Lou Piniella ready to embark on second chapter with Cubs as broadcaster for new network

The former Cubs manager, who showed up to spring training this week for network business, plans to provide pregame and postgame analysis for 15 to 18 games this season.

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A fit, healthy-looking Lou Piniella at Cubs camp Wednesday.

A fit, healthy-looking Lou Piniella at Cubs camp Wednesday.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — There was just one thing about accepting the offer from the Cubs’ new Marquee Sports Network that made Lou Piniella pause for even a second.

“I was a little concerned about how I’d be received by the people in Chicago because I left there at the end of August,” said Piniella, the former Cubs manager who showed up at spring training for some network business this week. “Because I didn’t finish my last season. I went home.”

Piniella, who managed the Cubs to the playoffs his first two seasons in 2007 and 2008, left late in the 2010 season to return home to Tampa to care for his ailing mother.

It was the right thing to do, he said, even as he expressed remorse for the baseball part of it and leaving the players and fans when he did.

But if the Cubs Convention was any indication of the way the popular Piniella will be received as a pregame and postgame analyst for a short schedule of games this season, he can put his original concerns to rest.

“The thing that made me the happiest was when [the network head] said they introduced me at the Cubs Convention and people received it well,” Piniella said of the spontaneous and loud ovation when his name was announced as a broadcaster returning to the club for the first time in a decade.

“I almost cried.”

Piniella, 76, has been retired from managing since that 2010 season, although he has worked as a special assistant for the Giants and Reds since.

Mostly these days, he goes fishing and plays golf, he said. “A lot of it.”

But he said he looks forward to the 15 to 18 games he’ll do for Marquee, including a few home games and road games he expects to be closer to home, including maybe in Miami and Atlanta.

“I tell you what: I enjoyed myself for four years [managing the Cubs]. It was an experience,” he said of a run that included the best record in the National League in 2008, two disappointing playoff finishes, the Kosuke Fukudome era and the Milton Bradley era.

“My wife loved it. What a wonderful city, and the sports fans there — Cubs fans — second to none. It was an experience going to the ballpark, every day; it really was. And managing the team, I enjoyed watching the game on the field because it’s such an iconic place.”

He said he hasn’t been to the ballpark since the renovations.

“It was a fun four years for me,” he said. “We had some success over there. Hoped we’d have had a little more.”

Piniella spent time on the field with several players during batting practice Wednesday, at one point laughing about the umpire replay system vs. live umps and managers having discussions more often.

He was told that Cubs left-hander Jon Lester spoke out against the proposed robo-ump system because of the lack of “human element” and that Lester said he missed arguments with umpires and Piniella throwing bases.

“I only did that twice,” Piniella said. “The problem is they got it on video [and it gets replayed over the years].”

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