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Piniella enjoying the run
By Peter Gammons
Special to ESPN.com
NEW YORK -- Lou Piniella lunges back and forth as he talks. He takes a couple of steps forward, two back. His hands are always moving.
"I love every moment I get to talk baseball with Lou Piniella," Red Sox manager Jimy Williams says, "because of his passion. Don't get me wrong -- he's a fantastic baseball man. But that passion?
"He gets me pumped."
Piniella is older now. He's wiser, and he says he now knows "a manager can't be more emotional than his team."
He's considerably smarter now, too, partly because he manages in a pitchers' park. "People used to say I was tough on young pitchers, that I couldn't handle them," Piniella says. "But the Kingdome was tough on young pitchers. Throw the ball down, base hits skipping through. Get it up and the darned thing was out of the park. They couldn't handle the damn place."
As he prepares for the Mariners' second postseason clash with the Yankees -- his old team -- Piniella looks back at good times. And bad times -- such as managing for The Boss.
"He used to tell me, 'If you're going to get thrown out of a game, put on a show, let's get some people in the seats,' " Piniella remembers. "One time I was putting on a show, and I left my cap near homeplate so, for a grand finale, I could scoop it up and fire it into the stands as I left the field.
"Well, just as I spin around and go for the cap, the batboy picks it up and hands it to me saying, 'Mr. Piniella, you dropped your cap.'
"I screamed, 'gimme my damned prop.' "
Piniella always had a sense of the theatrical. In the fifth game of the '95 Division Series against the Yankees, Randy Johnson volunteered to be in the bullpen. Before the game, Johnson started wandering out toward the bullpen with the other relievers. "Hold it, big boy," Piniella screamed at him. "You're staying in the dugout until we need you, and I mean you."
Sure enough, in the seventh inning, Lou told Randy to walk to the bullpen, sending the Kingdome crowd into a frenzy. "Of course, he gave up the go-ahead run," Piniella says. "But we won the game and he got the win."
That victory essentially built Safeco Field and made Seattle into what Piniella calls "one of the best baseball towns in the country." ESPN Radio commentator Rob Dibble was in a Seattle restaurant after the Mariners closed out Chicago when Piniella came in -- and got a standing ovation.
When former Mariners general manager Woody Woodward hired Piniella in 1993, it was a brilliant move because it made the franchise. There have been the good times and the rocky times -- two division titles, plenty of controversy. Woodward has been replaced. Johnson is gone. Ken Griffey Jr. is gone.
Piniella remains. And he's excited about the ALCS.
One of the major moves in Woodward's final two years -- trading Johnson to Houston -- is at work in this series. The two pitchers who came in the Houston deal -- Freddy Garcia and John Halama -- are pitching Games 1 and 2 at Yankee Stadium. "And don't forget the guy who got the bunt down (Carlos Guillen, whose bunt single won Game 3 against Chicago) was also in that trade," Piniella says.
And what about the young pitchers? Garcia and Halama each has just two full years in the bigs.
There are a lot of intriguing factors to this series, especially since Denny Neagle opens it for the Yanks. Joe Torre has set it up so Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens are flip-flopped from their rotation order of the Oakland series, but he denies the fact that the only three games the Yanks have lost in their last 24 postseason outings have been started by Clemens had anything to do with the change. Piniella thinks this series will be won in the bullpen. He laments the loss of Jamie Moyer because he'd hoped to use Paul Abbott out of the bullpen three or four times, and he admits the matchups are a lot tougher with the Yanks because of their switch-hitters and left-handed hitters.
On the NL side
You know what? The Bill DeWitt/Walt Jocketty/Tony La Russa/Mark McGwire Cardinals are getting their due. A player like Jim Edmonds didn't just appear out of nowhere. What knocks he had against him were because he sometimes didn't understand what rubbed teammates the wrong way, and that wasn't his fault. But after a lot of injuries and self-doubts, would Edmonds have become one of the best players in the league without McGwire?
Don't forget, Jason Giambi still credits McGwire for the success this A's team has had. Oh yes. McGwire didn't just appear in St. Louis -- he is there because of La Russa and Jocketty.
The best baseball town in America is on top again because of the people on top.
Holes in the Sox
The ideal situation is to get Tom Gordon back and use him on a limited schedule as an eighth-inning partner to Rich Garces. Gordon knows Williams, Kerrigan and bullpen coach John Cumberland will protect him, but there are issues with Dan Duquette and management at this point.
Minor league meanderings
American National Chicago 27 Philadelphia 25 Oakland 25 Chicago 24 Seattle 24 San Diego 22 Texas 21 Montreal 22 Tampa Bay 19 Houston 22 Minnesota 18 Atlanta 21 Toronto 16 Colorado 19 Detroit 12 New York 18 Boston 11 Arizona 15 Kansas City 11 San Fransisco 14 Anaheim 11 Cincinnati 14 Cleveland 10 Florida 14 New York 9 Pittsburgh 14 Baltimore 9 St. Louis 14 Milwaukee 11 Los Angeles 7
Teams got 5 points for full-season prospects ranked 1-3, four for 4-6, three for 6-10. They got 2 for each Double-A and Triple-A prospect ranked 11-20, one point for each player ranked in the top 10 in short-season leagues and one additional point for the top prospect in short season leagues.
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