Lou Piniella - The Fire Still Rages On
October 29, 2009 (updated August 23, 2010)
by William Szczepanek
We've discussed managers and their playing records, like Joe Torre, who had an exceptional playing career. Another current day manager who played during the Golden Age is Lou Piniella. Lou distinguished himself well with a career .291 batting average over 18 seasons in the majors.
The fiery manager was very much the same as a player, finally making it to the majors to stay in 1969 after 7 years of work in the minors.
I'm not positive, but I do believe he holds the record for most Topps rookie cards, sharing the spotlight in 1964, 1968 and 1969 with Mike Brumley, Richie Scheinblum and Marv Staehle, respectively. All of these cards depicted him on teams that for which he did not win the Rookie of the Year award (Kansas City Royals).
Originally a catcher, his fielding ability would prevent him from getting a starting position and he was sent to the outfield where he played respectfully, if not gracefully. When he finally did play a full major league season he won the Rookie of the Year Award for 1969. After being signed by Cleveland in 1962, he was drafted by Washington in 1963, played a year for the Orioles and then was back in Cleveland, where he was drafted by the Seattle Pilots who promptly traded him to Kansas City where his major league playing days really started. After 3 good years with the Royals he was traded to the Yankees where he would become a popular player, being platooned with players like Bobby Murcer. He spent 11 years with the Yankees and was consistently around .300 as a hitter. In 4 World Series appearances he averaged .319.
His claim to fame as a hitter included leading the league in doubles in 1972. Speed was not his forte as some of those doubles could have been triples and in the same year he led the league in grounding into double plays with 25. He also holds the dubious distinction of being the only player thrown out at every base in a single game.
As a manager Lou continued to excel. He ranks 14th in wins all time. He started his managerial career with the Yankees in 1986, after two years as a scout and batting coach. he managed the Yanks for 3 years, the Reds for 3 years, the Mariners for 10 years leading them to a record tying 116 wins in 2001, the Devil Rays for 3 years. He is now going into his 4th year as the Cubs manager, where his winning percentage is higher than for any other team he has managed, but like the many before him he has not been able to take the Cubs to the Series and 2010 was a dis,al year for the Cubs. His lone World Series Championship came with the 1990 Reds in his initial year with them.
A recent poll done by Sports Illustrated listed Lou Piniella as the manager that players would least like to play for. I think that's a good thing. Piniella is in good company as Ozzie Guillen, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre rounded out the list. I suppose many players would rather be stars in their own right and leave winning to those who work hard. Who needs the World Series if you can make millions just showing up at the ballpark? That seems to be the American way - athleticism over mental ability. Watch out! Here come Japan, Korea and China, the new teams from the Far East Division.
Lou Piniella resigned as Cubs manager and took his uniform off for the last time on August 22, 2010.
You can check out Piniella's stats as a manager at Baseball-Reference.com.