Noted NWA historian Rob Dibble (above, left) on the Cubs’ new manager, from the Chicago Sun Times’ Chris De Luca.

”I love him,” Dibble said. ”People make a big deal about the scuffle we had, but we are the best of friends. He was always a father figure to me, and he still is — and a good friend.”

Piniella was hired to replace Dusty Baker and take the Cubs to the World Series. Like Baker, Piniella is a players’ manager — but his approach is the complete opposite. It’s more than in-your-face.

Dibble warns that the Cubs better be ready to play for Piniella — or else.

”I love Dusty Baker, too,” Dibble said. ”I thought he got a bad deal there. If the players don’t play for you, they’ll get you fired. And I think that’s what happened in Chicago.

”Lou is the kind of guy who will be a little more proactive, maybe verbally, and communicate his feelings to the players.”

As for those Cubs who have trouble hustling — Aramis Ramirez comes to mind — or don’t show up daily with the right kind of fire, Piniella will be there to nudge them back on track.

”He’s in there talking to the players every day,” Dibble said. ”I’ve never seen a manager — even Pete Rose — get the malingerers out of the training room and on the field like Lou Piniella. It’s not just motivating the players. It’s making them understand that they have a responsibility to the Cubs uniform to get their asses out on the field. And Lou is very persuasive that way.

”Dusty Baker is similar, yet on a quieter way. Lou is more in-your-face, ‘Listen, you’re playing for the Cubs, you’re not playing for the name on the back.’ And that will be established in spring training. And those guys, from spring training on, I guarantee they will be ready to play every day.”

Dibble has a favorite story about his former manager. During an awful stretch for the Reds, players decided to hold a tie-cutting party on the team charter. Though the back of the plane was usually off-limits to coaches, Piniella was a regular.

The rule was anyone wearing a tie that wasn’t 100 percent Italian silk would get it snipped in half. Piniella wanted to play along but wasn’t wearing a tie.

”So what did Lou do?” Dibble said. ”He had us rip his shirt off and he was walking around bare-chested. Because he’s a part of the team.’