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Lou Piniella set to retire, ready to come home to Tampa

BALTIMORE — Lou Piniella has had enough.

After 22 seasons as a manager, Piniella, 66, said he will retire at the end of this season with the Cubs and come home to Tampa.

"It's been a wonderful experience," Piniella said Tuesday in Chicago, but he added, "I've been away from home since 1962. That's about 50 years."

Piniella, who played 18 seasons in the majors, now has a 1,827-1,691 record, trailing only Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre in victories among active managers and ranking as the 14th-winningest manager in major-league history.

Piniella is known for two things: his fiery temper and insatiable desire to win.

And that's what he'll be remembered for from the last time he came home, taking over a 106-loss Devil Rays team he was convinced he could turn into winners, then leaving in frustration three seasons later after losing 285 of the 485 games he managed there.

"He wanted to win real bad, but he didn't really have the pieces that he wanted, and we all understood that," said Carl Crawford, one of two remaining Rays from Piniella's reign. "If he had this team, I think — I mean, we're doing well now, but you know we'd probably still be doing well; it wouldn't matter who was managing the team — but I know he would've loved to manage this team."

"The man just wanted to win," said the other holdover, B.J. Upton. "At that time obviously we weren't a very good ball club, and he just wanted us to be that."

Piniella — who previously managed the Mariners, Reds (winning the 1990 World Series) and Yankees — would do anything and everything he could to try to win, getting on the umpires, his own players and even his bosses.

Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez played for Piniella from 1994 to 2000 in Seattle.

"For me, he's obviously a Hall of Fame manager and a great player," Rodriguez said. "He is a rare breed, a rare combination of a guy that played and played in New York, won a championship, and is proven and is tough — and is from Florida like me. I just have a lot of love and admiration for Lou."

"You appreciate somebody that pushes you and gets the most out of your abilities," Crawford said. "Some guys can't handle the screaming and fussing, but me growing up the way I did, it wasn't that new for me, so basically it just pushed me to want to do better."

"I loved playing for him," Upton said. "It was fun. You respected him. I think some of his tirades were comical but for a good cause."

Third-base coach Tom Foley, with bullpen catcher Scott Cursi the only other uniformed holdovers, said he saw the cursing and the caring sides of Piniella.

"He had a rough stretch here," Foley said. "He tried to turn things around here, and it just didn't work out at the time. I can say he did everything he could to make this thing work."

Piniella's frustration mounted during the 2005 season, and it became apparent he wouldn't mesh with the incoming Stuart Sternberg ownership group, and a buyout was worked out for the final year of his contract.

He took a year off then joined the Cubs expecting more success, but his four seasons there have been disappointing as well, winning two division titles but not advancing in the postseason, then missing the playoffs last year and struggling this season at 43-52.

"I'm proud of our accomplishments during my time here, and this will be a perfect way for me to end my career," he said. "But let me make one thing perfectly clear: our work is far from over. I want to keep the momentum going more than anything else and win as many games as we can to get back in this pennant race."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Lou Piniella set to retire, ready to come home to Tampa 07/20/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 8:28am]
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