“Sweet Lou” Piniella decides to sail away……

Lou Piniella at the helm of the Mariners

   Lou Piniella announced today that his voyage in the game of baseball will come to a conclusion at the end of the 2010 season. The announcement by Piniella comes on the heels of the passing of George Steinbrenner and the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. earlier this year. “Sweet Lou” has spent 40 years in baseball including 18 years as a player and 22 as a manager. It is hard to imagine him way back in 1969 when he was named Rookie of the Year playing with the Royals. Lou was a player that played hard and hated to lose. He went on to play with the Yankees from 73-84 and got a job managing there from George Steinbrenner in 86. His stay with the Yankees was tumultuous, and Lou ended up going to the Reds in 1990 where he managed his team to a World Series championship.

   Lou is of course best remembered in the Seattle area for his years at the Conn of the Mariners from 1993 -2002. Lou came into town at the behest of GM Woody Woodward and proceeded to turn the Mariners into a force to be reckoned with in the American League West. I recall the 1994 strike shortened season quite well as Lou had his club motivated and on the move that year and was the team most feared at the time to go all the way, until the players went out on strike. In 1995 the fans around the country including here in Seattle were slow to return to fill the stadiums and were it not for the miraculous year the Mariners had under their fiery skipper in 95 we would not have baseball in Seattle today.

  Outside of Don James the coach of the Huskies in their golden era, no one comes close in the minds of most Seattle sports fans as to who the all-time best coach or manager has been in our area other than Lou Piniella. Lou has a brilliant baseball mind and a personality and will to win that filled the old Kingdome and later Safeco field. Lou piloted the great 2000 and 2001 teams that he took to the ALCS show-downs only to lose to the same Yankees that his 1995. There are a lot of sports reels filled with Lou Piniella out on the field sticking-up for his team in the passionate style that is long gone from Safeco field. But Lou was more than a hot-tempered manager, he was also a fiercely loyal manager who commanded respect from his players and in return looked out for his guys.

   I recall meeting Lou in person in the late 90’s down at the old J&M café and bar in Pioneer Square. I shook his hand and was shocked at how humble and friendly he was in real life. Lou was actually a gentle loving guy who just happened to hate losing. I didn’t stick around to bug him as I respected/feared the guy too much to get on his bad side! The other time I had contact with Lou was in the 2001 season when prior to a game I was down by the dugout as he came in off the field prior to a late season game. I remember yelling “Lou we need to crank it up a notch” he looked me right in the eye and gave me a quick nod again in a respectful manner. Lou was a great judge of character and if he liked you he let you know, however if you were a guy like Jeff Cirillo and weren’t hustling he could be a players nightmare.

  There are plenty of myths and Sea-stories surrounding Lou Piniella and his final years here in Seattle. One that was floating around towards the end was that Lou had gone into see Howard Lincoln trying to get “Another Bat’’ so he could go all the way. Apparently Lincoln said no and Lou supposedly said that things were going to revert back to the old losing days of the Mariners if he left town. Well the rest is history, Lou didn’t get what he needed to win and he left town after the 2002 season and the Mariners have been in a perpetual rebuilding mode ever since.

  It was a treat to see “Sweet Lou” when he was here with his latest club the Cubs a month or so ago. I managed to make it to the last game of the series and got one final chance to see the old firebrand storm out onto the field to argue a call at third. Lou did not put on a full performance that day but it was the first time during that series that both the Cubs and Mariners fans were cheering together……

  Lou Piniella has done the right thing by announcing his retirement today effective at the end of the year. This allows the Cubs time to try to find a manager to fill Lou’s shoes….good luck on that. The Cubs are struggling and if you have seen any pictures of the skipper recently you can tell that at 67 he is just getting tired. Many people around baseball will miss Lou Piniella and hopefully he will enter the Hall of Fame someday, but for fans here in Seattle especially this year it is a particularly painful reminder of the past. Thank you for taking the helm of our ship Lou though the voyage was all to brief it was the best we ever had here….http://jeffsmariners.com

Cubs edge Mariners 3-2 in 13 innings

Lou Piniella arguing once last call at Safeco field in 10th

 

The Chicago Cubs halted the Seattle Mariners  winning streak at six, winning 3-2 in a 13 inning thriller in front of 41,329 fans at Safeco field. This game had a little of everything today with the exception of a key clutch hit by the Mariners who had plenty of chances to complete the sweep. Felix Hernandez went 9 full innings, holding the Cubs to 2 runs before handing the ball off to our semi-shaky bullpen. Cubs starter Ted Lilly went six innings and only gave up one run in the 4th inning in what was to prove to be the start of innings today where the Mariners had chances to score more runs but choked. After Figgins came in on the RBI double by Mike Sweeney, Lopez hit a single to right but Lee Tinsley held up Sweeney at third where he would eventually die at. Both Gutierrez and Josh Wilson who got the start at first both fanned and Rob Johnson grounded out weakly to end the threat. I had a hunch right then it was going to be one of those days. 

  Today’s infield featured the double-Wilson look and Jack Wilson made several great plays at short and had 3 hits on the day. Josh Wilson on the other hand looked a little out-of-place at first and had a throwing error there. More importantly the Paper Boy had more than one chance to deliver at the plate, though he did score a run in the 7th after reaching base on an odd squibber to first and eventually was driven home off the bat of a Jack Wilson double. This game was tense the whole way and the noisy Cubs fans seemed to be riding on every pitch as most of our fans cheered their boys on in a more passive NW style. The loudest reception from the Cubs fans was reserved for Milton Bradley who came in to pinch-hit in the 9th. Bradley did manage to get a walk and was moved to second on a single by Jack Wilson. But once again the clutch-hit was nowhere to be found as Michael Saunders struck out and Ichiro grounded out leaving the winning run at second. 

   Once again in the bottom of the 10th the Mariners had a golden opportunity to score the winning run but failed to produce. In this case both Figgins and Sweeney walked to lead-off the inning followed by a Jose Lopez strike out. With Gutierrez at the plate the Mariners pulled of a double steal that brought Lou Piniella charging out of the dugout to argue the call. This was a critical juncture in the game and the play was indeed close from my point of view. It was a beautiful sight to see old Sweet Lou out there giving the third base umpire hell. Indeed it was probably the only time both the Mariners and Cubs fans were cheering together. I took the above photo of Lou knowing it may be the last time I ever see him in action so I apologize for the poor shot but I had to capture his spirit one more time. 

    After Lou settled down Gutierrez received a free-pass to load the bases with only one out. But on a day where it just wasn’t meant to be-both Josh Wilson and Alfonso went down on strikes. Brandon League came into pitch the 11th and 12th and kept us in this one with a marvelous outing, including striking out the side in the 12th. I am not sure why Wakamatsu didn’t leave him out to pitch the 13th, and indeed it proved fatal as Garret Olson and Sean White allowed the Cubs to score the go-ahead run on a single by Byrd scoring Soriano from second on a poor throw by Ichiro. The Mariners did get a runner on in the bottom half of the 13th on a Jack Wilson single, however he died there as Michael Saunders completed his 0-6 day with a final strike out to end the game. 

   So the streak is over after this long but interesting game and now it is on the road again starting with a series against the Brewers. Today’s game was the real deal and though we did not prevail it has been a great series with the Cubs that we won 2-1. I imagine the trade talks will really heat-up now especially with Eric Bedard coming back soon. We still have a lot of baseball ahead of us and as today’s game proved it aint over till the fat lady sings. http://jeffsmariners.com

Mariners give Chicago the blues 2-0

Jeff and date at Wrigley Field for Mariners game 2007

  The Seattle Mariners won the first game of a three game series at home against the visiting Chicago Cubs 2-0.The Mariners won for their fifth win in a row against former Mariners manager Lou Piniella and the crew from the windy city. Jason Vargas improved his record to 6-2 with his third consecutive win using his change-up to keep the Cubs off-balance in their first trip to Safeco in eight years. As usual the Cubs had a sizeable group of fans at the game tonight and they lived-up to their reputation with cat-calls and boos for Milton Bradley who was a bust with the Cubs. Unfortunately Carlos Silva will not be pitching Thursday as planned so the Mariners fans won’t be able to give him a little welcome back reception of his own. It always amazes how tolerant Seattle fans are when the transplants come out in force for the big East Coast Teams visits to Seattle. As you can see by the picture above I made a trip to Wrigley field three years ago, where I was treated rather poorly by the grumpy Cubs fans. Of course it has been 102 years since the Cubs have won a World Series so I guess they have a right to be a little edgy.

   Tonight the Mariners were able to sneak by the Cubs with great starting pitching by Vargas, good support from the pen, and a 2-run homer off the bat of Franklin Gutierrez in the bottom of the second for the games only runs. It appears that the Mariners would fit right into the National League with their strong starting pitching and good defense. Of course at some point the offense will need to produce more than they have in this 5-game streak, but for now it is just nice to watch our starters baffle the hitters on these NL Clubs. Unfortunately the Texas Rangers won again tonight behind the bat of red-hot Josh Hamilton and so the Mariners remain 13 games back in the AL West. We are closing in on the Oakland A’s however who are 9 games out of first. The way we are playing now it is possible that the M’s could overtake the A’s before the All-Star break which would be a huge moral victory for this club and its loyal fans.

   I heard Jack Zduriencik on the radio before the game and he sounded a lot less evasive and was actually quite honest about the fact that things have not gone as expected this year. I think Jack Z. like a lot of us, sort of hit an emotional bottom a few weeks ago and is now just taking it day by day. Cliff Lee is pitching tomorrow and as we all know Jack Z. is the man who will ultimately be responsible for the decision on whether to trade him or let him go. I have made my opinions known how I feel on this situation and after hearing our GM’s calm and frank demeanor today I am feeling much better on how the situation will be handled.

   If the Cubs felt bad about losing tonight to Jason Vargas, wait till they try to score some runs off our back to back Aces coming their way. Yes indeed tomorrow its Cliff Lee, followed by Felix on Thursday for a day game. Summer comes late in Seattle but when it gets here there is no place in the world this old sailor would rather be, especially with two Aces up your sleeve….http://jeffsmariners.com

 *note I have made some modifications to my Blog after hearing from some of the readers. I hope this new format is easier to read and more user-friendly. Let me know what you think.

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