CINCINNATI — CINCINNATI'S Lou Piniella should not only be voted NL Manager of the Year but the top skipper in the majors as well. In a year when he switched to a new league as well as to a new team, he won the pennant despite the spring training lockout and his star, Eric Davis, having his worst year. Now Piniella's familiarity with the AL and Oakland will be an advantage in the World Series.
The Oakland ballclub is so good it's taking the fun out of it for everybody else. When the A's, who were already the best team in the majors, added Willie McGee and Harold Baines on the same day in August, they made the rest of the season almost pointless. You can't pick against 'em in the Series.
* One more reason why Loyola College breezed to the Choice-Visa lacrosse championship -- in addition to having had the best team in the tournament -- is the contribution of ex-Johns Hopkins coach Don Zimmerman, now an assistant with the Greyhounds. Says Loyola coach Dave Cottle: "Donnie is a great X's and O's man. I can already see the difference he's making with our kids. I learn little things from him every day." It'll be interesting to see how Loyola does in an exhibition game Friday at NCAA champion Syracuse.
* Maryland's winning record in football (4-3) is little short of miraculous. The Terps, who were expected to have a lousy season, are playing the sixth toughest schedule in the country. Only Michigan, Notre Dame, Colorado, Texas and UCLA have tougher ones. The Terps will be on the road the rest of the way at Duke, Carolina, Penn State and Virginia.
* Easton's Frank Mason Jr. writes to say he visited Cooperstown, N.Y., this summer and came away with great respect for the game and the people who are there. Mason, whose father was a physician for the Pirates in the Depression, remembers players such as Honus Wagner, Pie Traynor and the Waner brothers attending beer parties at his home. Of the men whose plaques are on the wall at the Hall of Fame, Mason says: "Many were hell raisers . . . and had problems with the law [drunk driving, alcohol PTC abuse, sued civilly] but there was not one felon present. Most were good examples to our children. I can't believe the sportswriters and baseball want to elect Pete Rose to the Hall."
* The Maryland area college teams that played the Orioles' Instructional League club this fall are agreed that the most famous of the young O's is Pete Rose Jr. But many of the collegians thought the O's best major-league prospect was shortstop Manny Alexander, who played this year at Frederick.
* Dr. William Howard, director of the Sports Medicine Clinic at Union Memorial Hospital, did something unusual last weekend. At least it's unusual for a 56-year-old man. He went back in the Army. He reported to Fort Campbell, Ky., in response to Operation Desert Shield. "It's something to do," said the rugby-playing medic.
* It's not surprising if you know Joe Paterno that the Penn State coach added Galen Hall to his staff after Hall was fired by Florida for technical NCAA rules violations. It's like Joe to give somebody a chance to get back on his feet. What is surprising is that Hall, who played for Penn State from '59-'61, looks older than Paterno. Joe is 63, plans to coach until he's 70 and looks as if he'll have no trouble doing it.
* Ask 10 people at random at Harborplace if they can identify Clyde Drexler and chances are none of them will know he's the Portland NBA player. Yet Drexler has the highest one-year contract ever given an athlete -- $8 million for '95-'96. Just shows one again how ridiculous sports salaries have become.
* Ballots are due tomorrow for the Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The No. 1 guy on mine once again is Arly Marshall, a lacrosse pioneer at Southern High in the '50s, All-American at Johns Hopkins, Maryland Lacrosse Club star and coach and this year coach of the U.S. team that won the World Games in Australia. What more does a man have to do?