CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella has offered himself up to critics looking to blame somebody for the Chicago Cubs' disappointing season.
"Invariably, when things don't go right, it's always the manager's fault," Piniella said before the Cubs lost 5-4 to the Nationals on Thursday. "You want to blame me? Take your shots. It doesn't bother me one bit, OK?"
Piniella, who led the Cubs to NL Central titles in each of his first two seasons -- the first time they reached the postseason in consecutive years in a century -- is under contract for 2010 and has said he expects to return.
The sale of the team was just announced, however, so there are many unanswered questions about the future -- especially in light of the club's mediocre performance this season. Chicago is nine games behind St. Louis in the Central and trails four others for the wild card.
"I'm the same manager ... this year as I was last year as I was the year before. Same manager. No different," Piniella said. "When you don't win, somebody's got to stand up and be the scapegoat. And if you all want to say it's the manager, say it's the manager.
"It's fine with me."
Still, he said he could only do so much for his club, which fell to 63-62 after Thursday's loss. The Cubs dropped two of three to Washington, the worst team in the majors.
"I do the best I can every day; I can't do any more," said Piniella, who managed Cincinnati to the 1990 championship and won three division titles with Seattle.
"I let the players play," he said. "It's their game. It's not my game, it's not the coaches' game, it's not anybody else's game. It's the players' game. All we can do is encourage them and give them an opportunity.
"I do care about wins and losses. I get hired to win baseball games. That's my batting average, that's my ERA," Piniella added. "But ... there are only so many things that I can do as a manager, and the rest of it is certainly not in my full control."
That includes a roster that had significant turnover from last season, when the Cubs won 97 games before being swept out of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Leaders such as Kerry Wood, Henry Blanco and Mark DeRosa weren't retained. Additions included talented but temperamental right fielder Milton Bradley and failed closer Kevin Gregg. In addition, several top players have performed below expectations and several have been injured.
"It hasn't been one of our better mixes," Piniella said. "Winning has a lot to do with chemistry. It makes the team come together a lot quicker. Remember, I told you all this spring we had a big turnover. Sometimes it takes a while. It doesn't necessarily just fall in your lap.
"But yeah, this hasn't been ... one of my better-chemistry teams," Piniella said.
Bradley, signed to a three-year, $30 million contract before the season, has struggled offensively most of the season. He also has had a shouting match with Piniella, has sparred with umpires and has gone at it with fans at Wrigley Field who have booed him. Earlier this week, he said many Cubs fans were "idiots" and full of "hatred."
"Some people seem to think if I didn't play baseball that I'd be collecting cans or something," Bradley said Thursday after getting booed several times during an 0-for-5 afternoon.
"I'm a highly intelligent guy," he said. "I chose to play baseball. ... And unless you've been paid 30 million to play right field for the Chicago Cubs, then you can't speak on how I might feel because you don't know."
A day earlier, he said he hoped games didn't go into extra innings because he wanted to spend "the least amount of time as possible" at Wrigley.
Asked if he was upset when he read those comments, Piniella said: "Who needs ... uh ... we've had enough problems here with injuries and so forth that we don't really need any more controversy of any sorts."