Piniella, 66, retired Sunday in the midst of his fourth season as manager of the Chicago Cubs. If it is, as he says in his statement, "time to enter a new phase of my life," it will be the end of a 23-year career in which Piniella has never quite gotten his full due as a strategist. Would you have even guessed that Piniella has managed for 23 years? Since he debuted as a manager with the Yankees in 1986, there have been just two seasons (1989 and 2006) that Piniella wasn't in one dugout or another, a tremendous stretch of longevity that was, for the most part, very successful.
Managers generally don't get elected to the Hall for their stats, but Piniella's stand up to scrutiny. He has won 1,826 games as a manager, 14th all time. Of the top 20 in managerial wins, all but
The first thing that comes to mind with Piniella is his temper, which was legendary. Watch any highlight show today, and you'll see clips of Piniella yelling, screaming, throwing bases...a caricature of a manager. That wasn't what made him great. Piniella did tangible things that made his ballclubs better, such as abandoning the single-closer model in 1990, when he had three terrific relievers in
Piniella isn't without his flaws, most notably a lack of deftness with young players. From
Piniella may not feel like a Hall of Famer to some people, the same ones who argue that
It's entirely possible that the story changes, that Piniella leads a furious Cubs charge to the NL Central crown or that he comes back in two years to helm the A's to a pennant. He doesn't need those markers, though. Since 1986, Lou Piniella has been making his teams better, and that kind of track record deserves not just our acknowledgment and our appreciation today, but the highest honor baseball can confer upon him: Hall of Famer.