Baseball Nick Ferraro

The Piniella Rules

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By Nick Ferraro

Recently Lou Piniella chastised a reporter after being asked why the manager chose to leave his starting pitcher in the game after surrendering six runs in the second inning. It was a typical day for the Devil Ray’s followed by a typical Piniella tirade containing more expletives than the Rays have wins. It seemed a sensible question on the part of the reporter. After all, you don’t usually see a pitcher stick around after a six-run inning even in Tampa. The one notable thing about the outburst is that it was followed by an apology from Piniella. It was as sincere and heartfelt an apology as you will hear. The resignation in Piniella’s voice was so tangible that it shifted the empathy from the verbally scorched reporter to the manager himself. I have felt bad for the Devil Rays before but never for their manager. Piniella exiled himself to Tampa. He chose this fate. Now he should match the resignation in his voice with his resignation from the game.

Piniella was a winner prior to Tampa. He was named Manager of the Year in 1995, and held a career winning percentage of .531. The Mariners averaged 100 wins per year including the post-season in Lou’s last three campaigns in Seattle. They played in the post-season four times with Piniella at the helm, and amassed 116 wins including the playoffs in 2001. Lou’s Reds won the World Series in 1990 compiling an 8-2 post-season record and upsetting the heavily-favored Oakland A’s in four straight games. Lou also won two rings as a player, and he was the Rookie of the Year in 1969. In addition, you have to respect Piniella’s longevity. As a player and manager, Piniella has been in the major leagues for 27 years. You simply cannot last without talent for such a long period of time.

Despite the long list of career accomplishments, it has been quite a while since Lou has won anything. Piniella’s last and only championship as a manger was 25 years ago, and if the Rays maintain their current pace, Lou’s winning percentage as a skipper will drop to a shade over .500. Why does Sweet Lou get such a pass for losing? I don’t expect the Rays to rise up and make the post season. We are all more realistic than that, but Lou’s team certainly doesn’t over-achieve. In his two years in Tampa, the Rays have averaged 95 losses having barely avoided 100 in his first year there in 1993. The Rays are currently on a pace for their worst year yet under the volatile Piniella. After one-third of the season, the Rays have only 19 wins putting them in line to drop 105 games. I don’t expect much from the Rays, but couldn’t any manager match Piniella’s production in Tampa?

Then again, winning isn’t even the goal in Tampa. Piniella knew that when he left Seattle. We aren’t asking too much of Lou. We’d be happy if the Rays were semi-competitive. We’d be overjoyed to see them win 75 games. We’d be happy if Piniella didn’t have to apologize. A Piniella eruption used to be part of the fun. It was part of the allure of the man. We forgave Lou each time he came out and threw first base into right field. We forgave him each time he kicked dirt on home plate. We forgave him even though he didn’t ask for it. Now that he’s asking, it doesn’t feel like we should any more. It just feels like another loss. It feels like acceptance. We don’t want Lou to accept this. We had to wonder why he would go to Tampa originally knowing he didn’t have a chance. Now we are left to wonder why he doesn’t just go.

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