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11/12/08 5:10 PM EST

Piniella honored as Manager of Year

Cubs skipper wins award for third time, donates prize money

CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella, who guided the Cubs to the best record in the National League, was named Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Wednesday. And one of the first things he did was give back to the Chicago community.

As winner of the award, Piniella earned $100,000, a bonus that was included in his contract, and he donated that money to the McCormick Foundation's Cubs Care, a charitable partner of the Chicago Cubs.

"My good fortune of being named the Manager of the Year will get spread around Chicago some," Piniella said. "I knew the award would be today, and I was thinking of the gift more than the award and I'm very happy the way this turned out."

It's the third time Piniella, 65, has won the award and first time in the National League. He was named the American League's top manager in 1995 and 2001, when he was skipper of the Seattle Mariners.

Only five managers have won the honor at least three times, including Tony La Russa (four times), Bobby Cox (four), Dusty Baker (three) and Jim Leyland (three). Piniella is the fourth to win the award in both leagues, joining La Russa, Cox and Leyland.

The Cubs manager received 15 first-place votes, eight second-place votes and four third-place votes for 103 points. Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel was second with eight first-place votes, six second-place votes and nine third-place votes for 67 points.

This season, Piniella and the Cubs posted a 97-64 record and won the National League Central for the second consecutive year. He's the first skipper to lead the team to back-to-back postseason appearances since Frank Chance did so in 1906-08.

What was the Cubs' biggest accomplishment in 2008?

2008 NL Manager of the Year Award Voting
Manager, Club 1st 2nd 3rd Points
Lou Piniella, CHC 15 8 4 103
Charlie Manuel, PHI 8 6 9 67
Fredi Gonzalez, FLA 5 6 5 48
Joe Torre, LAD 3 8 6 45
Tony La Russa, STL 1 1 3 11
Jerry Manuel, NYM   3 1 10
Cecil Cooper, HOU     3 3
Dale Sveum, MIL     1 1

"The fact that we went to the postseason two years in a row," he said. "It hadn't been done in Chicago a long, long time. Now the expectations are up. People, they expect us to be good and they're disappointed when we don't win in the postseason. I think we've raised the level, and I think that's probably what I'm proudest about. They expect the Cubs to be good, and we are going to be good."

The Cubs, however, were unable to end the 100-year drought since they last won a World Series, being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series.

Piniella is the third skipper in Cubs history to earn Manager of the Year honors and first since Don Zimmer in 1989. Jim Frey also won the award in 1984.

When Piniella guided the Cincinnati Reds to the World Series in 1990, he finished second to Leyland for the top manager award.

"This award basically is for the season," Piniella said. "The manager who finished second [Manuel] got his reward winning the World Series the same way I did when I was in Cincinnati. One thing is certain, there are some darn good managers in the National League, and all are deserving."

In 2008, the Cubs were either tied or had sole possession of first in the division for 151 of 181 days and reached a season-high 35 games over .500 on Aug. 29 for the first time since 1945. The 97 wins this year were the most since winning 98 in 1945, which was the last time the Cubs were in the World Series.

The team was successful despite beginning the season with a few question marks. For example, Ryan Dempster switched from closer to starter and ended up winning a career-high 17 games, finishing sixth in the NL Cy Young voting. Kerry Wood made the transition from starter to closer and totaled 34 saves.

"I've got a couple more cracks at it, and hopefully we'll get it done. I'd like to see that done more than anything else."
-- Lou Piniella, on winning the World Series

Piniella also welcomed in new right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, the first Japanese player on the Cubs, and when he struggled, the manager was quick to make changes.

The biggest burden, though, was dealing with the expectations placed on the Cubs in the super-hyped anniversary season.

"Usually the year it's supposed to happen, it doesn't," Piniella said. "Our players wanted it really bad. Our fans, the city -- I think national television wanted it. It was disappointing that it ended so quickly. I didn't expect that, the players didn't expect that. Certainly our fans didn't expect it. I didn't have an explanation.

"Just because you win the most games during the year doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win in the postseason. The [Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim] have had great, great seasons, and they're a really nice ballclub and they've struggled in the postseason, also. I think only because this was the 100th year, I think everybody wanted to see it happen, including my players, myself, the organization.

"I've got a couple more cracks at it, and hopefully we'll get it done. I'd like to see that done more than anything else."

One of the main reasons the Cubs signed Piniella was to end the drought, the longest in professional sports. The team lost 96 games in 2006 before Piniella took over, and the club spent $300 million in the offseason, which led to an 85-77 record in 2007. They were swept in the NLDS against Arizona that year. After this year, the team has undergone a 31-game turnaround.

Piniella now has 1,701 wins and ranks 14th in Major League history. He admitted he's thought about whether that will get him a spot in Cooperstown.

"I'd be lying if I said I haven't thought about it," he said. "Whatever happens after my career is over happens. I enjoy what I do. I don't have much left. I still have passion, I still want to win. I enjoy working with [general manager] Jim Hendry and the rest of the staff, Wrigley Field, the city of Chicago, our Cubs fans. It's a good way for me to exit. I've won a lot of games, and I've been fortunate. I've been working for a long time."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.