Skip to content

Reviewing the good and bad of today’s Hall of Fame vote

Dec 9, 2013, 4:33 PM EDT

Bobby Cox cigar

First the good news: Three managers, all deserving and perhaps even overqualified, were elected into the Hall of Fame on Monday. If you are going to have managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame — and you are — then Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre are all obviously deserving Hall of Famers.

– Cox managed the Atlanta Braves to an astonishing 14 consecutive division titles (not counting the 1994 strike year), which is one of the great accomplishments in the history of baseball. His great strength, it always seemed to me, was his ability to keep his team focused and looking forward all the time. Losing streaks, winning streaks, major injuries, big trades — you walked into that Atlanta clubhouse and it was always the same. Sure, the Braves were fortunate to have Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz healthy for years, but they won before Maddux, they won after Glavine, they won before Chipper Jones, they won after David Justice, they won with a bunch of different closers. And yet, somehow, that team was always the same in some overriding way.

– La Russa led three different teams to division championships, managed the Oakland A’s to three consecutive pennants from 1988 to 1990 and won two World Series in St. Louis. La Russa’s great strength was different from Cox’s; he was a strategist, first and foremost, and while his constant tinkering and pitching changes could become annoying for observers — he used to drive me nuts as a fan sometimes — I think it inspired a deep confidence in his players. They knew La Russa would never rest on them. If the team was up five, he would still match-up lefties in the eighth to protect the lead. There’s something powerful in knowing that your manager is trying harder to win than anybody else.

– Torre led the New York Yankees to four World Series championships in five years and two more pennants beyond that. Torre’s great strength, I think, was just being Joe Torre. He was a borderline Hall of Fame player, he is an extremely likable man, he commands respect. Torre was famously canned three times before he got the Yankees job — he did some decent work with those three teams (particularly in Atlanta, where he led the Braves to a division title) but he was certainly not viewed as a great manager. Nobody in New York was too thrilled when he got the job. But it turned out to be one of the great three-way marriages in sports history — Torre’s modesty and decency combined with an extraordinary collection of young talent combined with George Steinbrenner’s uncontrollable competitiveness proved to be unbeatable for a half decade. They didn’t always get along, things didn’t always seem to be going smoothly, but they won in the end. Torre also was an excellent postseason manager, always willing to grab the moment, something I think Bobby Cox sometimes did not do.

So all three of them are in the Hall of Fame, and that’s absolutely right. Congratulations to the Veteran’s Committee for getting the obvious ones (and apparently all three were elected unanimously).

Sadly, though, that’s all the Veteran’s Committee did this time around. The obvious. And while managers are important, the Hall of Fame is mainly about baseball players. Once again, no baseball players were elected.

Ever since a different format Veteran’s Committee controversially elected Bill Mazeroski in 2001 — we’re taking a dozen years ago now — the Veteran’s Committees have been gun shy. They have elected exactly one player from the last 70 years. One. They have elected:

– Long ago Pirates owner Barney Dreyfus.
– Famously ineffective commissioner Bowie Kuhn.
– Manager Dick Williams.
– Second baseman Joe Gordon, who retired in 1950.
– Umpire Doug Harvey
– General manager Pat Gillick
– Umpire Hank O’Day
– Long ago Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert
– 19th century catcher Deacon White
– Cubs third baseman Ron Santo.

That’s it. Only Santo is a baseball player from the last seventy years. I’m not saying the others don’t belong — well, I am saying that about Kuhn, but the rest all have their case — I’m saying: Who cares? Well, maybe thats harsh. People care about the Baseball Hall of Fame for a whole bunch of reasons, and maybe one of those is to learn about all these people who influenced the game without playing.

But, I’m betting, a bigger reason is that the Hall of Fame validates our memories of great baseball players. Was my childhood hero a great player? Well, look, he’s right there in the Hall of Fame. This is why so many people travel to little Cooperstown to see their heroes get inducted or to see their plaque on the wall. Doug Harvey was a fine umpire, and he might belong in the Hall of Fame, but who but his family will go to the Hall of Fame to have their photo taken with that plaque? Where are the players?

This year’s crop of Expansion Era players could have been better. It could have included Dwight Evans and Lou Whitaker and Bobby Grich and Graig Nettles and Dale Murphy and Rick Reuschel and David Cone and others. But, as it was, there were some really good players on the ballot. Dan Quisenberry. Tommy John. Dave Parker. Ted Simmons. I think Veterans Committees in general are afraid to add baseball players to the Hall. And because of it, I think the Hall is stagnating.

And … a few words on Marvin Miller. It goes without saying that if you are going to elect people into the Hall of Fame who were not players or managers — people like Jacob Ruppert and Barney Dreyfus and, ugh, Bowie Kuhn — then leaving Marvin Miller out is probably the greatest Hall of Fame injustice. His influence on the game was so titanic that people STILL argue about it.

That said, I thought Bill James made a great point: He pointed out that at the end of his life Miller was so embittered by the whole Hall of Fame experience that he said, on numerous occasions, he did not want to be elected. In a way, it would be disrespectful to vote him into the Hall of Fame against his wishes shortly after his death. Marvin Miller was the ultimate outsider — that’s what allowed him to change the game. Maybe it’s a more fitting tribute, in an odd way, for him to NOT be in the Hall of Fame.

One more thing: This year Joe Garagiola won the Buck O’Neil Award — the Hall of Fame’s award, given every three years, to the person who best represents the baseball values of Buck. Garagiola is the third person to win it, after Buck himself and scout, general manager and baseball lifer Roland Hemond. There’s a little bit of noise here, but I think in the end Buck would be proud that Garagiola won the award.

You might know that Garagiola lived a bit of a checkered baseball life. He famously stepped on Jackie Robinson’s foot in 1947, Robinson’s first year, leading to a major argument and questions about Garagiola’s character. He testified against Curt Flood in a trial (he has often talked about how wrong he was). He has, at times, seemed on the wrong side of arguments.

But Buck always said that it is the man you become after you make the mistakes that matters. Garagiola brought great joy to people’s lives as a baseball announcer. He is a powerful voice against chewing tobacco. He was not a great player — he was famously traded four times in an eight-man league — but he dedicated his life to the game. Whenever someone would talk about Garagiola stepping on Robinson, Buck would say, ‘No, no, no, Joe’s a good man. There was a lot of tension back then. Joe’s a good man.”

Latest Posts
  1. Eduardo Rodriguez dazzles in major league debut

    May 28, 2015, 11:39 PM EDT

    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 28:  Eduardo Rodriguez #52 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Texas Rangers in the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 28, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Red Sox prospect left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings in his major league debut against the Rangers on Thursday.

  2. Rockies prospect David Dahl requires surgery on spleen after outfield collision

    May 28, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT

    rockies logo

    Rockies prospect David Dahl suffered a “massive laceration” in his spleen following an outfield collision Thursday and required season-ending surgery.

  3. Video: Josh Hamilton doubles in first at-bat back in Texas since returning to Rangers

    May 28, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT

    ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 28:  Josh Hamilton #32 of the Texas Rangers smiles on base after hitting a double against the Boston Red Sox in the second inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on May 28, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton got a rousing ovation from the home crowd in his return to Texas.

  4. Diamondbacks expected to call up Jarrod Saltalamacchia on Friday

    May 28, 2015, 9:05 PM EDT

    Miami Marlins v New York Mets Getty Images

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia was cut loose by the Marlins earlier this month after proving to be a disappointment in his three-year, $21 million contract, but the Diamondbacks are ready to give him a shot.

  5. MRI shows no structural damage in Scott Kazmir’s shoulder

    May 28, 2015, 8:22 PM EDT

    OAKLAND, CA - MAY 17:  Scott Kazmir #26 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago White Sox in the top of the first inning at O.co Coliseum on May 17, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Kazmir left his start yesterday against the Tigers after three innings with shoulder tightness, but it sounds like he might not have to miss much time.

  6. Masahiro Tanaka expected to rejoin Yankees next week

    May 28, 2015, 7:40 PM EDT

    WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: Pitcher Masahiro Tanaka #19 of the New York Yankees works out prior to the Yankees baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Washington Nationals/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Tanaka has been sidelined since April 23 due to a right forearm strain and right wrist tendinitis.

  7. Struggling David Ortiz will get a couple of days off to work on his swing

    May 28, 2015, 7:01 PM EDT

    <> during the sixth inning at Fenway Park on May 24, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. Getty Images

    The 39-year-old Ortiz has just one hit in his last 20 at-bats and is batting an uncharacteristic .216/.303/.377 with six home runs and 18 RBI across his first 43 games this season.

  8. Indians place Carlos Santana on paternity leave list

    May 28, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    carlos santana getty Getty Images

    The Indians placed Santana on the paternity leave list Thursday following the birth of his daughter.

  9. Daniel Nava goes on the disabled list with a sprained thumb

    May 28, 2015, 4:52 PM EDT

    ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Getty Images

    Nava has struggled all season, hitting just .159 with zero homers.

  10. Chris Sale dominates the Orioles

    May 28, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Seven and two-thirds innings, 12 strikeouts and nothin’ else doin’.

  11. Pirates top-100 prospect Nick Kingham undergoes Tommy John surgery

    May 28, 2015, 12:50 PM EDT

    Nick Kingham Pirates AP

    Kingham cracked top-100 prospect lists last season and this season.

  12. Jon Jay ready to return, will add to Cardinals’ outfield logjam

    May 28, 2015, 12:16 PM EDT

    jon jay getty Getty Images

    Jay has been out since May 10 with a wrist injury.

  13. The Big Unit: Wide Angle Watcher

    May 28, 2015, 11:53 AM EDT

    Rush

    I don’t do requests and even if I did, I would’t do Rush requests. But you all have broken me down.

  14. Grant Balfour is leaning toward retirement

    May 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Grant Balfour Getty Images

    He just opted out of his deal with Tampa Bay.

  15. Alex Rodriguez is the all-time AL RBI champion. Sorta.

    May 28, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez pumps his fist as he runs the bases after breaking Willie Mays' record on the all-time home run list after hitting his 661st home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in New York, Thursday, May 7, 2015.  (AP Photo/Kathy Willens) AP

    Where is the asterisk-applying crowd when you need ’em?

  16. The Brewers Double-A team’s 55-game road trip is actually going quite well

    May 28, 2015, 9:19 AM EDT

    Old Bus

    In other news, Taco Bell restaurants in Southern League towns are experiencing record sales.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. J. Hamilton (3458)
  2. D. Wright (2935)
  3. J. Lucroy (2779)
  4. A. Garcia (2696)
  5. Y. Puig (2661)
  1. J. Cueto (2652)
  2. R. Castillo (2513)
  3. M. Adams (2507)
  4. P. Fielder (2351)
  5. B. Harper (2315)