NASHVILLE — After getting word a few days ago that his latest scans were clear of cancer he had been battling for several years, Lou Piniella was poised for what he told a friend could be the greatest week of his life.
Instead, the Tampa native was left to deal with the cruel disappointment Sunday night of missing out on election to the Baseball Hall of Fame by one vote for the second straight time.
Piniella received 11 of the needed 12 votes from the 16-member contemporary baseball era committee for managers/executives/umpires, which met at baseball’s winter meetings and voted in Jim Leyland. Piniella also received 11 votes in the 2018 election cycle and got seven in 2016 voting.
He could be eligible again in December 2026, but will face steep competition as Terry Francona, Dusty Baker and, if he retires by the end of 2025, Bruce Bochy are likely to added to the ballot.
Piniella, 80, said he was proud of his career nonetheless and would celebrate the positive medical report, having dealt over the past six years with a mini-stroke and prostate cancer that metastasized to lymph nodes in his chest.
“I would like to thank the baseball Hall of Fame for considering me for this prestigious honor,” he said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times and New York Daily News. “Although I did not get inducted this year, I am very proud of my 40-plus years of MLB service and have accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed of. For those whom did not know, I have been battling cancer for the past few years and recently received some positive news.
“Although I did not make the Hall of Fame, I am so grateful to God for everything He has blessed me with, and I will be celebrating with my family and friends. Thank you again for considering me and God bless.”
Leyland received 15 votes from the committee, which is told not to disclose details of the deliberations. Piniella got 11 and Bill White, the former National League president who had a long career as a player and broadcaster, received 10. None of the other five candidates received more than four votes: managers Cito Gaston and Davey Johnson; umpires Ed Montague and Joe West; and executive Hank Peters.
Hall of Fame president Josh Rawitch said there was “great discussion” about all eight candidates, and he can “absolutely” understand the disappointment for Piniella and his supporters.
“I’m sure that anybody can look at this and realize how close he’s gotten,” Rawitch said. “The hardest thing is it is a very, very, very high bar to get into Cooperstown, and that’s what it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t have an absolutely unbelievable career.
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“We say the same thing about players when you’re talking about the top 1 to 1 1/2% of people that get into Cooperstown. If you’re in the top 2% of managers or 3% of managers, it’s still an absolutely incredible feat. Of course you feel for the human, but at the same time obviously very happy for Jim Leyland and his family and all people that are excited for him.”
Piniella and Leyland, 78, had somewhat similar careers.
Piniella managed five teams, including his hometown Rays, over 23 seasons, compiling an 1,835-1,713 (.517) record that ranks 17th on the all-time wins list (with everyone ahead of him in the Hall except for Baker, Bochy, Francona and Gene Mauch). He won the 1990 World Series with the Reds, an American League-record 116 games with the 2001 Mariners and three Manager of the Year awards. Known for his fiery temper and entertaining outbursts at umpires, Piniella also managed the Yankees and Cubs, and made seven trips to the postseason overall.
Leyland managed four teams over 22 seasons, compiling a 1,769-1,728 (.506) record with the Pirates, Marlins, Rockies and Tigers, ranking 18th in wins. He won the 1997 World Series with Florida and two AL pennants in Detroit, making eight trips to the postseason. He also won three Manager of the Year awards.
Said Leyland: “I didn’t really think I had a chance” to get elected after being named to the ballot in October, but admitted to getting more excited in the days leading up to Sunday.
He said he felt bad for Piniella falling just short, but steered clear of addressing the work of the voters.
“I felt for all of the managers that didn’t get in,” he said on a Zoom call. “I assumed that all four of us weren’t going to get in. ... Lou’s been close; I assumed that certainly was going to happen, Davey Johnson, obviously he’s a great manager. Cito Gaston with two World Series (championships).
“I didn’t really get into a situation myself, personally, where I ever was comparing myself to anybody. I just thought this is a committee that votes, they’re going to make a decision on who they think should get in and at what time they should get in. So hoping that their day comes. Today, I was the fortunate one.”
The voting committee included Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell, Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones, Bud Selig, Ted Simmons, Jim Thome and Joe Torre; current/former executives Sandy Alderson, Bill DeWitt, Michael Hill, Ken Kendrick, Andy MacPhail and Phyllis Merhige; and media members/historians Sean Forman, Jack O’Connell and Jesus Ortiz.
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