Piniella approaching milestone victory

Piniella approaching milestone victory

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' recent struggles have delayed Lou Piniella from reaching another milestone in his long managerial career. Entering Saturday's game against Pittsburgh, Sweet Lou stood at 1,799 victories as a big league skipper, a job he's held down for five teams over 25 years.

His first managing gig came in 1986, when he took over the Yankees from the late Billy Martin. Did he expect to last this long?

"No, I didn't, but 1,800 wins is a lot of wins," Piniella said. "I've been fortunate. I've had good health and I've always been employed. I've had good players to work with and really good coaching staffs.

"I'm appreciative of everybody that has contributed to my success and the organizations that have hired me."

Piniella has been around long enough that among his players on those '86 Yankees were Tommy John, whose name became more synonymous with a medical procedure than pitching, and Ken Griffey -- no, not the veteran currently playing in Seattle, but his father.

Piniella stands 14th on the all-time wins list for managers, which is topped by the 3,731 victories accumulated by Connie Mack over 53 seasons, ending in 1950. Just three active managers -- Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre- -- have more wins. All of those skippers have flourished despite the rapid evolution of the game over the past three decades, not to mention the proliferation of the media.

"It's changed in a lot of ways, really," Piniella said. "As a manager, you have to adapt to the changes. Guys that managed before me, the old-school guys, it would have been very difficult.

"It's the same thing as regular life, really. Things in sports change, things in life change, and you have to adapt to it."

Some may have once considered the Cubs' manager -- who has a long history of spirited displays in both the dugout and in the interview room -- as a potential burnout candidate. Nevertheless, here he is with a quarter of a century wrestling with relievers and umpires under his belt. Is it still fun?

"It's a ball!" Piniella said emphatically, drawing laughter from reporters.

Longtime National League manager Bill McKechnie, whose career ended in 1946, is the next target for Piniella on the wins list at 1,896 victories.

Bradford Doolittle is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.