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After looking at his expiring contract, his new set of owners and his flagging Chicago Cubs team, we've all assumed for some time that 2010 would be Lou Piniella's final season on the North Side.

Now that assumption has become official.

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News — a close friend of the 66-year-old manager — reported on Tuesday that Piniella will play out the string with his disappointing team and retire at the end of the year.

A release from the Cubs later confirmed the news that Sweet Lou is indeed saying so long.

Said Piniella in the release:

"Why make this announcement now? [Cubs general manager] Jim Hendry asked me in recent weeks regarding my future with the team and I told him I had made the decision to retire at the end of the season. Since my decision has now been made, I don't want to mislead anyone about my intentions when asked in the future.

"But more importantly, announcing my decision now is what's best for this organization in the long run. It gives Jim Hendry ample time to find the next manager and he doesn't need to do so in secrecy."

Piniella currently holds a 307-271 record and two NL Central titles over three-plus seasons with Chicago, but it's safe to say that his time with the team — like the 48 Cubs managers before him — will end in disappointment. The Cubs failed to win a playoff game during either of Piniella's two playoff appearances, and they're currently sleepwalking through a season that has them 10.5 games behind the first-place St. Louis Cardinals.

Piniella has often appeared beyond exasperated with this year's team and one report had Cubs management being concerned about the effect that all the losing was having on Piniella's health. All things considered, it was best for Piniella to call it a career and return to Tampa where he can spend time with his grandchildren. Let someone else's stomach churn while the Cubs slowly climb out from under this pile of bad contracts.    

[Photos: See more images of fiery Lou Piniella]

Still, Piniella has to be sad that his rocking chair retirement tour will end after another 68 contests and not after one final shot at the World Series, like Atlanta's Bobby Cox might be receiving. Piniella presumably came to Chicago for a chance to cement a great legacy by doing the impossible and winning a bookend championship for the one he won with the 1990 Reds.

That didn't — and won't — happen, so the final image we're left of Lou is raising the white flag on a less-than-stellar situation in 2010. You can't really blame him, though, because everyone knew it was time for him to move on.

Just like all the empty-handed others before him.

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