The Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays) have only had five managers in their twenty years of existence. With stats in one hand and opinion in the other, this Rays fan is ranking the managers from worst to first. Let’s have a look at who owns the sweet #3 spot…
#3: Lou Piniella (2003-2005, Devil Rays)
Games Managed: 485
Win-Loss Percentage: .412
Best Finish: 4th
Worst Finish: 5th
“Sweet Lou” Piniella returned to the city of his birth to lead the cellar-dwelling Devil Rays for the 2003 season.
The signing of the Tampa native and World Series-winning manager was a coup for ownership and a boom for fans. For the first time in the organization’s history, the Devil Rays would not have to break-in a new manager (Larry Rothschild) or rehabilitate a tarnished one (Hal McRae). The players would get the quality, veteran leadership that had seen the Cincinnati Reds to a World Championship in 1990 and the Seattle Mariners to a 116-win season in 2001. And the fans would get an exuberant, hometown hero they could hitch their “We want out of last place!” dreams to.
So why would a highly sought-after manager in the prime of his coaching career choose to dive into the Devil Rays’ mess?
“I wanted to come home, but I didn’t come home to retire,” Piniella told Sports Illustrated’’s Michael Bamberger in March of 2003.
Home, unfortunately, wasn’t an easy fit. A 63-99 season awaited Piniella at the end of Tampa Bay’s 2003 season.
Undaunted, the Devil Rays’ third manager in history became their first manager to lead them out of the cellar. A fourth place finish in 2004 gave Tampa Bay fans the shot of hope they’d been needing for six, long years.
Regrettably when 2005 rolled around all the momentum had fizzled out along with Piniella’s patience with the budget-conscious Devil Rays. Sweet Lou wanted to win now. The Devil Rays’ ownership had their eyes on winning later. By the end of September, the divorce became final and a buyout of his remaining contract was signed.
Lou Piniella left Tampa Bay to find success with the Chicago Cubs and his third Manager of the Year Award. And, in December of 2018, Piniella fell one vote shy of being inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Today’s Game Era Committee.
Want your voice heard? Join the Rays Colored Glasses team!
Memories of Lou Piniella are bittersweet for most Rays’ fans. Sweet Lou brought us hope, but we all wanted so much more.
Tomorrow, a familiar face takes the #2 spot on Tampa Bay’s Managerial High Five.