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Lou Piniella

Louis Victor Piniella (born August 28, 1943, in Tampa, Florida, United States) is the current manager of the Chicago Cubs and a former Major League Baseball outfielder. He has been nicknamed "Sweet Lou," both for his swing as a major league hitter and, facetiously, to describe his demeanor as a player and manager. He presently ranks 14th all-time on the list of Managerial Wins.

Early life

Piniella grew up in West Tampa, Florida. His Asturian grandparents immigrated to Florida from Asturias, Spain. As a child, he played PONY League Baseball alongside Tony La Russa. He attended Jesuit High School of Tampa where he was an All-American in basketball. After graduation, he attended the University of Tampa where he was an All-American in baseball.

Playing career

Piniella, at the age of 21, played in his first major league game in with the Baltimore Orioles. At 24, his second major league season was with the Cleveland Indians. He joined the Seattle Pilots during their preseason, but was quickly traded. He was prominently mentioned in Jim Bouton's classic book about the Seattle Pilots, Ball Four.

Piniella played for the Kansas City Royals from -73, and was the American League's AL Rookie of the Year in 1969. He was the first player to come to bat in Royals history. On April 8 of their first season, he led off the bottom of the 1st against left-hander Tom Hall of the Minnesota Twins. He doubled to left field, then scored on an RBI single by Jerry Adair. While playing for the Royals, Pinella accomplished a remarkably indubious feat. He became the first major league player to be thrown out at first, second, third, and home in a single game. This tale was recounted in a book written by former American League Umpire, Ron Luciano.

That was followed by 11 years as a member of the New York Yankees, where they won five AL East titles (1976–78, 1980 and 1981), four AL pennants (1976–78 and 1981), and two World Series championships (197778). After center fielder Mickey Rivers was traded, during the 1979 season, Piniella became the Yankees leadoff hitter. One of the more underrated players of the 1970s (he made just one all-star team), he compiled 1705 lifetime hits despite not playing full time for just under half of his career.

He wore uniform number 24 for the Orioles, and 23 for the Indians. His longer stretches were wearing number 9 for the Royals, and 14 for the Yankees.

Managerial career

Known for his often aggressive and sometimes explosive behavior, Piniella has been ejected 61 times in his managerial career. Among active managers, only Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa and all-time leader Bobby Cox have received more ejections. He often sends his pitching coach to remove a pitcher from the game. He once got into a clubhouse scuffle with pitcher Rob Dibble while with the Reds, which was caught on video, ending with the two being pulled apart and Lou screaming, "You don't want to be treated like a man!"

New York Yankees and Cincinnati Reds

After retiring as a player, Piniella managed the Yankees from to and for most of 1988 before briefly serving as the club's general manager for the rest of the and seasons. Piniella managed the Cincinnati Reds between 1990 and 1992, a tenure that included winning the 1990 World Series against the heavily-favored Oakland Athletics.

On August 12, 1990, in a home game against the San Francisco Giants, Piniella argued with umpire Dutch Rennert after Barry Larkin was called out at first at the end of the fifth ending. After throwing his hat down, Piniella was ejected. Afterwards, Piniella ripped first base out of the ground and threw it twice toward right field. The Reds went on to win the game 6–4.

Seattle Mariners

From –, he managed the Seattle Mariners, winning the AL Manager of the Year Award in , and again in when he led the Mariners to a record-tying 116 wins. After winning the 2001 AL Division Series, the Mariners dropped the first two games of the AL Championship Series, and Piniella held an angry post-game press conference in which he guaranteed the Mariners would win two out of three games in New York to return the ALCS to Seattle. However, the Yankees closed out the series at Yankee Stadium, and the Mariners have not reached the playoffs since. Following the 2002 season, Piniella was included in a rare "trade" that sent him (and infielder Antonio Pérez) to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, with outfielder Randy Winn going to Seattle.

In the Mariners' 30-season history, they have had nine winning seasons and reached the playoffs four times. Seven of the winning seasons and all of the playoff appearances occurred during Piniella's ten years with the Mariners.

Piniella is the only manager in Mariners history to have a winning record in his tenure with the team, while serving at least one season.

In a game on September 18, 2002 in a 3–2 (10) win against the Texas Rangers, Piniella came out to argue a call in the bottom of the ninth in which the umpire called out Ben Davis after a close play at first and was immediately tossed by first base umpire C.B. Bucknor after throwing down his hat. Afterwards, he kicked his hat several times, aggressively approached Bucknor as he was screaming in his face, and kicked dirt on him as well. After being restrained by first base coach Johnny Moses, he then ripped first base from its mooring then threw it down the right field foul line twice after he imitated the umpire tossing him out.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

In his first two seasons with the Devil Rays, Piniella was able to improve the team somewhat, and they won a franchise-record 70 games in , which was also their first season in which they did not finish last in their division, which he also guaranteed (he also jokingly said, after saying it several times, "If I say it any more times I might have us winning the World Series!".) During the season, Piniella was very critical of Devil Rays front office for focusing too much on the future and not enough on immediate results, and for not increasing payroll quickly enough to field a competitive team (they started the season with a $30 million payroll, which was the lowest in the major leagues; the Yankees payroll in 2005 was over $208 million).

Tensions eventually made Piniella step down as the Devil Rays' manager on September 21, . Sweet Lou had one more season remaining on his contract from October 2002, but agreed to a $2.2 million buyout, in lieu of $4.4 million that he was due, had he decided to manage the team for one more season. He would have also received $1.25 million in deferred salary from 2003.

Chicago Cubs

On October 16, 2006, Piniella agreed to a three-year contract to manage the Chicago Cubs. The contract is for $10 million over three seasons with a $5 million option for a fourth year

Famous for his anger and meltdowns, he showed it during a press conference after a Cubs-Reds game on April 13, 2007, when Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano blew a five run lead in the 5th inning in which the Reds scored 6 runs, winning the game 6–5. A reporter asked him what was not working for the Cubs. He responded in a loud, angry voice, "What the hell do you think isn't working?! You saw the damn game! … This guy is your ace, you got a 5–0 lead with the eighth and ninth hitters coming up, you feel pretty good about that inning and all of a sudden it turns into a six-run inning,” Piniella said, obviously still agitated but calmer. “And then I bring in the reliever who’s throwing 30-to-40-foot curveballs to boot. I can see. I can start to see some of the ways this team has lost ballgames. I can see it. We’ve got to correct it obviously. This game here is one that got away from us that really shouldn’t.” In a similar meltdown after the May 17, 2007, game against the Mets, Lou stated, "I don't care about feelings."

On June 2, 2007, Piniella was ejected as a Cub for the first time after throwing down his cap, kicking dirt at third base umpire Mark Wegner, and kicking his cap three times. He was arguing a call that Angel Pagan was out at third attempting to advance on a wild pitch. In the post-game press conference, he said Pagan looked safe from the dugout, but acknowledged that, after seeing the replay, the umpire made the right call. However, he also said he was going to argue no matter if Pagan was safe or out: "it didn't make a damn bit of difference." He was suspended for four games, the longest of his career. The Cubs—22–31 in their 53 games through June 2nd—went on from there to capture the National League Central Division title and the best record in the league. Piniella led the Cubs to their second straight divisional title in 2008. It was the first time the franchise had made it to consecutive postseasons since winning the National League pennant three years in a row from 1906–1908.

Despite Pinella's Cubs dominating the National League for most of 2008, clinching the Central Division with the best record in the NL, the tide turned when the Cubs went up against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS. Pinella could only watch as the Cubs' offense suddenly sputtered, scoring only 6 runs in all three games, and his defense committed 4 errors in Game 2 to pick up talk of the Curse of the Billy Goat once again. Pinella's Cubs were swept by Joe Torre's Dodgers and outscored 20–6. He could only laugh, blaming himself and his entire team for failing to produce. He did mention the top of his lineup's failure to contribute. Alfonso Soriano went 1-14, Kosuke Fukudome only 1-10, and Derrek Lee, Pinella's #3 hitter, drove in zero runs the entire series despite batting .545 and going 6–11. After the game 2 loss to the Dodgers in the NLDS, a reporter asked Piniella, enraged about the loss, about starting Fukudome. Piniella responded, "I'm going to play [Mike] Fontenot or Reed Johnson or somebody else, and that's the end of that story. The kid is struggling, and there's no sense sending him out there anymore." Despite that, they lost Game 3 and, oddly enough, Fukudome went 1-2 when he came into the game later on.

Managerial record

Updated through September 28, 2008
Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
New York Yankees 1986 90 72 .556 2nd in AL East - - - -
1987 89 73 .549 3rd in AL East - - - -
1988 45 48 .484 5th in AL East - - - -
NYY Total 224 193 .537 - - - - -
Cincinnati Reds 1990 91 71 .562 1st in NL West 8 2 .800 Won World Series
1991 74 88 .457 5th in NL West - - - -
1992 90 72 .556 2nd in NL West - - - -
CIN Total 255 231 .525 - 8 2 .800 -
Seattle Mariners 1993 82 80 .506 4th in AL West - - - -
1994 49 63 .438 3rd in AL West - - - -
1995 79 66 .545 1st in AL West 5 6 .455 Lost ALCS
1996 85 76 .528 2nd in AL West - - - -
1997 90 72 .556 1st in AL West 1 3 .250 Lost ALDS
1998 76 85 .472 3rd in AL West - - - -
1999 79 83 .488 3rd in AL West - - - -
2000 91 71 .562 2nd in AL West 5 4 .556 Lost ALCS
2001 116 46 .716 1st in AL West 4 6 .400 Lost ALCS
2002 93 69 .574 3rd in AL West - - - -
SEA Total 840 711 .542 - 15 19 .441 3 Divisional Titles
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2003 63 99 .389 5th in AL East - - - -
2004 70 91 .435 4th in AL East - - - -
2005 67 95 .414 5th in AL East - - - -
TB Total 200 285 .412 - - - - -
Chicago Cubs 2007 85 77 .525 1st in NL Central 0 3 .000 Lost NLDS
2008 97 64 .602 1st in NL Central 0 3 .000 Lost NLDS
CHC Total 182 141 .563 - 0 6 .000 2 Divisional Titles
AL Total 1264 1189 .515 - 15 19 .441 3 Divisional Titles
NL Total 437 372 .540 - 8 8 .500 World Series, 3 Divisional Titles
Career Total 1,701 1,561 .521 - 23 27 .460 World Series, 6 Divisional Titles

Awards

  • 1969 - AL Rookie of the Year
  • 1972 - AL All-Star
  • 1995 - AL Manager of the Year
  • 2001 - AL Manager of the Year

Broadcasting career

After parting ways with the Devil Rays, Piniella spent one season as a color commentator for Fox Sports, joining Thom Brennaman and Steve Lyons in calling postseason baseball games.

During their broadcast of Game 3 of the 2006 American League Championship Series, Piniella was commenting on player Marco Scutaro who had struggled during the regular season but was playing well during the series. He stated that to expect Scutaro to continue playing well would be similar to finding a wallet on Friday and expecting to find another wallet on Saturday and Sunday. Piniella then commented that player Frank Thomas needed to get "en fuego" which is Spanish for "on fire", because he was "frio" meaning "cold". Lyons responded by saying that Piniella was "hablaing Español" and added,"I still can't find my wallet. I don't understand him, and I don't want to sit close to him now.

FOX fired Lyons for making the above remarks, which FOX determined to be racially insensitive. Piniella later defended Lyons saying Lyons was "kidding" and that "There isn't a racist bone in his [Lyons'] body".

In other media

Piniella made a cameo in the 1994 film Little Big League.

In late 2007 Piniella appeared in a television commercial for Aquafina bottled water in which he parodies his famous June 2, 2007 meltdown at Wrigley Field.

Piniella and Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén appeared in one commercial to advertise a local car dealership during the first half of the 2008 Crosstown series. The creators of the commercial used their likeness in three other commercials, which featured stunt doubles riding bicycles and jumping rope.

See also

References

External links

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