Bad News Bear: Cubs’ Manager Lou Piniella to Retire at Season’s End.

Apparently Sweet Lou has had just about enough of sour Chicago and the calamity-stricken Cubs’ losing ways.

According to a statement from the veteran skipper, 2010 will be his final year as manager of the Cubs, as he plans to retire at the end of the season and pursue a role in the front office.

Piniella was brought to Chicago to do what hadn’t been done in over 100 years–win a World Series with the Cubs.

But like many others before him Piniella wasn’t able to climb that seemingly insurmountable peak, and it became apparent this season that Chicago wasn’t likely to contend with him at the helm. While announcing his decision before the season ends might seem strange, it gives the Cubs time to find a suitable replacement from among the likes of Ryne Sandberg, Joe Torre and Fredi Gonzalez.

Piniella’s time in Chicago wasn’t all bad. He has a 308-272 record (.531) with the Cubs and won the National League Manager of the Year Award in 2008 when the North Siders won a league high 97 games. But back-to-back postseason flops and run-ins with Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano obscured the regular season success, and helped make it easy for Piniella to say goodbye to baseball’s most cursed and critiqued franchise.

While Piniella’s time in Chicago has been forgettable, his career as a manager was anything but. When Lou wasn’t busy entertaining fans with his memorable tirades, the cagy skipper was guiding the Cincinnati Reds, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Chicago Cubs to a record of 1827-1692 (.519). He led the Reds to a World Series title in his first year as manager (1990) and also steered the 2001 Seattle Mariners to a Major League record 116 wins. Whether his accomplishments as a manager are enough to secure Piniella a place in Cooperstown remains to be seen, but one thing is clear:

Baseball will never forget Sweet Lou.

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Sobering Stats from the First Half of Seattle’s Subpar Season.

Brandon League has been so bad in Seattle, that no photos exist of him as a Mariner.

The Mariners are so bad they don’t even deserve an introductory paragraph. Here’s a look at some of their craptastic numbers from the first half: 

–>At 35-53, the Mariners are 15 games behind Texas in the AL West. 

–> The Mariners’ opponents have outscored them by 79 runs–putting them in the same company as Baltimore, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Arizona. Misery loves company… 

–> Seattle is hitting .238 as a team (only .225 if you don’t include Ichiro). Let that sink in; or try not to think about it at all. 

–> By himself, Ichiro is responsible for 16.9% of the Mariners’ hits. Sure he’s the leadoff hitter, but still… 

–> Jose Lopez, the team leader in RBI’s, is on pace for 68 total. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers already has 77. 

–> Seattle catchers have combined for more passed balls than hits. It’s not true, but the fact that is seems feasible tells you everything you need to know about the Mariners’ 2010. Where’s Tom Lampkin when you need him? 

–> The Mariners are 28th in batting average, 28th in home runs, 29th in runs and 29th in hits…out of 14 teams. 

–> Ryan-Rowland Smith, Ian Snell and David Aarsdma have a combined record of 1-20. 1 and 20. 

–> Despite the fact that the M’s sit at 35-53, which is a palindrome, Major League Baseball will not allow Seattle to flip their record. 

–> Cliff Lee is gone and he’s never coming back! 

Well, I guess the numbers don’t lie, the Mariners really do suck. Enjoy the All-Star break–which is really just a break from watching the Mariners play. 

And we all need that…

Already Gone: Long Awaited Cliff Lee Deal Finally Completed; Ace Lefty Traded from Seattle to Texas for Justin Smoak and Prospects.

It was all smiles when Cliff Lee arrived in Seattle, but it wasn't meant to be.

When grammy-winner Kelly Clarkson penned her hit “Already Gone” she wasn’t referring to the love between a man and a woman. Rather, Clarkson was alluding to the relationship between superstar pitcher Cliff Lee and the Seattle Mariners:

“Remember all the things we wanted (a World Series title); Now all our memories they’re haunted (a ruined chance at a long-term relationship); We were always meant to say goodbye (how ’bout just so long for now?)” 

“Even with our fists held high (seven wins in Lee’s last nine starts); It never would’ve worked out right (Seattle’s cursed after all); We were never meant for do or die (though we wish Beiber-mania would).” 

“I want you to know that it doesn’t matter; Where we take this road someone’s gotta go (either via free agency or trade); And I want you to know you couldn’t have loved me better (8-3, 2.34 ERA, 89 K’s/6 BB’s); But I want you to move on so I’m already gone (16 games out in division).” 

“Looking at you makes it harder (because he’s so very good); But I know that you’ll find another (please just don’t be the Yankees or Boston); That doesn’t always make you want to cry (or at least a team that can score runs).” 

Despite Kelly’s warning, losing Cliff Lee won’t be any less painful for Mariners’ fans. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season and his affable personality and dynamic stuff made Lee a lovable character among a team of bumbling oafs.

My head knew that Cliff Lee had to go, but my heart still refuses to believe it.

Mariners Monthly Roundup: June “If Only We Played in the NL Central” Edition.

Cliff Lee's tremendous month of June won't make it any easier to say goodbye.

Record: 14-13  (Overall 33-44)

AL West Standings: Texas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle.

 

Top Hitter: It’s almost by default that Ichiro claims his place as the team’s top hitter because no one else on the Mariners seemed to know what they were doing at the plate in June. The ageless Suzuki just kept plugging along, hitting .321 in the month with 2 HR’s, 14 RBI’s and 8 stolen bases. Considering that Seattle has a team batting average of .239, Ichiro might be more valuable to the Mariners than he ever has been. Whatever he’s getting paid, he’s worth it. Can you imagine this offense with Ichiro?

Top Pitcher: If June truly was Cliff Lee’s last month as a Mariner he made the most of it. The most coveted trade chip in all of baseball posted a 4-1 record with a 1.76 ERA and an unbelievable four complete games (his 36/2 strikeout-to-walk ration wasn’t too shabby either). Though Lee won’t be able to lead the Mariners back to the playoffs (not single-handedly at least), he should bring in a hearty bounty of prospects from whichever contender acquires his services (Minnesota, St. Louis and the New York Mets are all in the mix). Thanks for the memories Cliff; maybe someday we’ll be reunited once again. Maybe…

Biggest Surprise: Finally given a chance to play everyday, Michael “the Condor” Saunders has shown why he was one of the most highly regarded prospects in the Mariners’ organization, connecting for a team-high five home runs in the month of June. The 23-year-old is still struggling to find consistency at the plate and needs to cut down on the K’s (37 in 112 AB’s) but he provides some hope that the M’s might not be terrible forever.

Biggest Disappointment: Rob Johnson (.200 BA) and Sean White (7.58 ERA) are not major league caliber players. Not today, not ever. Don’t tell me that there are no players in our farm system capable of what those two bumbling idiots are doing at the big league level. Please do something about them Seattle front office. Please?

Griffey Watch: N/A…insert sad face here.

Happy Trails: The Ian Snell Experiment (0-5, 6.41 ERA) wasn’t anymore successful in 2010 than it was last year. The Mariners showed amazing patience with the struggling pitcher, but finally had enough after Snell showed no signs of turning things around, and designated him for assignment. Shockingly, no other team was willing to take a chance on him. Color me surprised…

Injuries: Erik Bedard (shoulder surgery, 60-day DL–early July return); Mark Lowe (lower back inflammation, 15-day DL); Shawn Kelley (right elbow inflammation, 15-day DL); Mike Sweeney (old age, 15-day DL): Rob Johnson (inability to catch balls thrown his way, no known cure).

Lingering Questions: Will Russell Branyan lead the Mariners in home runs for the season despite not joining the team until late June? Will King Felix continue to pitch at a high level once Cliff Lee is traded? Should fans continue to show up to Safeco Field if Rob Johnson is still the starting catcher? What’s Ken Griffey Jr. up to?

July Schedule: 4 @ Detroit, 3 vs. Kansas City, 4 vs. New York, All Star Break, 4 @ Los Angeles, 3 vs. Chicago, 4 vs. Boston, 4 @ Chicago, 2 @ Minnesota.

Overall Grade: (B) It only took until June, but the Mariners finally posted their first winning month of the season–one game over .500!! Despite a strong finish to the month, Seattle actually lost ground in the division as Texas was hotter than, well, Texas on a summer’s day. The 1-2 punch of Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez finally lived up to the hype, but not even dominating performances from those two aces could obscure just how badly the offense has performed all season. With virtually no chance to catch the Rangers in the division, it will be interesting to see what big names the Mariners consider moving at the trade deadline, and what pieces they can acquire to build for 2011 and beyond. This is Jack Zdrunciek’s best shot to prove that he is not Bill Bavasi part deux. No pressure though…