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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Sweet Lou wants to manage team closer to Florida home

SEATTLE (REUTERS) — Lou Piniella won’t be back with the Seattle Mariners next season.

The Mariners agreed Monday to release Piniella from the final year of his contract, allowing him to leave Seattle after a 10-year span during which he elevated the team to baseball’s upper tier.

Mariners chief executive Howard Lincoln said the team will allow other clubs to interview him, provided that “adequate compensation” can be arranged. Both the New York Mets and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays may be interested in Piniella, also a former manager and GM of the New York Yankees.

Lincoln and team president Chuck Armstrong spoke to Piniella Monday.

“We reiterated our mutual friendship and respect, that we were disappointed he wasn’t coming back, that based on what he told us in Tampa Bay there was a pressing and real need to live and work closer to his family in Tampa Bay. We understood and we were sympathetic,” Lincoln said.

He declined to elaborate on what compensation the Mariners would seek, but it probably would be money or players.

At least one suitor already is waiting. Lincoln said he planned to return a telephone call to Mets owner Fred Wilpon after speaking with Seattle reporters.

If any club wants to interview Piniella, the Mariners will seek compensation “in exchange for releasing Lou from his employment contract,” the team said.

Lincoln also spoke sentimentally about losing Piniella.

“Really, even more than our players, he epitomized the Seattle Mariners,” Lincoln said. “He was so helpful. His presence was so important in saving major-league baseball for Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.”

Piniella didn’t return messages left at his home in Tampa, Fla.

Mariners’ officials “understand what I’m trying to do,” Piniella told The Tampa Tribune. “It’s just too far to be in Seattle. It’s a burden on me, on my family. It’s just too far from home.”

Piniella met Friday with Lincoln, general manager Pat Gillick and team president Armstrong. He told them that “for personal and family reasons,” he had decided not to return to Seattle for the 2003 season.

“The meeting in Tampa Bay on Friday was very emotional,” Lincoln said. “It ended with a lot of hugs. It’s fair to say we have parted as good and warm friends.”

Piniella managed the Mariners for the past 10 seasons, directing a perennial no-name team to three straight playoff appearances and a record-tying 116 victories in 2001. Seattle won 93 games this season, but finished third in the AL West behind Oakland and Anaheim.

The final year of Piniella’s $6.8 million contract is worth $2.5 million.

Lincoln said Gillick would oversee the search for a new manager, but he declined to say much about what kind of candidate the Mariners want. He said there is no timetable, but the team expects to have a new manager before the winter meetings.

“We want to get the best person for this particular job, this baseball team, this ball park,” Lincoln said. “Pat Gillick is focusing on a person who can handle the players we have now, the strengths and weaknesses of our team as it exists.”

The Mets or Tampa Bay Devil Rays are mentioned as the most likely candidates to lure the 59-year-old Piniella, who lives in the Tampa Bay area during the offseason. His parents and grandchildren also live there.

“We just became aware of this statement tonight, and we are going to reserve further comment until we have time to digest it,” Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said.

The last time Seattle went looking for a new manager was in 1992, needing a replacement for Bill Plummer.

Reports in the Seattle area have focused on Dusty Baker, who is managing the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS. Other possibilities include Mariners’ bench coach John McLaren or pitching coach Bryan Price.

Veteran managers Bobby Valentine, Don Baylor and Davey Johnson are also available.

If Gillick chooses to recycle a major league manager, he could ask his old pal, Cito Gaston. Together at Toronto, they won World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.

Most managers start at the bottom, taking over awful teams. But if the Mariners need a new manager, that person would be expected to continue Piniella’s success.

He has a career record of 1,319-1,135 as a manager, including 840-711 with Seattle. The Mariners also led the majors in attendance for the second straight year this season.

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