Lou Piniella Retires

Although it won’t impact the 2010 playoff race, the retirement of Cubs manager Lou Piniella certainly qualifies as high profile news. Piniella’s 23 years as manager makes him one of only 21 managers in MLB history to manage for at least 20 years, and ties him for the 13th most years as manager with a pair of Hall of Famers in Walter Alston and Harry Wright. The only eligible manager with more time than Piniella to miss the Hall of Fame is Gene Mauch, who is also the only one without a pennant or World Series title.

Piniella won his one and only World Series championship in 1990 with the Cincinnati Reds, his first year with the team after a playoff-free three year stint with the New York Yankees. Those Reds were led primarily by Mariano Duncan, Chris Sabo, Barry Larkin, and Eric Davis at the plate, along with a solid rookie performance from Hal Morris. The pitching staff was led by a fantastic season by Jose Rijo (3.14 FIP, 148 ERA+) and solid bullpen performances from Randy Myers, Norm Charlton, and Rob Dibble. The Reds opened the season with a nine game winning streak and never looked back, winning the NL West by five games, and then steamrolled through the Pirates in the NLCS and then the Athletics in the World Series.

The next two seasons saw a World Series champion finish under .500 and then a second place finish, and Piniella was out of Cincinnati on to his longest and most famous managing job in Seattle. Despite the fact that Piniella’s Mariners boasted such talents as Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez, and Ichiro Suzuki, they never reached a World Series. In Piniella’s 10 seasons in Seattle, the Mariners reached the playoffs four times, including three division championships and two division series victories. Piniella also was at the helm for the Mariners 116 win season in 2001, a remarkable feat despite the first round exit that season.

The next stop of Piniella’s career is mostly the butt of jokes, as Sweet Lou moved to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, managing in his hometown. As the pre-Andrew Friedman era went in Tampa, the Devil Rays under Piniella were terrible teams. In three years of managing, Piniella’s Devil Rays finished in 5th twice and in 4th once, compiling an overall 200-285 record and at least 90 losses in each season.

Piniella’s final position in Chicago began well enough, with two division titles. But the Cubs were swept in the first round each time, only increasing the disappointment of a fanbase entering its second century without a world championship. As the core players in Chicago have aged and albatross contracts have prevented the infusion of new, impact free agent talent into the team, the situation in Chicago deteriorated to the point at which it is today – the Cubs are on pace to lose 96 times in 2010.

No doubt, this is a disappointing end for Piniella, who is known as much for the accomplishments of his teams as he is for his antics on the field. Between his seven playoff appearances, .517 winning percentage, World Championship ring, and most importantly, the longevity and visibility of his career, I have little doubt that Piniella will take a place in Cooperstown. Piniella was a fantastic personality, and the game of baseball will certainly miss Sweet Lou.

Print This Post

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

16 Responses to “Lou Piniella Retires”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Jamie says:

    If Piniella is going to make it to the HOF…then does Charlie Manuel make it to the HOF?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. tdotsports1 says:

    It seems the Cubbies are in rough shape, what were they ranked as an organization? They should be bottom 3rd no doubt with the division they play in the only potential positive saving grace.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • don says:

      They’re willing to spend a lot of money. They really spend it terribly, but with a decent GM and a few years to wait for all the bad contracts to go away they could show a little life.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. misterjonez says:

    Mistake in 3rd paragraph. The Mariners were beaten by the Yankees in the ALCS that season, making it a second round exit, not a first round exit.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Detroit Michael says:

    Check out the Devil Rays’ record immediately before and after Lou managed them. Maybe his tenure there wasn’t as bad as it first appears.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Carcillo says:

    Piniella also was at the helm for the Mariners 116 win season in 2001, a remarkable feat despite the first round exit that season.

    The Mariners beat the Indians in the ALDS that year in five games, before bowing out to the Yankees in five games in the ALCS. It would’ve truly been catastrophic if a 116 win baseball team was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. CircleChange11 says:

    I like Lou as a person (or at least I like his persona), and as a baseball guy … but, as a manger I cannot think of very many people that sound as unintelligent as Lou. The continual long pauses when talking, short phrases, chuckling, and lack of anything that really resembles strategy or insight. Charlie manual would be one.

    If someone were to convince me that a manager does not really do anything meaningful, and that winning doesn’t have a whole lot to do with good managing, then Lou Pinella would be THE example for me.

    His teams had very little discipline. His lineup construction was questionable. He’s made some questionable managing moves that have turned out terrible. He’s more famous for his tantrums and fights with Rob Dibble than he is for any actual managing.

    Note: Hopefully, I am among grown ups, and I can comment on my opinion of Lou’s managerial qualities, while still acknowledging he’s probably a nice guy, and that he is dealing with a dire family situation.

    I will say, the 1990 Reds went on a playoff rampage similar to Boston’s 8 straight in 2004. The nasty Boys were absolutely brilliant, in a douchebag, we’re so good you can’t do anything about it, kind of way …. which is kinda awesome.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • NEPP says:

      Some guys are brought in as manager because of their tactical baseball knowledge (Joe Maddon for example) and others are brought in for their ability to manage a clubhouse and the personalities involved (Charlie Manuel, Lou Pinella). Manuel has done an excellent job of the latter in his time in Philly.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Complainer says:

    Didn’t Lou retire after the ’08 playoffs?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. jim says:

    i can’t see piniella as a HOFer, except by sheer force of personality. but he’ll probably make it anyway.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Rich says:

      .517 gets you in these days? When he had all that talent in seattle?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • John says:

        I think the talent in Seattle is partially negated by the lack of talent in Tampa.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Naliamegod says:

        Winning percentages among most HoF managers isn’t that great. Not to mention most people seem to forget that the A-Rod/Griffey/Johnson trio only lasted one year.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joe R says:

        Casey Stengel’s win percentage, when not managing the Yankees, was under 40%.


        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Cidron says:

    He was good enough to keep a job, or keep getting them. Alot of ex-players have coached, but, few have managed to get to a third, or fourth coaching job. Longevity, does have some place in his HOF chances.. much like it will for players who manage to put together long careers. They are good enough to keep getting chances.

    Vote -1 Vote +1