go this season does not mean he doesn’t care. Sometimes there are more important things in life than work. This happens to be one of them.

And so, this man made that tough decision. He gave up his life’s work — Baseball — to do something that really matters. It’s admirable. It’s heartbreaking.

It’s a decision that we all dread ever having to make.

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