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With the Chicago Cubs underperforming, and a manager in the last year of his contract, speculation about an early dismissal for Lou Piniella was bound to start sooner or later. Piniella’s frustrating lineup decisions, and questionable use of his pitchers haven’t helped the matter.

But yesterday, his general manager stepped up to defend Piniella.

“I don’t think any of us would think we should be 5 or 6 games under .500,” Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry said. “Nobody expected that. Nobody saw it coming. That’s where we’re at after 30-some games, and we got 128 left. We just got to get through it. We’ve been there before. Lou’s the right guy to bring us out of it. The staff is working hard. There’s nothing wrong with the coaching staff. Nobody can tell me we don’t have good enough positions player to swing the bat better than we have.”

I’m not going to stump for Piniella’s firing – or his salvation. But I do believe the Cubs need something to light a fire under the aging and increasingly placid manager.

The only remaining question? Who’s going to give Jim Hendry their vote of confidence?

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