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Monday, June 13, 2021

sweet who?
He’s been dropping little hints for weeks now, rumblings so low that only the locals really noticed.

But yesterday, Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella finally let it rip bigtime, lambasting the team’s ownership group for pinching the pennies:

“When I came here three years ago, we were talking about a situation where we wanted to win now, and we were interested in winning now,” Piniella said before Sunday’s 7-5, 13-inning win over the Pirates. “With a small payroll, we improved it from 55 (wins) to 63, and from 63 to 70. This was supposed to be the breakout year.

“The problem is we’ve got a new ownership group here that’s changed the direction of where we’re headed. They’re not interested about the present. They’re interested about the future. And that’s their right. But when other teams are getting better presently and we’re not, you’re going to get your butts beat, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

“I’m not going to take responsibility for this. If I had been given a $40- or $45-million payroll and was getting beat like that, I’d stand up like a man and say it’s my fault. Well, I’m not going to do it.”

As the article notes, the interesting thing about this is that Piniella isn’t bashing Vince Naimoli, the team’s founder and managing general partner, and focus of fans’ ire. Rather, he’s pinning the blame on Stuart Sternberg, who bought into the franchise a couple of years ago and has been considered the on-the-horizon salvation for the club. The vibe in Tampa Bay is that the team’s never going to improve as long as Naimoli is running things, so there’s no reason to expect anything different until Sternberg assumes the mantle in the next year or so.

At first blush, Piniella’s remarks suggest that it may be folly to count on the new ownership to turn around the ship. However, it looks more like a question of timing. Sternberg may very well be looking to the future, thereby sacrificing the present. It may result in a winning squad at Tropicana Field within five years; unfortunately, that’s not going to include Piniella, who wants to win now.

So what happens from here? Piniella obviously is orchestrating his departure from a situation he knows won’t get any better soon. There are ideas:

Have Piniella’s agent negotiate a reassignment. Make him a special assistant to the general manager. Or, better yet, put him in the TV booth with Dewayne Staats and Joe Magrane.

This accomplishes several things. It keeps Piniella from beating his head on the dugout wall every night. It gets him out of the dugout without firing him. And, most importantly, it lets 29 other teams know he is available.

So (wink, wink) if the Yankees decide to fire Joe Torre, they know they can hire Lou. Essentially, Piniella would be on display for all to see.

And the Rays would not only get themselves off the hook for the $4.5-million or so they owe Piniella next year, but they could get cash or players in return if he leaves to manage somewhere else in 2006.

The Yankees route is the default assumption, and might very well turn out to be true. The question is how to accomplish it. I seriously doubt there’s much interest in either side for putting Piniella in a stopgap assignment — he wants to manage, and Sternberg couldn’t be crazy about keeping him around in any capacity (especially not in the broadcast chair, where there’s more opportunity to publicly criticize the team). The prospects of trading Piniella are intriguing (not so far-fetched, since, technically, managers are on the team roster, and therefore can be swapped just like any player).

All in all, it’s a shame to see Piniella come to this, with a club he came to largely because it’s in his hometown. He’s probably wishing he had chosen the Mets, who were hot after him when he was leaving Seattle in 2002. However, I’m glad he didn’t, if only because it resulted in this corker of a headline in the New York Post: LOU-SERS - AND HOWE! (the “Howe” referring to Art Howe, who was the Mets’ Plan B, only to be fired two years later).

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/13/2005 10:52:38 AM
Category: Baseball | Permalink |

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