Piniella to retire at the end of this season; Hendry sticking around
Lou Piniella will be gone as Cubs manager at the end of this season, but general manager Jim Hendry will carry on in his job.
The second part of that sentence turned out to be as important, or more important, than the first Tuesday as Piniella announced that he will retire after four years as Cubs manager at the end of this season.
After Piniella met the media before Tuesday night's game with Houston, Hendry and team chairman Tom Ricketts did likewise, with Ricketts stating firmly that Hendry would lead the search for a new manager to replace Piniella.
"Jim is our general manager full stop," said Ricketts, whose ambiguous statements on the last road trip led to speculation about Hendry's future. "He will be leading the effort to find our new manager and will be our general manager going into next year, yes."
Ricketts cited, in part, the resurgence of the minor-league system under Hendry hires Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita as reasons for keeping Hendry aboard.
The fact that Hendry and the Cubs will need a new manager didn't come as a shocker, even though the timing wasn't exactly what Piniella hoped it would be.
Piniella said he and Hendry had talked during the past weeks about retirement and that Piniella wanted to get the news out before September to quell speculation.
However, news broke early Tuesday in the New York Daily News, before Piniella could tell his players, the Cubs coaches and the Chicago media.
"First of all, this was a planned event that was supposed to be kept secret for about three or four days," Piniella said. "I talked to Jim about it and through Peter Chase (Cubs media-relations director), we coordinated this pretty well.
"Unfortunately, my agent (Alan Nero) talked to a writer in New York, and it caused me some headaches. I wanted to be able to talk to the team first. I wanted to talk to my coaches first. As it was, we had to release a statement around 2 o'clock when we were going to release it around 4."
Piniella turns 67 on Aug. 28 and cited age and his desire to spend more time with his family as the main reasons for his retirement.
Brought to Chicago by Hendry in the fall of 2006, Piniella led the Cubs to division titles in 2007 and 2008, but the Cubs were swept in the first round of the playoffs each year. They fell out of the playoffs last year and need a miracle finish to make it this season.
Entering Tuesday, Piniella had a record of 307-271 as Cubs manager.
"I've been extremely appreciative of my four years here with the Chicago Cubs," he said. "It's been a wonderful experience. It's been a wonderful city, wonderful fans.
"But at the end of this year, I turn 67. It's time for me to get on with a new phase of my life. At the same time, I want to spend more time with my family, my wife, my kids, my grandchildren.
"Why is the announcement now as opposed to September? For a couple of reasons. First of all, I get asked all the time. I don't want to mislead anybody about my intentions.
"At the same time, more important, it gives Jim Hendry ample opportunity to find a new manager for this organization. And he can do it, and he doesn't have to be secret about it or anything else."
Hendry took over as GM in 2002, and he hired Dusty Baker as manager that fall. The Cubs came within five outs of the World Series in 2003 but never made it back to the postseason under Baker.
During the middle of the 2006 season, when it became apparent Baker would not be back, Hendry set his sights on Piniella, who was sitting out after managing the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Piniella did not have success in Tampa, but he managed the Cincinnati Reds to the 1990 world championship, and his Seattle Mariners teams were consistent contenders.
"It's been a real pleasure to be with him," Hendry said. "It's been a wonderful experience for four years. There was no doubt that we had the right guy when we hired him.
"We played awfully well the first two years. With the 97-win team (2008), we thought we had a team that could continue deep into the postseason. It didn't work out.
"He's given his whole life to the game and certainly deserves the respect and dignity that he's been given over the years to go out the right way, the way he wanted to this season.
"I'll always be grateful to him. He came along at a time when we needed him and I thought did a terrific job."
Piniella had a storied career as a player, manager and executive with the New York Yankees, and speculation has centered on him returning there as a consultant. He said Tuesday consulting appeals to him but that he has no immediate plans.
"I know the game of baseball," he said. "I could help in those areas. We'll see what happens. I don't have any plans."