Ex-Yankees manager, Red Sox nemesis gets a third chance at HoF

Former Yankees great and manager Lou Piniella

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There is another chance for former Yankees player and manager Lou Piniella, who was part of the World Series-winning team of 1977 and 1978 and managed the team in the 1980s, to enter the Hall of Fame. He has emerged as one of the eight finalists featured on the Baseball Hall of Fame’s contemporary era ballot for the year 2024, according to a report by USA Today. It’s worth noting that the former Yankees player has previously appeared on the Veterans’ Committee ballot twice and came remarkably close to induction in 2018, falling short by just one vote.

The committee is scheduled to cast their votes on the listed finalists, and those who successfully navigate the final voting process will be officially revealed in December, to be inducted alongside the Class of 2024. It is important to note that this ballot encompasses a diverse range of individuals, including executives, managers, and other prominent figures in the world of baseball. Among the finalists are two notable umpires, Joe West and Ed Montague.

Over the course of his 11-year tenure with the New York Yankees, Lou Piniella was a part of a highly successful era. The Yankees secured five AL East titles (in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, and 1981), clinched four AL pennants (in 1976, 1977, 1978, and 1981), and celebrated two World Series championships in 1977 and 1978. In 1975, he faced a setback when an inner ear infection caused him to miss a portion of the season. However, from the middle of 1977 through the conclusion of 1980, he served as the regular outfielder and designated hitter for the Yankees.

Lou Piniella’s Yankees career

Lou Piniella, now 80 years old, initially entered the world of baseball as a player when he debuted with the Baltimore Orioles in 1964. Notably, he earned the distinction of the American League Rookie of the Year in 1969 while playing for the Kansas City Royals. A significant portion of his playing career was dedicated to the New York Yankees, as he wore the pinstripes from 1974 to 1984, following his acquisition through a trade.

Following the conclusion of the 1973 season, the Kansas City Royals traded Lou Piniella, along with Ken Wright, to the New York Yankees in exchange for Lindy McDaniel. Notably, baseball author Bill James labeled this trade as the sole misstep made by the Royals during the 1970s. Over the subsequent 11 seasons, Lou Piniella maintained an impressive batting average of .295 during his tenure with the Yankees, contributing to an overall career average of .291. His most notable batting performance occurred in 1977 when he achieved a peak batting average of .330. Although he was not known for hitting a large number of home runs, Piniella managed to accumulate at least 68 RBIs in a season on seven separate occasions.

Throughout his 11 seasons with the Yankees, Lou Piniella boasted an impressive batting average of .295 and accumulated 57 home runs and 417 RBIs. As an outfielder, he was a valuable contributor to the Yankees’ World Series championship wins in 1977 and 1978.

As an outfielder, Lou Piniella had a distinguished career spanning 16 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) with the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, and New York Yankees. His remarkable playing career included winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1969 and being a key part of two World Series championship victories with the New York Yankees in 1977 and 1978.

Lou Piniella consistently demonstrated his ability to elevate his performance during the latter part of the season, becoming a significant threat to teams like the Boston Red Sox, notably during the comeback year of 1978. He also had a remarkable impact on the Kansas City Royals, boasting a batting average of .305 in five American League Championship Series (ALCS) appearances, and on the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he maintained a batting average of .319 during four World Series matchups. Throughout his ten full seasons with the Yankees, the team reached the postseason on five occasions and came close to doing so twice more.

Lou Piniella’s role in the Boston Massacre

In the memorable series known as the “Boston Massacre” from September 7 to 10, 1978, Lou Piniella’s performance stood out as he went 10-for-17 at the plate. This impressive performance also included two walks, two doubles, a triple, and a home run. Notably, during this series, there was a pivotal moment when a popup was misplayed, leading to two runs, as the Boston Red Sox had intentionally walked Graig Nettles to face Piniella. In retrospect, this strategic choice by the Red Sox proved to be a significant error, given Piniella’s impressive track record against them in that series.

Out of the 42 runs that the Yankees tallied in that particular series, Lou Piniella played a significant role by contributing to 8 of them, scoring 8 runs himself and driving in 5 (including 1 via a home run, accounting for one run in each category).

Throughout his career, Lou Piniella earned a single All-Star selection and managed to accumulate a total of 1,705 hits, even though he didn’t play full-time for nearly half of his professional journey. His contribution to the game was acknowledged with 2 Hall of Fame votes as a player in 1990.

Lou Piniella, the manager

After concluding his playing career, Lou Piniella transitioned into a managerial role with various teams. His managerial stints included the New York Yankees (1986–1988), Cincinnati Reds (1990–1992), Seattle Mariners (1993–2002), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2003–2005), and the Chicago Cubs (2007–2010). Notably, he secured a World Series championship with the Reds in 1990 and guided the Mariners to four postseason appearances within seven years, an impressive feat that included a record-setting 116-win regular season in 2001. During his tenure with the Cubs, he achieved consecutive division titles in 2007 and 2008. Three Manager of the Year awards in 1995, 2001, and 2008 underscored Lou Piniella’s managerial excellence. At the culmination of his managerial career, he ranked 14th on the list of all-time managerial wins.

Lou Piniella earned the moniker “Sweet Lou,” a name that not only paid tribute to his graceful swing as a major league hitter but also playfully captured his composed and amiable disposition as both a player and manager.

After retiring as a player, he continued his association with the Yankees. Initially, he took on the role of the team’s hitting coach, later serving as the team’s manager from 1986 to 1987. Lou Piniella even stepped into the position of general manager for the Yankees in 1988, only to return to the dugout to succeed the dismissed Billy Martin. During his managerial tenure with the Yankees, he amassed a record of 224 wins and 193 losses, although the team did not manage to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Lou Piniella achieved managerial success beyond New York. Notably, he guided the Cincinnati Reds to a triumphant 1990 World Series championship, securing a sweep against the Oakland Athletics. During his extensive tenure with the Seattle Mariners, spanning a decade, he clinched three American League West titles and notably emerged victorious against the Yankees in the 1995 Wild Card playoffs.

Lou Piniella’s managerial journey also included three additional seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2003 to 2005 and a four-year stint with the Chicago Cubs from 2007 to 2010. During his time with the Cubs, he successfully guided them to two NL Central titles. In total, his career managerial record stood at 1,835 wins and 1,713 losses.

In a formal announcement on February 22, 2012, it was revealed that Lou Piniella would be joining the YES Network as an analyst for New York Yankees games. He marked his debut on YES during a Yankees-Phillies spring training game on March 4. However, his association with the network concluded after the season.

It was October 15, 1977, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, during Game 4 of the World Series. In a pivotal moment, Lou Piniella made a remarkable play in left field, robbing Dodgers’ third baseman Ron Cey of a potential fourth-inning home run with a spectacular leaping catch at the left field fence. At that time, the Yankees held a narrow lead of 3-2, and had Cey’s hit cleared the fence, it would have tied the game. Thanks to Piniella’s defensive heroics, the Yankees secured a 4-2 victory.

What do you think about his chances of getting a HoF berth? Leave your comment below.

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