Cubs

Uncertain of future, Piniella says he'll stay retired

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Uncertain of future, Piniella says he'll stay retired

Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010
4:18 PM
By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.comLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Lou Piniella has lost weight by going on 25-mile bicycle trips with his buddies. He looks tanned, relaxed and at peace with his decisions.

Last we saw Piniella, tears were streaming down his face. He swore hed never again put on a uniform, one that will be framed and hung up in his office at his new home in Tampa, Fla.

Almost four months after Piniella walked out of the dreary interview room cramped inside Wrigley Field, he insists that hes not going to manage again. You may not believe that because we are conditioned to think that sports figures are addicted to the action and will eventually change their minds.

But Piniella an emotional man known for his honesty didnt leave much open to interpretation on Tuesday at the winter meetings.

Im retired as a manager, Piniella said. I really am. Ive said that when I went to Chicago that it would be my last job and it will be. Thats it. I did it long enough and its time to do other things.

Commissioner Bud Selig invited Piniella, Joe Torre, Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox who left because of a family medical situation to the Swan and Dolphin resort for a news conference to honor an elite class of outgoing managers. Together they won more than 7,500 games and eight World Series titles.

While theres been much speculation about Piniella eventually taking a consultant role with the New York Yankees, there is nothing imminent.

Well see what the future brings, Piniella said. Theres no need to make any decision. I havent really given it any thought. Right now Im just enjoying what Im doing, which is nothing.

The 67-year-old is trying to decompress after a difficult year both personally and professionally. He said he traveled to Mesa, Ariz., for spring training knowing that it would be his final season.

This summer, Piniella was impacted deeply by the deaths of his uncle and Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a man he considered a father figure.

Piniella left the Cubs on Aug. 22 to take care of his ailing mother, and he felt another loss when Ron Santo died last week. Selig, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts and WGN Radios Pat Hughes will give eulogies on Friday at Santos funeral. After the service, a procession will lead to Wrigley Field.

We've lost a true friend, and Chicago has lost an icon, Piniella said. I was a manager getting beat this past summer and I had to get him up when we would talk. My life was enriched from knowing Ron Santo for the past four years.

For Piniella, this was a chance to again enjoy the national spotlight, and be remembered for more than his final weeks managing a Cubs team that at the time looked headed toward 100 losses.

Everybody in this room loves talking to Lou. I know I do, Gaston said. Heres a man (who) gave his heart and soul to this game.

Piniella has spent almost his entire adult life packing up for spring training and leaving home just after the Super Bowl. It may feel weird when he doesnt have to. But hes not second-guessing himself.

Im going to have to go somewhere Feb. 14, Piniella said. Im not exactly sure (where) but Im going to have to pack up a suitcase and go somewhere. Yeah, Ill miss it. You always miss it (the competition), the people in the game. But, look, its time. There comes a time in everybodys life when you need to do other things and thats where Im at.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is home in Kansas City for a couple rare days during the baseball season. His mom wants to meet him for lunch, and his sister, a grade-school teacher in town, just had a baby that he hasn’t had a chance to see yet.

“How much would I love to go get to see her and my new nephew?” Hottovy said. “Can’t do it. Just can’t.”

Not this time. Not with what’s at stake. Not when possible threats to health and professional purpose lurk in every unfamiliar hallway, byway and unmasked face while the Cubs navigate their first multi-city road trip of the season.

Don’t believe the risk of spread and large-scale COVID-19 team outbreaks are that sensitive, extreme and potentially swift? Just ask the Marlins and Cardinals, whose outbreaks in the first week of play put their seasons on hold and threatened the status of the league’s season.

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“I’m not leaving the hotel. I told my family and friends and everybody [in Kansas City],” Hottovy said. “We all signed up for this, to make sure that for this to work we all have to make those kinds of sacrifices. I love my family to death and would love to get to see them, but right now this is our home.”

The Cubs second trip, which started with a 6-1 victory Wednesday in Kansas City and continues to St. Louis before finishing in Cleveland next week, coincides with stepped-up COVID-19 protocols from Major League Baseball following the Marlins and Cardinals outbreaks.

The Cubs already had protocols in place that exceeded MLB’s original mandates and that are in compliance with the new mandates. And a month into the league’s restart they remained the only team without a player having tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

In fact, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant decided on his own to start wearing a protective mask on the bases when the Cubs played last week in Cincinnati, where three Reds players were sidelined either by positive tests or self-reported symptoms as that series opened. And first baseman Anthony Rizzo told ESPN 1000 on Tuesday that he plans to keep a mask in his pocket while in the field in St. Louis and will consider wearing it when somebody reaches base.

“No matter what measures you put in place, when you’re trying to pull off a season that requires travel in the middle of a global pandemic, it ultimately does come down to personal responsibility,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “And everyone is at the mercy of the least responsible person because of the nature of the spread of this disease.”

Nobody knows that more than Hottovy and many of the Cubs who watched their pitching coach deteriorate in real time during daily Zoom sessions in May and June until the worst symptoms of his frightening monthlong bout with the virus forced him to hand off his job duties.

Whether Hottovy’s experience led directly to the Cubs’ more extreme safety policies or the individual players’ apparent hyper diligence, MLB’s recent coronavirus outbreaks and other cases at least raise questions about whether some teams and players — or even the league — respect the potential severity of a virus that has killed more than 158,000 Americans in five months.

“I don’t think people underestimate that aspect of it; I think they underestimated how easy it was to spread,” Hottovy said of the outbreaks — including a Cardinals outbreak that reportedly was traced to one asymptomatic, outside individual familiar with the team.

Hottovy called the highly contagious nature of the virus “the scary part of this,” both in terms of the potential to quickly render an organization unable to field a team as well as the subsequent, inherent risk that poses to family members and others who might, in turn, be among those who then become severely impacted by the virus.

And the hardest part, he said, is not letting down your guard within the team bubble when it’s easy to trust that when it’s only teammates in the room that it’s OK to disregard masks, distancing and other safety measures.

“That’s when it gets dangerous,” said Hottovy, whose team talks often about assuming everyone — including each other — has the virus.

So just like in Cincinnati, neither he nor anyone else in the Cubs’ traveling party plans to go anywhere but to and from hotels and ballparks during their trip.

“Listen, you don’t have to search too far for a reason to take it serious,” Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis said.

“I have three of my close friends who got it, that are over it. But the symptoms are as real as it gets from the sounds of it. And I think you have guys who are risking stuff coming and playing this season, whether it’s Craig [Kimbrel] and his daughter [heart condition] or Anthony [Rizzo] and Jon [Lester] with their [cancer] history.

“You’re paying respect to them and doing your teammate justice by not being the one to kind of go out,” Kipnis added. “It’s one of those years where, hey, you’ve got to buckle down and stay the course. I think everybody’s going through it, so you don’t want to be the one that kind of screws this one up.

The Cubs’ 10-2 start to a 60-game season seems to further incentivize that discipline — some players in recent days even suggesting the discipline in following the protocols has carried into the professionalism on the field.

It’s impossible to know if any of it will be enough for the Cubs to keep their moving bubble secure, much less whether the two outbreaks that MLB seems to have withstood will provide the significant enough wakeup call that MLB and team officials have suggested.

“The vast, vast majority of everyone involved in this enterprise, the players and staff, are doing a solid job so far in making a lot of sacrifices,” Epstein said. “And we just have to get everybody on board. And hopefully these two outbreaks are enough to get everyone to the point where we have essentially perfect execution going forward, because that’s largely what it will take.”

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Cubs' David Ross defends Javier Báez, doesn't 'nitpick' baserunning lapse

Cubs' David Ross defends Javier Báez, doesn't 'nitpick' baserunning lapse

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez recognizes he should have run out of the batter’s box.

“It was my mistake,” Báez said after Wednesday’s 6-1 Cubs win over the Royals. “I thought that ball was foul.”

With two on and no out in the fourth inning Wednesday, Báez hit a towering pop fly down the right field foul line. He hesitated in the batter’s box for a few moments, leaving shortly before the ball dropped in fair just inside the line.

“I kind of lost it, but the wind started bringing it back,” Báez said. “Even [Royals catcher Salvador Pérez] was kind of surprised and he was like, ‘I think it’s gonna be fair,’ so I started running.”

Báez wound up with an RBI single, scoring Kris Bryant from second and moving Anthony Rizzo to third with no outs. He likely could have wound up at second base with a double, setting up the Cubs with two runners in scoring position and no outs. 

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The inning ended shortly after, as Willson Contreras grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, scoring Rizzo to take a 2-1 lead, and David Bote struck out two batters later. In the end, the moment didn’t hurt the Cubs, who never trailed after taking that fourth inning lead.

After the game, Cubs manager David Ross defended Báez and said he didn’t talk to him about running that ball out.

“I think that’s a really close play,” Ross said. “If I want to be the type of manager that nitpicks every little thing... These guys go out and play their butt off every single night for me and for this group. 

“If I feel like they’re dogging it, we’ll have a conversation. I feel like that’s a play that he may have assumed was foul. I think Javy’s one of the most exciting players and he plays hard every time I see him out there on the field. 

“So, I don’t have a problem with a guy that brings it every single day.”

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