Piniella agrees to three-year deal to manage Cubs

Updated: October 16, 2006, 10:34 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHICAGO -- Lou Piniella's coming to Wrigley Field, agreeing Monday to a three-year contract to manage the Chicago Cubs and accepting a job that has long been one of the most challenging in baseball.

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His assignment: Get to the playoffs and win a championship with a franchise that hasn't been to a World Series since 1945 and hasn't won one since 1908.

"I feel terrific about Lou. I think he's a tremendous baseball man and a proven winner from the beginning of his career," Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Monday.

"I think he's absolutely the perfect choice as we move forward."

Piniella, who will be introduced Tuesday at a news conference, has a deal that is worth about $10 million. The Cubs hold an option for a fourth year, sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark.

"I'm basically a blue-collar-type manager that believes in a good work ethic, preparation and a desire to win a baseball game," Piniella told the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend in Detroit where he worked the ALCS for Fox TV.

Piniella replaces Dusty Baker, another veteran manager with a strong resume, who left after four years when his contract was not renewed following a 66-96 last-place finish in the NL.

Piniella has 19 years experience managing in the big leagues with four teams -- the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays -- and said his work in TV and a year away from the dugout on a daily basis refreshed him.

Known for his fiery style and outbursts with umpires -- in which he's thrown his cap, flung a base and kicked dirt on the plate -- the Cubs hope Piniella can be the spark the team obviously lacked during the final two seasons of Baker's tenure.

Joe Girardi, fired by the Florida Marlins after one season and a former Cubs player, also interviewed for the job as did Cubs broadcaster and former Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly. Mike Quade and Pat Listach, managers last season in the Cubs' farm system, also were interviewed.

But Piniella's experience, his toughness and run of success that included a 1990 World Series title with the Reds were obviously factors that impressed the Cubs.

The hiring of Piniella is the latest move in a Cubs' overhaul that began two weeks ago when chief executive Andy MacPhail resigned the day before Baker's contract was not renewed.

Now Hendry will begin refiguring his roster with decisions ahead on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who can opt-out of his contract; center fielder Juan Pierre, who is a free agent; and oft-injured pitcher Kerry Wood. The club has a $13.75 million option on Wood, who is rehabbing a torn rotator cuff.

The 63-year-old Piniella has a record of 1,519-1,420 and was honored as AL manager of the year in 1995 and 2001.

He became the Cubs' top choice over Girardi, who had two different playing stints with the team that he broke in with in 1989.

The Cubs nearly reached the World Series three years ago, getting within five outs before a collapse against Florida in the NLCS. But Baker couldn't get the team back to the playoffs.

Piniella began managing in 1986 with the Yankees, where he lasted three years. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. During his time in Cincinnati, he got national attention for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble.

From there it was on to a long run in Seattle from 1993-02. His 2001 team went 116-46, but lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. His 1995 and 2000 Mariners teams also were beaten in the league championship series. During his decade in Seattle, the Mariners won at least 90 games four times.

Piniella won 93 games his final season with the Mariners in 2002 before heading home to his native Tampa to try and build a winner for the Devil Rays.

But ultimately he had a difference of opinion with ownership and questioned management's commitment to winning before the team bought out the final year of his four-year contract.

Piniella had an 18-year career as a player, 11 of them with the Yankees, and was a career .291 hitter.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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