By The Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella announced Tuesday that he will retire at the end of the season, ending a storied and often colorful career that included 18 years in the majors as a player and another 22 as a manager.
The 66-year-old Piniella, who has reached the World Series five times in his career and has three championship rings, said he was looking forward to spending more time with his family.
“I’ve grown to love the city and the fans but at my age it will be time to enter a new phase in my life,” Piniella said in a statement released by the team.
Announcing his retirement now, Piniella added, gives the team time to find a replacement.
“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.”
Entering Tuesday night’s game against Houston, Piniella’s overall record was 1,826-1,691 (.519) and he trails only Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre in victories among active managers. The Cubs said Piniella will retire as the 14th-winningest manager in major league history.
His record with the Cubs was 307-271, and he is in the fourth and final year of his contract. After leading the Cubs to consecutive NL Central titles in 2007-08, Piniella and his team missed the playoffs last year and have struggled again this season with a new owner, the Ricketts family, in charge. The Cubs have gone 102 years without a World Series title.
A right-handed outfielder, Piniella was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 after batting .282, 11 home runs and 68 RBIs with the Royals. He was traded to the Yankees in 1973 and ended his playing career with New York in 1984.
In all, Piniella played 18 years in the majors — 11 with the Yankees — and was a career .291 hitter.
He began managing in 1986 with the Yankees and lasted three years, including a stint as general manager. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. He also got national attention for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble.
From there it was on to a long run in Seattle, where his teams won at least 90 games four times. The Mariners went 116-46 in 2001, but lost in the ALCS to the Yankees. His 1995 and 2000 Mariners teams also fell in the league championship series.
Piniella won 93 games his final season with the Mariners in 2002 before heading home to his native Tampa but had a difference of opinion with ownership, questioning the Devil Rays’ commitment to winning before they bought out the final year of his four-year contract.
In Chicago, Piniella’s arrival was part of a major overhaul that sent expectations soaring after a dismal 2006 season.
Chief executive officer Andy MacPhail resigned after the Cubs won just 66 games, ending a 12-year run that included only two postseason appearances. A day later, the Cubs announced they were not renewing manager Dusty Baker’s contract, and general manager Jim Hendry went shopping.
First, he picked out Piniella, who left the TV booth for a three-year contract worth nearly $10 million, with an option for a fourth year. Then, Hendry committed about $300 million for players.
The Cubs re-signed third baseman Aramis Ramirez for five years and $75 million and lured Alfonso Soriano with an eight-year $136 million deal, the fifth largest in major league history. They also added Ted Lilly to the starting rotation, but for all the big moves, the results were awfully familiar at first.
The low point came in a series against Atlanta in early June.
Pitcher Carlos Zambrano got into an altercation with former catcher Michael Barrett that started in the dugout and resumed in the clubhouse, resulting in fines for both players. The next day, Piniella got ejected for a dirt-kicking tirade against umpire Mark Wegner during a loss that left the Cubs at 22-31, resulting in a suspension.
From there, though, the Cubs turned things around.
They went on a run that led to the playoffs and kept it going the following year, going 97-64 — the most wins for the franchise since 1945.
Things have not been as good for Piniella and the Cubs since then. The team missed the playoffs last year and through Monday was 10½ games out of first place in the NL Central and 10 games under .500. Zambrano, the onetime ace, was in the minors after another tirade involving his teammates.