Piniella: Cubs on verge of World Series
Skipper happy with mix of young players and veterans
PHOENIX -- The Cubs closed Spring Training on Saturday with a resounding 6-0 victory over the D-backs at Chase Field. And with it came a prediction from their veteran manager that should whet the appetite of all those victory-starved Cubs fans everywhere:"I think the Cubs, their time is coming to win the World Series," Lou Piniella said after the game. "Hopefully, it's very, very, very soon. "When we do, it will be an event," he added. In the last year of his contract, Piniella could take that kind of event all the way to the bank. He might not be around to see it all come to fruition, still, he likes the mixture of young players and veterans on this year's club, which just finished an 18-12 Cactus League slate. "We come out of it healthy," he said. "That's a big deal. Taking a look at some of the other club's DLs, we're fortunate." The Cubs open on Monday in Atlanta against the Braves, the game that may be the beginning of the end for Braves manager Bobby Cox, who says he will retire at the end of the season. Like Piniella, Cox is in the last year of his contract. So are the Dodgers' Joe Torre, the Cardinals' Tony La Russa and the Reds' Dusty Baker. None, except Cox, has said unequivocally that he is ready to retire, although Torre has pushed back any talks of an extension until later in the season. "Would you bet the whole ranch on it? I wouldn't," Piniella said about Cox's apparent decision. "I think any of these guys will have the opportunity to manage if they want to." Entering the season, Piniella is sticking to his own proclamations: He's undecided about the future. "I'm going to wait until the season's over, there's plenty of time to decide then," he said. "I just want to do everything I can humanly do to help this team win as many games as we can. Hopefully we can get into the postseason again and give ourselves a chance. That's all I'm going to do: the best job I can do. We'll see what happens after that." Piniella, going into his 24th season as a manager, has won one pennant and one World Series title, coming in 1990, his first of three seasons in Cincinnati. His 2001 Mariners won 116 games to set the American League record for most wins in a single season and tie the 1906 Cubs for the most in Major League history. That Seattle team lost to New York in the AL Championship Series. He's had three seasons with the Cubs, making the playoffs, but not winning a postseason game, after the first two. Despite all the highs and lows, he still has the enthusiasm to manage. "I have the same enthusiasm, the same desire to win and the same competitive spirit," he said. "I've gotten older and quieter. I enjoy putting on a uniform. It keeps me young. Especially as you get older, the kids are all getting younger. "My situation will take care of itself. All I can do is come out here and do the best job I can do every day. I'm going to do that whether I was signed for a year or signed for five years. It doesn't matter. I take pride in what I do. I take pride in how our team plays. And the wins and losses."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.