Lou Piniella falls one vote short of Hall of Fame

Harold Baines and Lee Smith were elected
Then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella watches his team from the dugout during a 2005 game against the Baltimore Orioles in St. Petersburg. [AP Photo/Robert Azmitia]
Then-Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella watches his team from the dugout during a 2005 game against the Baltimore Orioles in St. Petersburg. [AP Photo/Robert Azmitia]
Published December 9 2018
Updated December 9 2018

LAS VEGAS – Lou Piniella came up one vote short of election to baseball's Hall of Fame on Sunday.

The Tampa native and former Rays manager received 11 of the requisite 12 votes from the 16-member Today's Game Era committee. Outfielder Harold Baines and closer Lee Smith were elected; George Steinbrenner also missed out.

"I'm just disappointed,'' Piniella said Sunday night from Tampa. "I'm happy for Harold and I'm happy for Lee Smith, but as far as my situation, I'm disappointed. I was expecting better results truthfully. I am
appreciative of the people that supported me.''

Piniella, 75, will be eligible again when Today's Game Era candidates are considered again in 2021, but that was of little solace on Sunday.

"Hell, I might be dead in three years,'' Piniella said.

In managing five teams over 23 years, Piniella posted 1,835 victories, 16th most all time. He led the Reds to the World Series championship in 1990 and the Mariners to an AL-record 116 wins in 2001, with the success they had during his 10-year stint a catalyst for building the new stadium that kept the team from relocating. (The Mariners pushed for his election, posting quotes from his past star players.)

Piniella, who also managed the Yankees and Cubs, had an overall .517 winning percentage (1,835-1,713). The only team for which he didn't have a winning record was the Rays, posting a 200-285 mark during his 2003-05 stint.

Twelve of the 15 managers with more wins than Piniella are in the Hall. Missing are Gene Mauch, who died in 2005 and had an overall .483 record; Dusty Baker, who may manage again; and Bruce Bochy, who is still on the job with the Giants.

"(Piniella) got a really great review, as did all the other candidates on the ballot,'' Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson said. "You had plenty of people in there that were very familiar with his career. Making it on to the ballot at all is pretty impressive. The fact that Lou did as well as he did speaks volumes of how more than the majority of the committee felt about him.''

The committee included nine current Hall of Famers, including Tampa native Tony La Russa, Piniella's childhood friend and pro rival, who was elected as a manager in 2013. Also, Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre. Others were MLB  executives Al Avila, Paul Beeston, Andy MacPhail and Jerry Reinsdorf; and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith.

The 478 saves Smith posted during an 18-year career with the Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, Yankees, Orioles, Angels, Reds and Expos were the major-league record from 1993 into the 2006 season and still rank third behind Mariano Rivera's 652 and Trevor Hoffman's 601. Hoffman in is in the Hall and Rivera is expected to be the leading vote-getter on this year's BBWAA ballot.

Baines was somewhat of a surprise choice in that he never got more than 6.1 percent of the vote on the writers' ballot but got 12 votes on Sunday. He played 22 seasons for the White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Orioles and Indians, posting  2,866 hits, 384 homers, 1,628 RBI, while playing 1,643 of his 2,830 games as a DH. Baines' election could bode well for Seattle's Edgar Martinez in his last year on the writers' ballot, and also for Tampa's Fred McGriff in future committee consideration.

Steinbrenner, the longtime Tampa-based owner of the Yankees who died in 2010, was also on the ballot and among the other seven candidates who received less than five votes, which is as specific as Hall officials get.

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