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Could Piniella end century-long jinx?



Published: Wed, October 18, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new manager brushed off a report that he wanted to acquire Alex Rodriguez.

CHICAGO (AP) -- Lou Piniella put the blue cap bearing a big C onto his head, pulled the jersey with No. 41 over his shoulders and then made sure his modeling was complete by turning around to give everyone a full look.

The big question: Can he turn around the Chicago Cubs?

Told that the team he now manages has gone nearly a century between World Series championships, dating back to 1908, Piniella said Tuesday he wasn't aware of that dubious record.

"I didn't know that. Has it been that long here?" he asked.

Volatile

Piniella is the latest choice to end that almost unfathomable drought. A fiery manager, now 63 years old, who is demanding and can be combustible -- especially in arguments with umpires -- Piniella comes to town with a history of winning, including a World Series title in 1990 with the Reds.

"Urgency is important," Piniella said. "We're going to win here, and that's the end of the story."

Piniella brushed off a report that he wanted the Cubs to acquire embattled Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, saying there hadn't been "any discussions about A-Rod."

Piniella was Rodriguez's first manager, with the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1990s. Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, saying he was not allowed to discuss other teams' players, also said he and Piniella had not discussed Rodriguez.

On Monday, Piniella agreed to a three-year contract worth nearly 10 million, with an option for a fourth year.

"I'm just a little piece of the puzzle. My job is to come in here and unite this team," he said at a news conference.

But what makes him think he will be any different from others who have come in with such enthusiasm?

Extreme confidence

"When a manager comes in, obviously, he's going to feel that way. Why is it going to be different? I have extreme confidence in my ability, and I know you've had some good managers here in the past," Piniella said.

"Sometimes, things don't go the way you expect."

That certainly happened with Piniella's most recent predecessor, Dusty Baker, whose contract was not renewed after four seasons, the final one which ended 66-96. Just three years earlier in Baker's first season, the Cubs were within five outs of the World Series.

Now they've lured Piniella from the TV booth with a nice contract and the promise of improving their roster. Hendry, calling Piniella "the right man for the job," said he doesn't have a set figure on what the Cubs will spend this season. But he promised an upgrade through trades or free agency.

Piniella became frustrated in his previous stop at Tampa Bay in 2005 -- one his four major league managerial posts -- when he didn't get the personnel improvements he thought he needed.

"I have no concerns about that. The resources will be there. It's up to myself, my coaching staff and the players to get the job done," he said.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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