Ex-Cubs manager Lou Piniella hails current Chicago team as best in baseball

NEW YORK — The last man to manage the Cubs to a first-place finish is keeping tabs on the team that has the best record in the major leagues and entered Sunday with a nine-game lead in the National League Central.Lou Piniella was at Yankee Stadium on Sunday for Old Timer’s Day, suiting up in the pinstripes he wore to win World Series in 1977 and

1978. It was 30 years after that, in 2007 and 2008, that Piniella skippered Chicago to back-to-back division titles — the only time since 1906-08 that the Cubs have made consecutive postseason appearances. Chicago appears on track to match Piniella’s achievement this year, following last season’s wild card appearance and trip to the NLCS. Piniella is happy to see what the Cubs have been able to accomplish with some organizational stability.MORE: These managers could be fired in 2016 “They’re doing great,” Piniella said. “They’re really doing great. I mean, look, I managed over there for four years and we won a couple of divisions. In the four years I was there, we had three ownership groups. It sort of made that a little difficult, but they’ve put together — the Ricketts family, I knew, with a little patience, they would do it and do it right, and they have.”Part of the Cubs’ recipe has been hiring the manager who replaced Piniella with the Rays, then led Tampa Bay to the American League pennant three years later. Joe Maddon did not directly follow Piniella in Chicago, as Mike Quade, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria managed the Cubs in between the two former Rays skippers.MORE: The 10 greatest Cubs of all time“They hired good front office people, a really good manager in Joe Maddon and they’ve got a farm system,” Piniella said. “When I was there, the farm system was really a bit shaky. I’m glad to see them play well, I really am. They’ve got the best team in baseball. They just need to stay healthy and be ready for postseason.”Piniella had a 316-293 record in just shy of four seasons as manager of the Cubs, the only man alive to win 300 games and have a winning record on the North Side.