Lou Piniella’s mother, Margaret, died this week in Tampa, Fla. She was 92. Margaret was considered the athlete of the family, credited with playing a key role in developing Lou’s interest in sports as well as his temper. She famously once ran onto the court during one of Lou’s Jesuit High basketball games to argue with the referee, according to the Tampa Bay Times. She had been in failing health for several years. Lou left the Cubs in August 2010 to care for her.
Online condolences can be sent at jgrfuneralhome.com. Donations can be made in her memory to the Judeo Christian Clinic, 4118 N. MacDill AVe., Tampa, FL, 33607, or the McDonald Training Center, 5420 W. Cypress Street, Tampa, FL, 33607.
— Carrie Muskat
Tony La Russa announced his retirement Monday, and Cubs-Cardinals series won’t be the same without him.
“Enough’s enough” La Russa said. “It’s time to do something different.”
Remember the La Russa-Dusty Baker fracas at Wrigley Field in September 2003? On Sept. 4, 2003, Baker, then the Cubs manager, and La Russa met for nearly six minutes behind the batting cage. In the end, they shook hands. They were trying to settle differences that had been on display the day before.
“We explained to each other about different things, different things that might have upset him, upset me, different things that might have hurt his feelings or different things that might have hurt mine,” Baker said at the time. “That’s baseball, and that’s how it goes sometimes.”
Tensions snapped in the third inning on Sept. 3 after Cubs pitcher Matt Clement was hit by a pitch and both benches were issued a warning. Cardinals pitcher Dan Haren had been hit by a pitch the inning before. The two managers shouted at each other from their respective dugouts, and La Russa promised after the game he wanted to talk to Baker before talking to the media.
So, after their session behind the cage, did they reach an accord?
“Relatively so,” Baker said.
Did they agree to disagree?
“He has an opinion and I have an opinion on things — what was right, what was wrong, what was enough,” Baker said of La Russa. “It’s a big series, and there’s a lot of emotions. I’m not proud of myself when I display that kind of action. I don’t really like that person when he comes out, and he rarely comes out unless he’s provoked to come out. When he comes out, then he’s got to stay out.”
The two managers did have an altercation in the 2002 playoffs when Baker, then the Giants manager, accused the Cardinals of throwing at Kenny Lofton.
“Me and Tony were teammates,” Baker said. “He was my last manager. He’s the guy who gave me my first advice when I started managing. There wasn’t any tension. Sometimes there’s tension between myself and my brother. I still love my brother.”
In the Sept. 2, 2003, game, Cardinals pitcher Matt Morris was knocked down three times.
“I took offense to the unwritten threat [by La Russa]. That’s what I took offense to,” Baker said. “If you’re going to do it, just do it.
“We’re just playing hardball,” Baker said. “Then, there’s the war of words with [Kerry Wood] being a head hunter, [Mark] Prior being a head hunger, ‘Dusty Baker better do something about it.’ I think each manager should take care of their own club. You take care of yours, I’ll take care of mine.”
* La Russa and Lou Piniella grew up in Tampa, Fla., and played against each other as kids. Piniella, who is one year older, did top his friend in the 1990 World Series when his “Nasty Boys” Reds swept La Russa’s A’s. The two were teammates in 1961 hen they traveled to California to play in the Colt League World Series.
During the 2006 Winter Meetings, after Piniella had taken over the Cubs, the two talked.
“Tony and I, we had a nice conversation ’til about 3 in the morning, and we vowed that we would remain friends, that we would leave our competition on the field, and that would be the end of it,” Piniella said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony. I really do. And I think we are both at times in our careers where we realize that, hey, we are going to go out there and try to beat each other every day, but when it’s over, just leave it there, go back and compete the next day.”
— Carrie Muskat
In 2002, Lou Piniella guided the Mariners to a 93-69 record. It was the team’s seventh winning season under Piniella since he took over in Seattle in 1993. But Seattle is 2,530 miles from Tampa Bay, which was home for Piniella. His father was ill, and he needed to be there.
“I’d been in Seattle 10 years,” Piniella said Tuesday from his Tampa, Fla., home. “I needed to get home.”
He had one year left on his contract with the Mariners, but the team made a deal with the fledgling Rays, and let Piniella go home in exchange for outfielder Randy Winn and infielder Antonio Perez.
“Seattle allowed me to come here,” Piniella said. “Tampa Bay is where I had to go. That was fine with me. In Seattle, I was too far from home.”
It wasn’t the first time Piniella had ever been dealt. On Aug. 4, 1964, he was the player to be named later, completing a transaction between the Senators and Orioles, in which he went to Baltimore for Buster Narum. On March 10, 1966, Piniella was traded by the Orioles to the Indians for Cam Carreon. That October, he was selected in the 1968 expansion draft by the Seattle Pilots, then traded the following April to the Royals for John Gelnar and Steve Whitaker.His life changed Dec. 7, 1973, when the Royals sent him to the Yankees for Lindy McDaniel.
“That’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Piniella said. “It’s the biggest break I ever got in my career. I played in Kansas City five years and got traded to New York. When I first learned about the trade, I actualy cried. I was living in Kansas City and we had a young team and we were close knit.
“I spent the next 17 years of my life in the Yankee organization and was able to play with some really great players,” he said.
Piniella was not the first manager to be “traded.” In 1960, Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley switched his manager, Charlie Grimm, for announcer Lou Boudreau, who was with the team’s flagship station, WGN. At the end of the season, Wrigley traded Boudreau back to WGN for Grimm, who wasn’t reinstated but became part of the infamous “college of coaches.”
In November 1976, the Pirates dealt catcher Manny Sanguillen to the Athletics for $100,000 and their manager, Chuck Tanner.
This also wasn’t the first time Piniella put his family first. In 2010, he decided to retire from managing and leave the Cubs in August so he could return to Tampa to take care of his mother. She has good days and bad days, Piniella said Tuesday, but is doing well.
“I asked to come home,” Piniella said of the Mariners-Rays deal. “I asked to get closer to home and had a year left on my contract and Seattle wasn’t interested in letting me go and, at the same time, they understood my situation. They said, ‘All right, if you want to go home, then Tampa Bay is where you’re going.’ That was fine with me.”
With manager Ozzie Guillen’s abrupt exit from the White Sox Monday night and possible move to the Marlins, Piniella’s switch is talked about again.
“It’s a unique thing when you get traded,” Piniella said. “I spent three years in Tampa Bay and enjoyed it. I was told when I came here we would increase the payroll. I said, if they gave me a payroll of $45 to $50 million, we could win. Unfortunately, we never got over $24 million. I got sort of beat up a little bit. It was a learning experience.”
In three years with the Rays, Piniella compiled a .412 winning percentage (200-285).
He watched some of Guillen’s news conference on Monday.
“For Ozzie, it’s a new start if it happens,” Piniella said. “They have a new ballpark in Miami. Ozzie is very familiar with that organization because he was there as a coach. My understanding and talking to baseball people, the owner, Jeff Loria, likes him a lot.”
— Carrie Muskat
During Jim Hendry’s tenure as GM with the Cubs, they won three division titles. Here are some highlights and lowlights:
* Named general manager in July 2002, taking over for Andy MacPhail. Inherited team with $75.7 million payroll. In offseason, hired Dusty Baker as manager from the NL champion Giants.
* In December 2002, traded Todd Hundley to the Dodgers for Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros. In July 2003, acquired Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton from Pirates for Jose Hernandez, Minor League player and Bobby Hill. Also added Randall Simon from Pirates. Cubs win first NL Central Division title, finishing 88-74, and beat Braves in NL Division Series. Cubs were five outs from getting to World Series but lost in NL Championship Series to Marlins.
* In November 2003, acquired Derrek Lee from Marlins for Hee-Seop Choi and Minor Leaguer. In January 2004, gave Kerry Wood three-year, $32.5 million contract. Signed Greg Maddux in Spring Training 2004. Acquired Nomar Garciaparra at Trade Deadline. Cubs finished 89-73, and lost bid for Wild Card spot in final weeks. Season ends with Sammy Sosa leaving Wrigley Field early during last game.
* In February 2005, traded Sosa to Orioles. Acquired Jeromy Burnitz (.258, 24 HR, 87 RBIs) to play right field. Neifi Perez plays more games at shortstop than injured Garciaparra, and Cubs finish fourth, 79-83.
* Injuries to Derrek Lee, Mark Prior and others result in 66-96 season. Baker and staff dismissed at end of season; pitching coach Larry Rothschild retained. Lou Piniella hired, and team spends $300 million on players, including eight-year, $136 million deal for Alfonso Soriano. Signed Ted Lilly to three-year deal while hooked up to EKG machine at 2006 Winter Meetings.
* Cubs win division in 2007 under Piniella with 85-77 record but are swept in NLDS by Diamondbacks. In August that year, Carlos Zambrano given five-year, $91.5 million extension.
* In December 2007, sign Japanese batting champ Kosuke Fukudome to four-year, $48 million contract. Add Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds. Gave Aramis Ramirez five-year, $75 million contract. In 2008, Cubs win second straight Central Division at 97-64, but are swept by Dodgers in NLDS. In offseason, traded Mark DeRosa, acquired closer Kevin Gregg, signed Ryan Dempster to four-year, $52 million contract.
* In January 2009, signed free agent Milton Bradley to three-year, $30 million contract. He hits .257, 12 homers, 40 RBIs, then is suspended in September. Cubs tied for first on Aug. 5, but finish second at 83-78. Bradley traded to Mariners in offseason for Carlos Silva and cash.
* Signed free agent Marlon Byrd to three-year, $15 million deal in December 2009. Piniella announces in July 2010 he is retiring at season’s end. Mike Quade named manager on Aug. 23. Cubs go 24-13 under Quade and finish season in fifth, 75-87. Quade gets two-year contract.
* Signed Carlos Pena to one-year, $10 million deal in December 2010 and re-signs Kerry Wood for $1.5 million. In January 2011, acquired Matt Garza from Rays for top prospects in eight-player deal. Signed Carlos Marmol to three-year, $20 million contract in February. Placed Carlos Zambrano on disqualified list in August after pitcher walks out, announcing his retirement in Atlanta.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs players will wear No. 10 caps on Thursday in honor of Ron Santo Day at HoHoKam Park. There’s a No. 10 painted on the field behind home plate and a plaque will be unveiled under the broadcast booth. Fans will get a No. 10 sticker and a baseball card with a black and white photo of Santo at Rendezvous Park in Mesa in Spring Training 1965.
“I didn’t know him near as well as Billy [Williams] and Lou [Piniella] and all the veterans and people around Chicago for years and years,” manager Mike Quade said. “When you interview with somebody, it becomes more of an intimate thing and for those six weeks, I did get to know him.”
Santo never hid his love for the Cubs.
“It was sincere,” Quade said of Santo’s passion. “It wasn’t manufactured for the booth or anything else. I never needed to hear the score when I was in Iowa. All those years, I would turn on the radio after my game and listen to three words out of Ronnie’s mouth — or three groans. [If it was groans], I wasn’t sure how bad we were losing but I knew it wasn’t good. If he and Pat [Hughes] were having fun, then I knew we were in good shape.”
— Carrie Muskat
Cactus League games don’t count in the regular season standings, obviously, but Lou Piniella didn’t like to lose in Spring Training. How does Mike Quade feel about wins and losses in spring?
“I care a little bit,” Quade said Sunday. “I’m more interested in performance, in progress and in the process, which I talked about a lot when I first took over last year. You want to win ballgames, you want to compete well and you feel like if you do, you will. Unlike the regular season where you might take a sub-par performance and get a win, if we come out of here and execute the play well and somebody beats us in the ninth, that’s OK. Lou didn’t like to lose at anything and he was incredibly competitive and you pick up on that very quickly as does the club.”
— Carrie Muskat
Lou Piniella will join the Giants as a consultant. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that the former Cubs manager will work for the defending World Champions and be involved in evaluating and advising on player movement and scouting. Giants GM Brian Sabean and Piniella were together with the Yankees in the ’80s (Sabean spent eight years in New York from 1986-90). Sabean interviewed Piniella, 67, to succeed manager Felipe Alou after the 2006 season. Piniella, who retired Aug. 23, will be based in Florida.
— Carrie Muskat
Cubs GM Jim Hendry is expected to interview former Mariners and D-backs manager Bob Melvin for the team’s managerial position, according to ESPN.com. Currently a scout for the Mets, Melvin interviewed for the Cubs job in 2003 but Hendry chose Dusty Baker. Melvin then got the Mariners job.
Hendry already has talked to former Indians manager Eric Wedge and had some preliminary discussions with Ryne Sandberg, named Pacific Coast League manager of the year this season at Triple-A Iowa. Pat Listach, Bob Brenly and current manager Mike Quade also will be considered for the Cubs job in 2011.
On Monday, Hendry said Quade was doing an “outstanding job” since taking over Aug. 23 for Lou Piniella, who retired earlier than planned to go home and take care of family business. The Cubs are 12-7 under Quade.
“He’s certainly done a very good job,” Hendry said. “Like I told him, I was never hung up on what our record would be. We’re winning our share and getting improvement out of some of the young kids. I give him a lot of credit. I think he’s done a real good job so far.”
The Cubs want the manager in place by the organizational meetings, held in early November. Hendry will compile a short list of candidates to present to the Cubs owners.
— Carrie Muskat