By MICHAEL J. MARTINEZ
SEATTLE – When Lou Piniella finished his last regular-season home game against the Texas Rangers, the Seattle Mariners manager went into the bathroom and cried.
“It might have been my last game there,” Piniella said today. “It was very emotional.”
Piniella figures to be at Safeco Field many more times, agreeing today to a three-year contract with the Mariners.
“We had a very successful season in Seattle, and we’re looking forward to building on that,” Piniella said. “I’ve been in Seattle for eight years, and there’s a lot of loyalty there.”
Last week, the Mariners offered a new contract worth about $6.5 million to $7 million over three years, according to several reports. Piniella reportedly earned $1.3 million last season and terms of the new deal were not immediately available.
“As he demonstrated again this year, Lou is one of the most talented managers in the game,” Seattle general manager Pat Gillick said. “There was never any doubt in our mind that Lou was coming back because I think this is where his loyalty was and where he wants to be.”
Mariners chief executive officer Howard Lincoln called signing the fiery Pineilla “our top priority.”
Under Piniella, the Mariners have been to the playoffs three times in six seasons. They won a franchise-best 91 games this year and beat the Chicago White Sox in their AL division series before losing in six games to the New York Yankees in the league championship series.
Piniella received permission this week to talk with the Cincinnati Reds, the team he managed to a World Series title in 1990. Media reports had Piniella going to Cincinnati if the Reds could match the Mariners’ offer.
However, Piniella said Cincinnati never made a final offer, and he made the decision to return to Seattle without knowing what the Reds might do.
“They’ve told my agent that I was their number one choice and they were trying to put a package together,” Piniella said. “But as I told Howard, it could have been zero and it could’ve been $10 million. I don’t know. It never got that far.”
Piniella said he thought Cincinnati was “a great baseball town” and voiced his support for Reds general manager Jim Bowden.
“There’s a lot of good things about the Reds organization, and I wish them the best of luck,” Piniella said. “I’m just happy to get this situation done. I had to make a decision.”
Piniella and Gillick said their next priority would be signing All-Star shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who became a free agent Monday and will likely break baseball’s record for average salary, a mark currently held by Toronto’s Carlos Delgado at $17 million.
“We’ve got to get Alex signed,” Piniella said. “Everything else will be handled as the winter goes on, but that’s the first thing we have to do.”
Piniella, whose tenure in Seattle was occasionally marked with outbursts on and off the field, praised Seattle’s fans, his staff and Safeco Field, the Mariners’ new ballpark, and said he looked forward to the next three years.
“When you talk about Seattle now, our organization, it’s in the top ten and probably closer to the top five or six of all the organizations in baseball, especially with the fan support that we get and the ballpark,” said Piniella, who previously managed the Yankees and Reds. “I’ve enjoyed it there, and we love the town. You’re not going to find a nicer city to work in.”
The only drawback, Piniella said, was the lengthy flight between Seattle and his home in Tampa, Fla. He credited his wife of 33 years, Anita, with having the patience to deal with the time away from home.
“It’s harder for her than for anybody else. She’s the one who makes it work,” Piniella said. “She’s a special lady and I’m very happy to have her as my wife.”
And how did Sweet Lou plan to celebrate his new contract?
“I’m going to take my granddaughter trick-or-treating,” he said.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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