The World Series began Wednesday night. The Cubs are not playing in it. This means that there is a lot of time between now and the beginning of next baseball season. Right now all Lou Piniella probably wants to do is sit in the warm Tampa air, take 'er easy, get a little beer buzz going, maybe fish a bit, and not think about baseball for a month or two. Reasonable enough.
Unfortunately (for him at least), Cubs reporters follow Lou Piniella everywhere. The beer buzzing had to be put on hold yesterday in favor of questions about the Cubs lineup's future. And all signs point to Piniella and Alfonso Soriano finally having it out next year:
Sources say the idea of finally moving Alfonso Soriano out of the leadoff spot was discussed during the meetings. Piniella danced around that topic Tuesday. But it's worth noting that Piniella strayed from his seasonlong stance of defending Soriano as his leadoff hitter. Asked specifically about dropping Soriano in the lineup, Piniella said: ''Uh ... nothing's been decided there. But we are going to add some left-handed hitting, and we're going to try to get a little more athletic.''
In other words, instead of saying "Alfonso is our leadoff hitter" with the same routine intensity as Lovie Smith once said "Rex is our quarterback," Piniella has elected to go with his version of "no comment." Hmm. Interesting.
What this likely means is that Piniella is going to get more full-throated about his distaste for Soriano in the top stop of the Cubs lineup. Jim Hendry will then be forced to choose sides: Go with the sage old manager, or the rich young superstar? It should be noted that Hendry understands Soriano isn't an ideal leadoff hitter, but that's what Soriano wants, and Soriano in a pout is far worse than Soriano free-swinging at the top of the lineup.
So Piniella will have it out, Hendry will have to decide, and Soriano, for better or worse, will have to eventually come to terms with the fact that he should be hitting fourth every day. Eventually, this will happen. The only question is when.