Piniella may return home to manage Tampa Giants

October 07, 1992|By Bill Madden | Bill Madden,New York Daily News

TORONTO -- After three tumultuous seasons (and one World Series title) in Cincinnati, Lou Piniella has decided to go home.

Piniella resigned as manager of the Reds yesterday, following a bittersweet season in which he won 90 games with an injury-riddled team but finished a distant second to the Atlanta Braves in the National League West. Upon tendering his resignation to Reds owner Marge Schott in a four-hour meeting Monday, Piniella drove from Cincinnati to his home in Allendale, N.J., to ponder his options.

Among those could be a return to his real home -- Tampa, Fla. -- if the proposed sale and relocation of the Giants from San Francisco to Tampa/St. Petersburg is approved as expected by the owners in the next couple of weeks.

The ownership committee is reportedly ready to approve the Tampa-St. Petersburg group and send its OK to the National League for a vote later this week.)

The current Giants manager, Roger Craig, has said he would not go with the team to Florida, and it has been learned from sources close to the Tampa/St. Petersburg group attempting to buy the club that Piniella is at the top of the list of managerial candidates, if it gets the team.

But all that is premature. Yesterday, Piniella, contacted by phone at home, would say only that he had resigned from the Reds "because it was probably time for a change there."

According to Piniella, the parting with Schott was "amicable" and that, unlike his 2 1/2 seasons as Yankees manager under George Steinbrenner, there was no discord between he and the tight-fisted and often-irascible Reds owner.

"I had a fine working relationship with Marge," said Piniella, 49. "I just felt it was time. I have nothing but good feelings about her and the Reds. I've got nothing bad to say about anything, the city, the fans, the organization, the owner. It was a good three years. I enjoyed the town, the people and the players. When I met with Marge yesterday [Monday], she was hoping to change my mind."

Even without the possibility of managing in his native Tampa, this last year of his contract in Cincinnati was particularly trying for Piniella. A series of trades in the off-season that brought in all-purpose man Bip Roberts and pitchers Greg Swindell and Tim Belcher appeared to have transformed the Reds into pennant contenders again.

But those best-laid plans were stymied by long-term injuries to Chris Sabo, Hal Morris and Tom Browning as well as at least one injury to every Reds regular except Roberts. The team's frustrations came to a head last month when Piniella and his ace reliever, Rob Dibble, engaged in a heated clubhouse brawl and had to be pulled apart by shocked players.

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