By Jim Caple
Page 2

Lou Piniella has worked the most daunting jobs in baseball with the exception of cleaning up after Lenny Dykstra.

He worked for George Steinbrenner. He worked for Marge Schott. He worked for Vince Naimoli. He won a World Series as a player and a manager. He turned the Mariners from punch line into winners. He took over the Devil Rays. But now he steps into the most daunting situation of his career: managing the Cubs.

I like Lou and highly regard him as a manager, but I also worry about him. Managing the Cubs is a black hole. The job is as much a career-killer as hiring Ben Affleck to star in your movie. It's devoured the good (Dusty Baker and Leo Durocher), the bad (Jim Riggleman) and the ugly (Don Zimmer).

The Cubs have gone through 31 managers since their last World Series (not counting one-game interims) and of those, only seven ever began another season as a big league manager anywhere else. The last manager fired by the Cubs and hired to manage another team was Lee Elia (though Jim Lefebvre did take over the Brewers as an interim manager in 1999 when Milwaukee dumped Phil Garner with 49 games left in that season). Only three managers even had a winning record again. None reached the postseason.

In other words, Lou has his work cut out for him. But if anyone can turn the Cubs around, he's the guy. At the very least, he's bound to be entertaining if past performance and his agenda for the winter are any indication:

Oct. 18: Improve record by 10 games by replacing the St. Louis Cardinals on the schedule with the Arizona Cardinals.

Oct. 21: Have Derrek Lee shrink-wrapped for the winter.

Oct. 28: Tell P.R. staff to conveniently leave out the "Tampa years" in the media guide bio.

Nov. 3: Consult with team doctors and see if Mark Prior can undergo surgery to have big brass ones attached.

Nov. 4: See if Kerry Wood can throw with his left arm.

Nov. 9: Tell equipment guy to order four dozen Size 7 5/8 caps, or enough to get him through April.

Nov. 12: Convince Jim Hendry to sign Norm Charlton. Make him the closer. Also, call Stan Javier and see if he can still pinch hit.

Nov. 15: Take call from A-Rod. Tell him, "Yes, I like you. I really like you."

Nov. 18: Tell grounds crew to install "Aramis-o-Meter" to accurately record percentage of hustle expended by Ramirez on each play. Also, have them switch Wrigley's bases from being bolted into the ground to being buckled for easier removal.

Nov. 21: Take call from A-Rod. Tell him, "Yes, you're better than Derek. Derek hits in the No. 2 hole. You're better than that."

Nov. 25: Hire good friend Lee Elia to be hitting coach but warn him to never, ever, ever, never, ever, never talk with reporters.

Nov. 30-Feb 17: Study the 40-man roster and media guide every night. Match names to photos. Still call every pitcher "that kid" when he gets to spring training.

Dec. 4: Go to winter meetings. Convince Hendry to trade away all the club's young pitching prospects for A-Rod.

And finally …

Dec. 15: Return Steve Lyons' wallet.

BOXSCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
New York's Steve Trachsel dug his Mets teammates into a deep hole Friday when he walked five batters and allowed five runs in one-plus innings in Game 3 of the NLCS against the Cardinals. It made for a pretty ghastly line -- 1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 1 K -- but we prefer the dual lines St. Louis starter Jeff Suppan put up the same night. Suppan not only shut out the Mets for eight innings on three hits, he also provided all the offense he needed with a home run. His lines:

8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K and 1 AB, 1 H, 1 R, 1 RBI

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. You can reach Jim at jimcaple.com, where the latest series of "24 College Avenue" is currently running. Sound off to Page 2 here.




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