(on the left, the 2nd worst thing to have happened to Dorothy Stratton. on the right, not Pete Rose)

After the Will Leitch debacle this week, I’m highly skeptical of any news source reporting players using banned substances. So I post Pete Rose’s admission on Monday’s Late Night with caution. But if Pete is really willing to apologize to baseball “if there’s a couple bucks in it,” isn’t that the condition for him to come back? I say make him Cubs manager now that’s he’s groveled, if only Pete Rose-style. For Jim Hendry’s actual short list, Dave Van Dyck’s write-up today offers five names: Lou Piniella, Joe Girardi, Bob Brenly, Manny Acta, and Fredi Gonzalez. Hats off to van Dyck for his making clear which managers are white and which aren’t, just to remind us — what? That Cub fans may still be able write hate mail next year even if Dusty’s gone? And thumbs up to classy Lou Piniella for mentioning how uneasy all this speculation makes him when good managers have been let go … before making absolutely clear that he wants their jobs.

In fact, Hendry’s list could perhaps be broken down into the Big Three and the Possible Two, although he is likely to interview more candidates than that.

The Big Three are former managers: Lou Piniella, Bob Brenly and Joe Girardi, assuming he gets zapped Tuesday in Florida. Any of the three would be considered a “safe” hire because of their experience in the hot seat.

The Possible Two: The next generation of coaches who may be ready, Mets third-base coach Manny Acta and Braves third-base coach Fredi Gonzalez, both of whom are minorities. They are the unknowns because each may be the next genius or the next flop. Gonzales could be hired by the Marlins as soon as Tuesday when Girardi gets the expected ax.

The Cubs’ opening figures to be a popular one, and Brenly definitely will throw his hat into the ring. Most likely ex-Cub Girardi will also.

And Piniella, a former manager for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays?

“I don’t think it’s the appropriate time to be talking about it,” he said from his home in Florida.

“I just feel really odd speaking about my situation because of the respect I have for the people who hold those (managerial) posts. I don’t like to see anybody not get renewed.”

Would Piniella be interested in a managing job in 2007?

“I’ve said that (I would) in the past,” Piniella replied.