Two legends to face off for final time

Two legends to face off for final time

CHICAGO -- Unless the Cubs go on an unprecedented late-season tear, Sunday will likely mark the final matchup between long-time managers Lou Piniella of the Cubs and Bobby Cox of the Braves.

Before Saturday's game, Cox suggested, jokingly, that the Braves' success this season could lure him back for another campaign and that he would like to see Piniella hang around as well.

"[Bobby has] had a great, great career," Piniella said. "You can't have a much better career than Bobby Cox has had. He's had a really good season this year, and that's why he's probably thinking [about not retiring]. If he was having a year like we're having, he might not be [wavering]."

As for Piniella, he's solid in his desire to hang 'em up at the end of the season.

"I need to be home," Piniella said. "My circumstances changed a heck of a lot this year. I just need to be home. I'm concerned about my mom. I love baseball, but I love my family, and when you talk about your family, it's a lot more important than baseball.

"I appreciate that Bobby thinks I [shouldn't retire], but I'm going to be home. I'm going to enjoy my family, and that's the end of it. There shouldn't be any more discussion about this, because that's the way I feel."

There is a lot of recent baseball history tied up in the collective careers of the two skippers. The pair have combined to helm more than 8,000 games during 52 big league seasons, while accounting for 21 division titles, six pennants and two World Series championships.

Piniella, for one, thinks Cox is a no-brainer to eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown as a Hall of Fame manager.

"There isn't an iota of a doubt," Piniella said. "He's been an icon."

Not surprisingly, given his extended string of success with the Braves, Cox has gotten the better of Piniella over the years. Entering Saturday's game, Cox held a 37-26 advantage head-to-head against his Cubs counterpart. The pair first hooked up on Sept. 3, 1990, at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. That season, Cox replaced Russ Nixon as the Braves' manager after a slow start, while Piniella was in the midst of leading the Cincinnati Reds to a World Series title. Cox won that first meeting, 8-6.

Looking back, the two have opposed each other relatively few times. Piniella was still playing during Cox's first nine seasons as a big league skipper, and they've managed in the same league in just seven different seasons. They've never faced each other in the postseason.

Will there be managers who achieve the longevity of some of baseball's active veteran skippers, like Piniella, Cox, St. Louis' Tony La Russa and the Dodgers' Joe Torre?

"I don't know," Piniella said, "but the jobs, I think, have gotten a little tougher."