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When asked why he didn’t step down immediately, Piniella shot back, “Why? I signed here for four years. I’m going to honor the contract.”

Entering Tuesday’s game against Houston, Piniella’s overall record was 1,826-1,691 (.519). He trails only Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre in victories among active managers. The Cubs said Piniella will retire as the 14th-winningest manager in major league history.

Piniella’s record with the Cubs was 307-271. Under the mellowed skipper, Chicago won consecutive NL Central titles in 2007-08, but missed the playoffs last year and has struggled again this season with a new owner in charge.

The Cubs have gone 102 years without a World Series title.

“It’s got to be a lot of pressure,” All-Star outfielder Marlon Byrd said. “It’s got to take a toll. Everybody wants to come here and win a championship. You assume you’re going to do it, you’re going to be the guy to come in here and help this team win it. … It can take a toll on you, but at the same time, he hasn’t given up _ not one bit.”

A right-handed outfielder, Piniella was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1969 after batting .282 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs with the Royals. He was traded to the Yankees in 1973 and ended his playing career with New York in 1984.

In all, he played 18 years in the majors _ 11 with the Yankees _ and was a career .291 hitter.

Piniella began managing in 1986 with the Yankees and lasted three years, including a stint as general manager. He managed the Reds from 1990-92, leading them to a World Series championship in his first season. He also got national attention for a clubhouse wrestling match with reliever Rob Dibble.

Dibble, part of the “Nasty Boys” bullpen, said Piniella “was one of us.” He downplayed their 1992 tussle as overblown.

“We butted heads once. It’s way more famous than it should be. We’ve been family ever since,” Dibble said. “During batting practice every day, Lou would go to every guy just to see how you were doing _ not as a player, but as a person. I’ll always respect him for that. I always thought that was one of the best qualities about him, that he always cared about you as a person first, a baseball player second.”

After Cincinnati, Piniella had a long run in Seattle, where his teams won at least 90 games four times. The Mariners went 116-46 in 2001, but lost in the AL championship series to the Yankees. His 1995 and 2000 Mariners teams also fell in the ALCS.

“For me, he’s obviously a Hall of Fame manager and a great player,” said Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who played for Piniella from 1994-2000 in Seattle. “He is a rare breed, a rare combination of a guy that played and played in New York, won a championship, and is proven and is tough _ and is from Florida like me. I just have a lot of love and admiration for Lou.”

Piniella won 93 games his final season with the Mariners in 2002 before heading home to his native Tampa. But he questioned Tampa Bay’s commitment to winning before the team bought out the final year of his four-year contract.

The Cubs won 97 games under Piniella in 2008, but were swept out of the playoffs for the second straight year and it’s been mostly downhill since that successful run.

Reds manager Dusty Baker, who was in the Cubs‘ dugout before Piniella took over, said he was surprised by the timing of the announcement.

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