Door closes on Piniella's managerial career
'Family comes first' as Cubs skipper steps down from post
CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella took the uniform off for the last time on Sunday.
When Piniella announced on July 20 that he was retiring at the end of this season, he fully intended to finish the year with the Cubs. But his mother's health prompted him to cut the season short. Sunday's Cubs game was Piniella's last as manager, and it ended on a sour note as the Braves romped, 16-5.
"This is the final final," Piniella said as he entered the interview room for the last time at Wrigley Field.
It isn't how he expected to finish. The Cubs still have 37 games to go, and one thing Piniella is not is a quitter.
"I didn't think my career would end this way," Piniella said. "My mom needs me home. She hasn't gotten better since I've been here. In fact, she's had a couple complications.
"Rather than continue to go home and come back, it's not fair to the team and it's not fair to the players," he said. "The best thing is to step down and go home and take care of my mother."
Piniella left the team Aug. 9-12 to be with his 90-year-old mother, Margaret, in Tampa, Fla., and set up in-home care. He calls her every morning, and when he called Sunday to tell her he was headed home, she cried.
"I've enjoyed it here," Piniella said. "Four wonderful years and I've made a lot of friends. We've had some success here and this year has been a little bit of a struggle. Family is important and comes first, and my mom needs me home and that's where I'm going."
Piniella, who turns 67 on Aug. 28, compiled a 316-393 record with the club over three-plus seasons. He guided the team to the National League Central title in his first and second years in 2007-08, and the Cubs posted the best record in the NL in '08 at 97-64.
He is the first Cubs manager in 100 years to lead the team to consecutive postseason appearances.
Lou among the elite
|3.||Tony La Russa||32||2,618|
"Lou helped raise the bar here for this entire organization, and for that we'll be forever thankful," general manager Jim Hendry said. "We understand he needs to be with his family and respect his decision to retire at this time. We salute his tremendous career and wish him and his family long-term health and happiness."
Third-base coach Mike Quade will take as interim manager and be considered to replace Piniella next season.
Piniella has been in uniform since his first season as a player in 1962. He is one of five men to win at least three Manager of the Year Awards, including 2008 with the Cubs, and retires as the 14th-winningest manager in Major League history. He entered Sunday's game with 1,835 wins in nearly 23 big league seasons at the helm and is the first Cubs manager in more than 70 years to post a record of .500 or better in his first three seasons with the team.
Piniella met with the Cubs' coaches and players prior to batting practice on Sunday to give them the news.
"It's been a very tough day for him and very emotional," Hendry said. "It's to the point now where he needs to be home with his family."
After all the years playing, managing, broadcasting, Piniella is done.
"I haven't had time to reflect on it," he said of his career. "I'm going to try to enjoy today as much as possible. It's been a long time and I've been blessed. God's given me the health and ability to do this job, and I'm appreciative. It's been a long time.
"When I announced my retirement earlier in the season, I thought I'd finish the year and go from there," he said. "Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. I'll have plenty of time to reflect."
Piniella exchanged lineup cards with Atlanta manager Bobby Cox, who is set to retire at season's end, prior to Sunday's game and was to then head to Tampa on Monday. After Sunday's game, his wife Anita was waiting on the concourse. She hadn't seen the postgame interview. Piniella broke down at one point. He shed a few tears Sunday and will probably shed a few more.
"This is a nice job, but it's a tough job," Piniella said of the Cubs. "They're going to win here. They've got a family-owned business now. The Ricketts family will do what they need to do to get this thing to where it can win. They'll give it the care it deserves.
"When I took this job, I didn't call anybody [for advice]," he said. "I came here and did the best I could for as long as I could."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.