Lou Piniella and the Devil Rays

DMZ · June 16, 2005 at 12:52 am · Filed Under Mariners 

The latest news out of Tampa is that Lou’s agent is meeting with Devil Rays officials. Lou said he doesn’t know anything about it, but given his recent open discontent with the situation there, and his statements about his regret in taking the job there (in particular, saying that his next decision will be driven by his own priorities and not family concerns), it seems reasonable that Piniella and the Devil Rays may be looking for a way out.

The ownership probably feels like they’ve got better things to do with their money than spend $4.5m next year on a manager that doesn’t want to be there, is respected aaaand badmouths them.

Lou, meanwhile, would like a better job.

This has led to speculation that runs in two directions:
– he’ll go to New York, where Steinbrenner has always said he regrets letting Piniella go and would like to re-hire him, and the team is struggling
– he’ll come back to Seattle

We certainly can’t speak to the first. Who knows what crazy things Steinbrenner will do? I doubt Steinbrenner has any idea what he might do by the end of the season.

But Seattle? It’s unlikely. They’ve hired Hargrove, he’s got years on his contract, and it’s not clear that they’d want Lou back anyway. If he’s complaining about the long, badly-run rebuilding effort in Tampa, would they want him back without knowing if the next division contender is going to come in 2006, 2007, or later? And is Lou the manager you want on your team if you’re trying to rebuild around some strange and frustrating prospects around a pitching phenom?

And in the same way, does Lou want that? It would seem like if he and the Devil Rays parted ways after this year, Seattle would not be the best match available, and Piniella might not be the best match for the team on the field and the ownership group.

… and now I go on vacation. Later all. And remember, two “i”s in Piniella. Pin-i-ella.


31 Responses to “Lou Piniella and the Devil Rays”

  1. Tiboreau on June 16th, 2005 1:15 am

    And is Lou the manager you want on your team if you’re trying to rebuild around some strange and frustrating prospects around a pitching phenom?

    Hmm, I believe I just witnessed one of those strange and frustrating prospects launch a game-tying, bottom of the ninth grand slam . . . Go Doyle! The Rainiers then won their eighth in a row in the 14th off a two-run shot by Abe Nuñez. (Which Nuñez is he, BTW?)

    King Felix pitched well the day before too . . . other than walking the bases loaded in the 2nd: 6 3 0 0 4 8.

  2. Theodicus Groot on June 16th, 2005 6:49 am

    Lou wouldn’t want to come back, for a number of reasons, and since there is no dissatisfaction with Grover in the front office, even to suggest him coming back is the most baseless of silly speculation.

    The Yankees is certainly a possibility. But don’t count out Lou surprising us all, hooking up with a team off the radar scope. Although I think Lou would like to stay in the AL, the Astros spring to mind.

  3. Martino on June 16th, 2005 7:33 am

    What about the Florida Marlins? Jack McKeon retiring after the season would not be surprising. Although Lou in teal pinstripes is not a pleasant image.

  4. Phil on June 16th, 2005 8:07 am

    I’d take a 2 time manager of the year over Hargrove and some of his awful decisions.

  5. johnb on June 16th, 2005 8:26 am

    Lou is going to stay on the East Coast. The Yankee job is the one he covets.

  6. Todd on June 16th, 2005 8:47 am

    Gammons mentioned on ESPN that if Lou was released from his contract, the D-Rays ownership, which hates Steinbrenner and the Yanks, would more than likely write a clause in the buyout that would prevent him from managing the Yanks until after 2006, when Lou’s contract officially expires. For once, Gammons’s reasoning seems quite sound. Knowing the acrimony that exists between the D-Rays ownership and George, I would be immensely surprised if Lou manages the Yanks in the near term.

  7. IggyReilly on June 16th, 2005 9:11 am

    I wonder if Lou would be willing to take a bench coach job to be with the Yankees?

  8. Zero Gravitas on June 16th, 2005 9:12 am

    6- I saw that comment by Gammons that the Rays would try to prevent Lou from going to the Yanks, but I had kind of the opposite intuition. I felt like Gammons was just making stuff up to keep the conversation lively. That would be a weird clause to write into a contract. Might be easier for them just to steer him to another, non-Yankee club that would take him off their hands.

  9. Ken Hanselman on June 16th, 2005 9:30 am

    Lou will negotiate a buy-out with the D-Rays, take the rest of the year off, watch the Yankees miss the playoffs, and hook up with them in the off-season. George will eat two years of Torre’s contract. Bank on it. To our collective disgust, the ’95 M’s – Lou, RJ, Tino, Arod and Sojo will be reunited under George.

  10. Brian Rust on June 16th, 2005 9:42 am

    I can see Torre, class guy that he is, tendering his resignation to please The Boss, and let the Yankees become Lou’s headache. YHIHF.

  11. Ralph Malph on June 16th, 2005 9:42 am

    Maybe we could work a 3-way trade with the Yanks and D-Rays involving Randy Winn to Tampa, Lou to NY, and Robinson Cano to the M’s.

  12. Brett Farve on June 16th, 2005 10:08 am

    Malph … I like the way you think!

  13. Brian Rust on June 16th, 2005 10:18 am

    Do you suppose we could get Torre as a “throw-in?”

  14. Stanley on June 16th, 2005 10:30 am

    I agree that Lou is not coming to Seattle because of Hargrove’s contract. But if not for Hargrove, I would personally love to have Lou back. Bavasi has more guts than Gillick and I think Lou would be happier this time around.

    I don’t want Torre. If Torre can’t win with the Yankee Payroll, I wouldn’t bet on him winning with the Ms.

  15. Steve on June 16th, 2005 10:31 am

    Lou would rather cut off his left nut than return to Seattle, and I’d rather cut off mine than see him here. We know how much he’s going to cost, and we can’t afford it. And Lou wants another ring. We’re not going to be collecting any of those in the foreseeable future. At his point in life, he’s looking to move up, not down or across. The M’s are if anything down from the Devil Rays, because at least they’re sucking with a low payroll.

    Personally I think the Yanks are going to spend at least five years in the toilet before they figure out how to win again, but you can never count out the possibilities of an infinite payroll. Plus it’s New York Glam, media, new stadium, yadda yadda. That’s got to be more appealing to Lou than the same dim baseball prospects minus the glam, media, and infinite payroll.

  16. vj on June 16th, 2005 10:38 am

    Since noone has brought this up: From reading Out of Left Field, I recall that Piniella liked it a lot in Cincinnatti, won a WS, and left only because of Marge Schott. I am clueless about the Red’s current owners but maybe he’d like to go back. He’d reunite with Junior, too.

  17. Todd on June 16th, 2005 10:42 am

    Is there any team that considers itself a “contender,” other than NYY, that would consider switching managers mid-season and work out a deal for Lou? Teams like the Mets and Phils that just hired managers would not seem to fit that description, as it would appear unlikely that they, like the M’s, would bail on a first year manager half-way into the season.

  18. Dave on June 16th, 2005 10:42 am

    Why do people think that managers have a significant impact on wins and losses?

    Lou Piniella has a good team, he wins. Lou Piniella has a bad team, he loses. Mike Hargrove has a good team, he wins. Mike Hargrove has a bad team, he loses. Joe Torre has a good team, he wins. Joe Torre has a bad team, he loses.

    Bob Melvin, by most regards a poor manager both tactically and inspirationally, is winning games in Arizona after guiding last years Mariner trainwreck.

    With just a few exceptions, managers don’t matter.

  19. Brian Rust on June 16th, 2005 11:01 am

    In the short term managers don’t matter. In the long term, a good manager is an excellent resource for building a team, if the FO listens.

  20. Steve on June 16th, 2005 11:09 am

    18 – people think that because they’re used to seeing baseball — and life, politics, and everything else — in discrete slices without thinking much about how they string together. We see the game-winning home run, but we don’t think about the thousand little things that went into making the game close enough to allow a homer to win it. With managers, we see the moves, or the non-moves, and when they “work” — the pinch hitter comes through, the new pitcher gets the ground ball — we register that and remember it. But those kinds of moves make very small incremental differences overall.

    The manager’s job in particular is geared to this kind of thinking. No one gets credit for “managing” big-ticket items like home run sluggers or no-hitters. But little things like the bunt that worked (but let’s not even think about the twelve before it that didn’t) go in the manager’s “genius” column.

    And they tend to get full credit for “winning” the game with one of those increments even if they provided .01 of the necessary runs to accomplish the victory.

    So, even if the big decisions are wrong, a manager by the very way we think about what he does gets loads of credit for the aggregate of small things, even if those small things add up to nothing much at all.

    People also have terrible (and very selective) memories, so they construct a picture in their mind of a manager’s skills that may not have anything to do with reality. That’s what statistics are for, to codify memory, but we really have no idea what 90% of the statistics are — quick, what manager this year has called for the highest number of pinch-hit plate appearances? I don’t know, and I’ll bet you don’t either.

  21. Adam S on June 16th, 2005 11:40 am

    #18, because at many levels the manager/coach does matter. At a college level where much of coaching is recruiting, the coach certainly matters. And I think in the NFL, where coaches call plays, set defenses and can substitue freely, the coach matters a lot. And in the NBA, it matters — the Bulls dominated the league because of Michael Jordan, but they wouldn’t have won six titles without Phil Jackson.

    Only in major league baseball, where lineups are fixed and most “decisions” are obvious, especially if you manage by the book, does the manager not matter much.

    As well, the exception often sticks in our heads (what Steve said in 20). The Royals have done much better with Buddy Bell as manager this year.

    That said, your examples of life after Seattle are great, though I think Pinella’s in-game decisions were worse than Hargrove and on par with Melvin, and I think Joe Torre is losing with a good team this year.

  22. Ralph Malph on June 16th, 2005 12:11 pm

    Silliest statement of the day:

    “If Torre can’t win with the Yankees payroll, I wouldn’t bet on him winning with the M’s.”

    Overpaying Kevin Brown and Bernie Williams and Jason Giambi and the rest of their aging ex-superstars doesn’t make them better players. The Yankees problem isn’t their manager, it’s that they’re not all that good anymore (other than A-Rod). There’s nothing Torre can do about that.

    Don’t 4 championships prove that Torre can win? I don’t think he’s forgotten how.

    But it’s irrelevant because the M’s already have a manager who is a long long way from being fired. And even if Hargrove disappeared off the face of the earth tomorrow they wouldn’t be hiring Torre.

  23. Ralph Malph on June 16th, 2005 12:13 pm

    Losing with a good team? The 2005 Yankees are like the 2004 Mariners — past their prime, overrated, and hurt by their defense, with a shell of a pitching staff.

    OK, they’re certainly not as bad as the 2004 Mariners, but no way, no how are they a championship caliber team.

  24. Ken Hanselman on June 16th, 2005 1:14 pm

    My heart bleeds for the D-Ray fans right now. Lou went into 2005 thinking this would be Tampa’s 1995. He knew the Yankees were aging. All he needed was a few veterans and the franchise would get to experience a real shot at a pennant race. Then, the money he was promised suddenly disappeared. He’s justifyiably angry at being misled, and the fans are going to go nuts if he leaves. Pitchforks and torches? Try shotguns and grenades. What a shame, and boy can we ever relate! Next time you feel like trashing the M’s ownership, just remember this all could have happened here back in ’95. The irony of Lou’s going to Tampa, the domed stadium, the Teal hats…absolutely amazing!

  25. msb on June 16th, 2005 1:19 pm

    FWIW, tossing Torre would mean paying him $17 million or so….

    speaking of George’s money, the Daily News has an entertaining piece on how the Yankees won’t really be paying much for their proposed new stadium…


  26. JC on June 16th, 2005 2:24 pm

    [quote]My heart bleeds for the D-Ray fans right now.[/quote]

    What all 12 of them?

  27. Ken Hanselman on June 16th, 2005 2:50 pm

    #26 – See? That’s what they were saying about M’s fans in 1995!

  28. mr kenny on June 16th, 2005 3:05 pm

    i agree with dave, basically that managers, in the words of casey stengel, get paid for other people’s homers BUT after reading three days in august recently i think that there’s a lot to be said for clubhouse presence and inspirational abilities.

  29. James on June 16th, 2005 3:12 pm

    What about a three-way trade? Torre to the M’s, Hargrove to the D-Rays and Piniella to the Yanks.

  30. anotherjeff on June 16th, 2005 4:27 pm


    That is a fine idea.

  31. Ralph Malph on June 16th, 2005 4:28 pm

    God don’t get me started on Three Days in August. Until I read that book I thought Tony LaRussa was a good manager and a smart guy, but he spouts nothing but inane blather and self-promotion in that book. And I thought Bissinger was a good writer (at least by reputation, though I never read Friday Night Lights), but his writing in that book is just cliche after worn out cliche.

    Few books make me angry but I was angry about wasting $15 on that piece of crap at Costco.