By Kirby Arnold
Lou Piniella doesn’t need another award to remind him of the job he did this year, but he might want to clear some space in the trophy room anyway.
The American League Manager of the Year will be announced today, and don’t be surprised if Piniella gets it.
His main competition includes Art Howe of Oakland and Tom Kelly of Minnesota, but can anyone win this award other than the man who led the Seattle Mariners to a major league record-tying 116 victories?
The Sporting News didn’t think so two weeks ago when it named Piniella its manager of the year in a vote of American League managers. Results of voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America will be announced this morning, and Piniella will wait for word with all the excitement of a guy who’s more eager to make it to his tee time.
"I haven’t thought about it, really," he said. "When I was named The Sporting News Manager of the Year I was very happy with that because it is picked by your peers. That makes it special."
Piniella passed the 1,200-victory mark as a manager this year and now has 1,226. The past two seasons, he has won 207 games with a stretch of small ball and strategic maneuvering that has quieted critics who said the depth of his managerial knowledge didn’t go beyond waiting for a three-run homer.
"We’ve been able to mix and match very well and we’ve had some versatility," he said. "We’ve gone a little more the past couple years to a running ballclub, which I enjoy managing."
Piniella seems prouder that his players give 100 percent effort.
"I respect my players a lot, and in turn they give myself and my staff respect," he said. "We get them to play. We create a very comfortable environment. We emphasize that winning is important and giving maximum effort every day is important."
Who’s the MVP? Piniella seems more intrigued by the Most Valuable Player voting, which will be announced on Tuesday. He predicts the MVP will be Bret Boone, Ichiro Suzuki or Jason Giambi.
"I think it will be one of those three players, and I’d be very disappointed if it wasn’t one of our guys," Piniella said.
He fears that Boone and Suzuki might split the first-place votes and open the door to someone else.
"I think whoever gets the most second-place votes will probably win this thing because all three guys are going to get first-place votes," he said.
Mariners center fielder Mike Cameron says Suzuki is without question the MVP of the team but easily could lose the league award to Boone.
"Boonie more so on a national basis because he had the big home runs, and that stands out," Cameron said. "But Ichiro brought it to the park every day. If it wasn’t for Ichiro, there wouldn’t have been as many opportunities for Boonie to drive in all those runs."
Speaking of MVP: Cameron says there could be another candidate for MVP next year: Mike Cameron.
"I’m definitely going to get better," said Cameron, who batted .267 for the second straight year but increased his RBI total from 78 to 110. "You can never say what you’re going to hit, but I’ve been on the horizon of really doing some MVP-type things. My focus is going to be on having a better swing on a day-in and day-out basis and cut down on my strikeouts. Once I do that, I’ll reach the level of the MVP race."
Location, location, location: The line of questioning from reporters and the responses from Ichiro Suzuki on Monday became the best game of where-am-I since "Where’s Waldo?" was popular.
During a conference call with reporters after Suzuki was named the American League Rookie of the Year, someone asked if he was in Japan.
"No," Suzuki said.
"In Seattle?" a reporter asked.
"Not Japan or Seattle," Suzuki responded.
"So where are you?"
"I am in neither place," he said.
Later, during another conference call with Mariners beat writers, someone asked again.
"Why won’t you tell us where you are?"
"Because it is not relevant to this award," Suzuki said.
End of questioning.
Flashback: How big was that 8-ball the Mariners stood behind in the ALCS against the Yankees?
Here’s how Piniella describes a health report that went far beyond the injured groin to Edgar Martinez, who was in pain just walking to the plate.
"His groin was really bothering him," Piniella said. "He wasn’t the only one. My third baseman (David Bell) had the sore ribs, my shortstop (Carlos Guillen) had tuberculosis and my left fielder (Al Martin) couldn’t throw a ball because of his elbow."
Other than that, the Mariners were in fine shape.