Lou Piniella: Hall of Fame bound
The Baseball Hall of Fame has 292 inductees. Twenty of them are managers. That’s 6.8 percent.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame has 260 inductees. Twenty-one of them are coaches. That’s 8.1 percent.
That’s kooky, of course. A football coach dramatically impacts a game, a team, a league more than does a baseball manager. Yet baseball managers are rewarded with Hall of Fame recognition at about the same ratio as football coaches.
What does that mean? It means Lou Piniella is headed to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The fiery manager, on the baseball scene for almost a half century, retired Sunday, stepping down as the Chicago Cubs manager. He managed six division winners, one World Series champion (1990 Reds), four franchises to at least 90 victories (Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Cubs) and the best regular-season team since the 1906 Cubs (2001 Mariners, who went 116-46).
But that’s not the reason Piniella is headed to Cooperstown. He’s going into the Hall of Fame because that’s what baseball does with venerable managers. Run a major league dugout for, oh, 20 years, win one World Series and you’re headed to Cooperstown.
Piniella ranks 13th all-time in games managed (3,548); 14th in wins (1,835); 99th in win percentage (.517); tied for 23rd in World Series won (one); tied for 55th in pennants won (one); and tied for 65th in average finish (2.8, which actually is very good for someone who managed as long as did Piniella; he’s 36th among managers with at least five years on the job and 18th among managers with at least 10 years on the job).
Two managers in Cooperstown had losing records: Bucky Harris (.493 winning percentage) and Connie Mack (.486). But Mack ranks first in total wins (3,731) and Harris ranks seventh (2,158). How do you win 3,371 major league games? Manage for 50 years. How do you manage for 50 years? Own the team. But I digress.
Excluding Ned Hanlon, Harry Wright and Frank Selee, who managed all or most of their careers before the World Series began, only two Cooperstown managers failed to win a World Series: Al Lopez and Wilbert Robinson.
I have no problem with Lopez being in. Unlike most managers, he made a difference. Lopez managed the Indians from 1951-56 and the White Sox from 1957-65; he never had a losing record and finished first or second 12 times out of 15 years. And that was in the wheelhouse of the Yankee dynasty. From 1949 through 1964, the Yankees won 14 American League pennants and were denied only twice. By Al Lopez teams. Lopez’s winning percentage of .584 ranks seventh in baseball history among managers with at least 10 seasons.
But Robinson, I have no idea why he was inducted. He managed the Brooklyn Robins (Dodgers) to pennants in 1916 and 1920. His all-time record was 1,399-1,398. He finished second only once and his average finish in the eight-team National League was 4.7. Which means he averaged finishing in the second division in a league that did not include the Mantle/Yogi Yankees.
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