CNNSI’s Joe Sheehan makes the case for former Mariners manager Lou Piniella as a baseball Hall of Famer.
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 Gene Mauch and Ralph Houk are either in the Hall or on their way; Mauch had a career record below .500 and Houk never managed a team to a pennant or division title after his third season in the dugout. Piniella’s total of 3,517 games managed is 13th all-time, and he is one of just 14 men in history to have managed at least 3,000 games and posted a winning percentage above .500. Piniella managed one World Series champion, the 1990 Reds; the team that set the record for regular-season wins, the 2001 Mariners; four other division champs and one wild-card team.
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 Randy Myers, Rob Dibble and Norm Charlton and rode them to a World Series title. Later in his career he would become a master of the running game, his Mariners and Devil Rays teams repeatedly posting high success rates on the bases as he split his roster into guys who could run successfully — and were allowed to do so — and everyone else. He would shut it down if the personnel dictated it; this year’s Cubs have Ryan Theriot with 16 steals in 21 attempts, and no one else with more than four steals or eight attempts. Piniella has exemplified practical sabermetrics — an understanding of the costs and benefits of the stolen base attempt — and gotten no credit for doing so.