Piniella still has the fire

The Lou Piniella I’ve known for the past 25 years, has surfaced and is alive and well on the North Side of Chicago.

In this day and age of athletes and managers always saying the right thing and taking the politically-correct route, Piniella has seemed downright docile at times this season.

The real Lou Piniella came out firing on Friday.

Piniella took on White Sox TV color commentator Steve Stone and WGN radio and TV personality David Kaplan. Steve and David are friends of mine, and both are intelligent sports commentators and provocative interpreters of mangers’ moves.

Piniella fired on Stone for having dropped the old line that the Cubs manager doesn’t like to play young players. Stone pointed that out last week by saying that the Cubs should have implemented outfielder Tyler Colvin into the lineup weeks ago. Kaplan’s comments that Piniella’s use of Colvin has been “ridiculous,” was interpreted by Piniella as the commentator saying that the manager was ridiculous.

After a terse face-to-face with some expletives being exchanged, Piniella told Kaplan he’d wait until he heard the tape of the commentary, and then would apologize if he was wrong.

Piniella and Sox manger Ozzie Guillen are two of my favorite people in baseball. The main reason I feel that way is that they are both no-BS type of guys.

Piniella is a fighter, a battler and a guy who showed his true grit in Chicago in 2007 when he kicked dirt at an umpire and helped jump-start an underachieving team toward an NL Central division title. This is the same guy who put pitcher Rob Dibble in a headlock and brought down the 260-pound fireballer when Piniella thought he wasn’t getting a good effort out of his pitcher in the early ‘90s.

The Cubs manager may be on the cusp of turning 67 years old, but he still has an edge and still capable of kicking butts and taking names.

In 1976 Piniella started a brawl between the Yankees and Red Sox when he took out catcher Carlton Fisk in a nasty home-plate collision -- even though Piniella was thrown out by 10 feet. The 2010 version of Piniella is really the same guy, with a longer, grayer beard. He may not have a great team to manage, but he’s going to try every way he knows how to get better play out of the underachieving Cubs.

The fire still burns inside Lou Piniella to win. If you get too close you will get burned.