With the Cubs floundering and appearing like a rudderless ship, the question arises if the clock is ticking on manager Lou Piniella’s job.

Mired in mediocrity, a $146 million roster seems to be going nowhere fast.

Is the leader at fault? Have the players tuned him out?

The Cubs just finished a stretch of 29 games against teams with losing records last year. Their record was a miserable 13-16, including a six game road trip with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati they just concluded where they were 1-5.

They were swept by Pittsburgh. Let me repeat that because I still can’t believe it. They were swept by Pittsburgh.

Piniella seems like he’s at a loss for words unless he’s going off on a media member who asks a question he doesn’t particularly care for.

He’s back to last years “What am I supposed to do” quotes.

Would you want a manager that doesn’t have answers?

You could say the Cub bats are silent, but they have six hitters with over .300 batting averages.

Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez aren’t hitting, but almost everyone else is. In fact, they’re probably exceeding expectations.

Lee is getting tired of his manager playing with the batting order. He commented last week that Ramirez and he have always hit, and they’re going to hit again.

He went on to say it doesn’t matter where they are in the lineup (this was in response to Piniella changing them in the batting order), but “That Lou likes to tinker with things.”

Perhaps if he learned how to manufacture runs instead of expecting everybody to always come through, the Cubs would have a few more wins. 

The starting pitching has been exceptional, but the Cubs have not taken advantage of it.

They are unable to win the close games because they don’t steal bases or take the extra base. They don’t bunt or hit and run, and they don’t know how to move the runner over or sacrifice themselves for the good of the team.  

As long as the wind blows out at Wrigley Field and the Cubs hit home runs, Piniella is a great manager.

Who wouldn’t be?

Do they need to be paying a guy $4 million to sit on his butt and hope the team hits?

In fairness, he has made some moves, including switching the guy who should be his best starting pitcher to eighth inning duty. Since that change came about three weeks ago, Zambrano has gotten into just five games.

Is that helping the team?

When Zambrano was asked last week why he hasn’t pitched in back-to-back games yet, he snapped, “Ask him,” referring to Lou Piniella. “I’m ready to go anytime he wants to put me in there.”

This is Piniella’s fourth season as the Cub manager and he’s worn out his welcome. Cub players are starting to tune him out. His act has grown old.

Making a change right now could be the best thing for this Cub team.

There is precedence with underachieving teams making moves in May and turning things around.

Last year the Colorado Rockies brought in Jim Tracy in late May after the team started out 18-28 and they ended up making the playoffs.

And who can forget the 2003 Florida Marlins bringing in Jack McKeon to take over a 16-22 team and leading them to the World Series?

I know as a Cub fan, I can’t.

This Cub season is not over. But it is if Lou Piniella stays on.

You can smell the rot of the team with Piniella at its core.

Wouldn’t bringing in Ryne Sandberg from Triple A Iowa make a difference?

Would Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez standing at the plate and admiring balls that fail to clear the wall be tolerated by Sandberg?

Would a complete player like Sandberg who could hit, hit for power, run, field, and throw sit back and do nothing like Piniella does, or would he try to make something happen?

A fresh approach is needed here.

Does anyone remember the speech Sandberg gave at his Hall of Fame induction about playing the game the right way?

Isn’t it about time the Cubs did that?

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