Big Orange Guy’s Top 5 – Lou Pinella

This weekend, we saw one of the most popular managers of the past twenty years retire…Sweet Lou Pinella. Already announcing his retirement at the end of the season, the fact that he will no longer wear a uniform is not a surprise. However, due to the medical condition of his mother, it had to be sooner rather than later. So, this week in the Top 5 I will honor Lou Pinella.

Lou’s career goes all the way back to 1962. He was signed by the Indians, drafted by the Senators and traded to the Orioles in 1964 and played in the major leagues with the Orioles in 1964, at the age of 21. He was traded to the Indians in 1966 and was selected by the Seattle Pilots during the expansion draft of 1968. He played for the Kansas City Royals from 1968 (first batter ever in the organization) to 1973 (and was also the Rookie of the Year in 1969). Lou was traded to the Yankees before the 1974 season and stayed with the Yankees until he retired in 1984. After retiring, he was hired as the hitting coach for the Yankees and his career running organizations was just beginning.

So, to honor Lou Pinella this week’s Top 5 is The Top (and only) 5 Places that Lou Pinella Managed.

#1 – New York Yankees – Lou took over as manager on Opening Day 1986 and managed for 2 years. In 1988, Pinella took over as the general manager as a reward for his fourth place finish. On June 23, Billy Martin was fired and Pinella took over in the dugout for the remainder of the season. His final Yankees numbers were 224-197, a winning percentage of .537. Pinella was let go after the 1988 season for Dallas Green, who was subsequently fired less than 100 games into the 1989 season. Pinella told a story about his managing of the Yankees and how he dealt with George Steinbrenner. There was a game where the Yankees were playing the Angels. Don Sutton was pitching against the Yankees and The Boss thought he saw Sutton cheating. Steinbrenner called Pinella and told him to do something about it. Pinella asked if Steinbrenner saw who was pitching for the Yankees and he knew it was Tommy John. Pinella then said, “Who do you think taught Sutton?”

#2 – Cincinnati Reds – Pinella took over the Reds in 1990 and won the World Series for Cincinnati in that year. He managed two more years after that for the Reds, never again making the playoffs but finishing with a record of 255-231, a winning percentage of .525. Pinella resigned after the 1992 season. He had enough of Marge Schott and the uncertainties of Cincinnati. His contract status for 1993 was unknown until Schott offered him a one year contract for 1993 with a cut in salary. When the team’s salary increased and the team did not win, Schott would not authorize any trades to help the team. Without support from the ownership, Pinella knew it was time to move on. Pinella had some famous moments in Cincinnati including his tirade of the field that ended with first base down the right field line and his infamous fight with Rob Dibble in the Reds’ clubhouse.

#3 – Seattle Mariners – Pinella was not out of work long, hired by the Mariners in 1993 and he remained with the team for 10 seasons. He led the team to three division championships and was at the helm during the 1995 Division Series victory over the New York Yankees. He was also in charge of the Mariners as he led them to a 116 win season (2001), the most by a team during the regular season. His overall record with the Mariners was 840-711, a .542 winning percentage and the best with any of his five teams. Pinella was basically traded after ten years with the Mariners to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Pinella wanted to manage closer to home in Tampa and the Devil Rays offered the Mariners Randy Winn for an unknown prospect named Antonio Perez. Once, Pinella went to protest a call at first base by charging the umpire, threw and kicked his cap around, yelled and screamed at all the umpires and tossed first base (again) down the right field line. Bench coach, John McLaren, was quoted as saying, “That had all the greatest hits in it, He had the cap, he had the base, he had yelling in the umpire’s face. He had everything.” Pitcher Norm Charlton thought Pinella would have a heart attack that night.

#4 – Tamp Bay Devil Rays – Pinella took over the worst team in baseball in 2003. He managed them for three years, leading the Devil Rays to 70 wins in his second season there. His total record in Tampa Bay was 200-285, a winning percentage of .412 (Pinella’s only losing record). Pinella set the ground for the Devil Rays eventual rise in the American League, he pushed that team to not accept losing and many of those young players under Pinella helped the Rays rise in the American league East. While at Tampa Bay, Pinella dyed his hair platinum blonde after the team won a number of games in a row. He promised to cut his legs off if the team had a .500 record at the end of the year (they did not) and at one time promised to start each game with a reliever and bring in a starter in the third inning. If anything, Pinella was colorful in Tamp Bay. However, in three years he was always critical of the Devil Rays not spending money to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox. In the end, Pinella stepped down on September 21, 2005.

#5 – Chicago Cubs – After a season off, Pinella came back to manage the Cubs and led them to a 316-293 record, .519 winning percentage in his 3+ years in Chicago. In 2007 and 2008 he led the cubs Cto Division Championships, including the best record in the National League in 2008. Pinella was as feisty as ever with the Cubs. In 2007, when asked what wasn’t working for his team he said “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.” He kept going but it was vintage Pinella. In 2008, during the playoffs he threatened to take out one of his starters from game three because he is “struggling and there is no use sending him out there anymore.” Pinella also admitted to smoking marijuana at some point in his life after one of his players tested positive while playing in the World Baseball Classic. However, due to the declining health of his mother, Pinella officially retired on August 22, 2010 to be with his family.

Thanks for everything Sweet Lou. You will be missed.

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