Bird's Eye View: Piniella the terror to retire
Published Monday, August 2, 2010 4:43PM EDT
The impending retirement of Lou Piniella marks the end of one of the greatest reigns of terror since Attila the Hun lorded it over an empire that extended from Germany to the Urals and the Baltic to the Black Sea. While Piniella can't quite match Attila's global reputation as the Scourge of God, he was at the very least the scourge of umpires, the media and any baseball players or even fans who found themselves on the wrong end of one of his patented tirades.
We're talking about a nasty piece of work here. It's one thing to not suffer fools gladly, but Piniella won't even tolerate intelligent questions from reporters who have the temerity to second guess his managerial decisions. He's not alone there - former Expos manager Felipe Alou was notoriously thin-skinned - but Piniella's ability to go from zero to crazy in two seconds flat makes asking him the tough questions an especially daunting task. He's also had verbal and even physical altercations with his own players.
Where Piniella takes apoplexy to the next level, though, is in his run-ins with umpires. If umpire-baiting is an art form, Piniella should have his own gallery. Any longtime baseball fan's list of the 10 most memorable managerial meltdowns is likely to include at least five Piniellas. He's still as crabby as ever, but at 66, Piniella no longer has the physical resolve to bring his special brand of umbrage to the ballpark six months out of the year, excluding spring training and the post-season.
For the record, Piniella also had a more-than-respectable playing career and won more games than he lost as a manager, but nothing he accomplished statistically compares to the reputation he carved as the da Vinci of Diamond Dustups. It's in that capacity that he'll be best-remembered and most sorely missed, among fans of a good rhubarb if not among the umpires themselves.