Cubs manager Lou Piniella took a broadside a few weeks ago from a segment of media and fans who blamed him for the team's back-to-back playoff failures, but Wednesday afternoon he could be rewarded for his role in the Cubs earning those consecutive playoff appearances, when the BBWAA Manager of the Year Awards are announced.
Piniella is a favorite in a crowded NL race for the award, votes for which were cast before the playoffs began.
The team's NL-best 97 wins and near wire-to-wire division title despite the extended loss of Alfonso Soriano, second-half nosedive of Kosuke Fukudome and DL time for ace Carlos Zambrano and closer Kerry Wood could win Piniella his third MoY award.
But does he deserve it this year (even excluding the playoffs)? Does he deserve it more than his buddy from Tampa, Tony La Russa, whose team was thought to be a no-talent contender for last place but stayed in contention for the playoffs into the final month? Or more than Joe Torre, who navigated his own roster of injuries in his first year in Los Angeles to get into the playoffs while Torre's old Yankees team missed the playoffs for the first time in 15 years?
Or Philadelphia's Charlie Manuel, who was thought to be on the hot seat early in the season; or Florida's Fredi Gonzalez or Houston's Cecil Cooper, both of whom managed flawed teams to winning records -- the Astros' late surge into contention arguably done in by Hurricane Ike?
I didn't have a vote on this one. And I'm not sure how I would have settled on a decision -- simply to narrow the field onto a three-spot ballot, much less the top spot.
Could be the tightest, most splintered vote among the major postseason awards in either league this year.
Any thoughts? Should Lou win it?