By In Stuff

Today’s Game Ballot

Let’s begin with a complaint: I really don’t like Hall of Fame ballots that feature different kinds of candidates. Take the Today’s Game Ballot. This is the newest incarnation of the Hall of Fame Veteran’s Committee — these days it is a 16-person panel, and they will vote on a ballot with 10 people on it. Any of the nominees that get 12 votes (or 75%) will get elected to the Hall of Fame. It seems straightforward enough.

Only, it isn’t. As I’ve written before, the math doesn’t really add up.

But there’s something else going on here, something that I think the Hall of Fame might want to think about.

Let’s start with the reasons why the Veteran’s Committees have existed through the years. I think it comes down to two:

1. They are supposed to fix the “mistakes” made by the Baseball Writers Association of America. That is to say they are supposed to give overlooked players like Arky Vaughan a second look. Through the years, the Veteran’s Committee has put in 69 players the BBWAA rejected for one reason or another. Some, like Ron Santo and Jim Bunning just missed in the BBWAA voting. Some, like Ron Santo and Pee Wee Reese and Phil Rizzuto, were longtime arguments. And some like Travis Jackson, George Kelly, Rick Ferrell, Jim Bottomley, Rube Marquard, Jesse Haines, on and on, are kind of inexplicable.

In any case, this is the first job of the Veteran’s Committee — to right perceived wrongs.

2. The Committee is supposed to induct all those baseball contributors who are beyond the purview of the BBWAA. Through the years, this has included players before 1900 and Negro Leagues players, managers, owners, front office members, umpires and various other sorts like Candy Cummings, who may or may not have invented the curveball (not) or Henry Chadwick who was so influential as a baseball writer.

These are both noble aims. The trouble comes, I think, when you mix up the two.

And that’s what the Today’s Game ballot does. On the ballot are five players,  two managers, a general manager, an owner and Bud Selig. This puts the Committee in the somewhat preposterous position of determining whether George Steinbrenner or Mark McGwire was better at his job, whether Will Clark was better at playing baseball than Davey Johnson was at managing it, whether Orel Hershiser, John Schuerholz or Bud Selig contributed more to the game. It’s kind of ridiculous.

But more: It utterly diminishes the PLAYERS’ contribution to baseball.

Why the players? Well, it’s because we have stats to judge players. We have eyes to judge players. We have context to judge players. Knowing you as I do , I can tell that you have a strong opinion about Al Kaline vs. Roberto Clemente or Greg Maddux vs. Roger Clemens. You probably don’t care quite as much about Hank O’Day vs. Doug Harvey.

And so when you put together a ballot like this, the players suddenly seem less interesting and less important. I mean, other than Mark McGwire, who has his own issues, who on this ballot can stand up to the titanic presence of Selig or Steinbrenner or Lou Piniella as a fiery manager. You have Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, all of them fine players … but on a ballot with Selig and Steinbrenner and Schuerholz and Davey Johnson, why even bother?

This is not a theoretical question either. Since 2000, the Veteran’s Committees have put in seven Major League managers, three owners, two umpires, one general manager, one commissioner … and three 20th century Major League baseball players (Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo and Joe Gordon). That’s 14 contributors, three players. And none of the three players played in the last 40 years.

As long as you give the panel easy and relatively uncontroversial choices like Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa a couple of years ago, they will avoid voting in tougher calls like Dick Allen or Minnie Minoso or Tony Oliva or even a contentious but obvious contributor like Marvin Miller. This year, I think it’s a pretty good guess that the players will again fall short — probably significantly short — while Selig, Schuerholz and Steinbrenner dominate the voting. I’m not saying those three are undeserving. I’m just saying they should be on their own ballot and keep players out of it.

Now, for the breakdown:

* * *

Definitely won’t make it

— Harold Baines. Someday, if we are lucky, the Hall of Fame will open up a Professional Hitters wing, and it will be named for Harold Baines.

— Albert Belle. Injuries forced Belle into retirement at age 33; it’s reasonable to believe that if he had stayed healthy until 40 he would have hit 500 or 550 home runs and, assuming he avoided the PED blacklist, would have had a real chance for the Hall.

— Orel Hershiser. There was a stamina problem in the 1980s. You look at the greatest pitchers of the 1970s (Seaver, Ryan, Niekro, Perry, Blyleven, Carlton, Palmer, Jenkins) and they all had massively long careers with huge win and strikeout totals.

You look at the greatest pitchers of the 1990s (Clemens, Maddux, Johnson, Pedro, Smoltz, Glavine, Mussina) and they took had long careers with big career numbers.

And then you look at the 1980s. Dave Stieb. Dwight Gooden. Bret Saberhagen. Teddy Higuera. Frank Viola. Mike Scott. Fernando Valenzuela. Orel Hershiser. None of them could last. None came close to 3,000 strikeouts. Hershiser was the only one of the group to win 200 games, and he just barely did. This undoubtedly is why Jack Morris stands out among the 1980s pitchers — he was the one guy who could stay healthy and put up those Hall of Fame looking numbers at the end.

Hershiser was an absolute Hall of Famer from 1984 to 1989. Those six seasons he went 98-64 with a 2.68 ERA, 1000-plus strikeouts, a 132 ERA+ and so on. If he could have had six more seasons like those and then rounded it out with two or three filler years, he’d be a Hall of Famer without question. But after age 30, he just wasn’t the same and so the career falls just a touch short.

— Will Clark. One more terrific player whose career did not last long enough. Will Clark was one of my favorite players. I used to emulate his bat wave whenever I would go to the batting cage with friends (where I, of course, tried to hit left-handed). His rate stats are exceptional — .303/.384/.497 — and he was a good all around player, good fielder, good baserunner, good teammate, good everything. He needed four more years.

* * *

Probably will not get elected

— Lou Piniella (Manager). Here’s a little thought experiment: Let’s say every team in Major League Baseball was exactly the same. You might call this the NASCAR ideal. Let’s say that every single team has the same players having the same types of years. They face the same injuries. They make the same trades.

The ony difference is the manager.

OK, now imagine they play 10 seasons like that. What happens?

A. You get 10 different champions, 20 different World Series matchups, etc.

B. You get some overlap, but it’s marginal overlap, meaning that maybe a couple of teams win two championships, maybe someone gets three but generally speaking it’s pretty balanced.

C. One or two teams dominate and win a bunch of World Series because they have the best managers.

There are obviously other scenarios, but what do you think? Is there enough difference in manager impact that a Joe Maddon or Terry Francona or Bruce Bochy would dominate this kind of league? Or would we find that manager impact is relatively small and that it does not trump randomness and luck and other forces?

I don’t know the answer to that, obviously. I suspect that the teams with better managers WOULD win more often. But I also suspect that we might find the better managers are not always the people we expect.

In other words: I have no idea if Lou Piniella was a great manager. He did manage those 1990 Reds to the World Championship, and that was impressive because that Reds team seemed lacking on paper. He did manage the Seattle Mariners to three division titles, including a 116-year season, but I mean the guy had Griffey and A-Rod and Unit and Edgar and Buhner and a handful of other good players. You could argue that those Mariners teams underachieved, not the other way around.

Then there were three dreadful years in Tampa Bay, and finally he won a couple of division titles in Chicago though neither of those teams won a playoff game.

All in all, it’s certainly a fine career. But in the NASCAR scenario, would I bet on Lou Piniella winning my team the most pennants? Probably not.

— Davey Johnson. I think his case is a little better than Piniella’s. He also won just one pennant and one World Series, so it’s not THAT much better than Piniella’s, but he has a better career record, and he managed five different teams and won with all five. He also had the extreme bad luck of managing for, um, characters. In Cincinnati, Marge Schott sent him packing apparently because of his live-in relationship with his girlfriend. In Baltimore, he was canned on the day that he won the Manager of the Year award. In Los Angeles and Washington, it was more craziness. All in all, he was fired five times — all five after winning seasons.

I think I would bet on Davey Johnson getting my team at least a couple of pennants in the NASCAR scenario. But I don’t think he has the votes (“You don’t have the votes, huh-huh-huh”).

— Mark McGwire. I probably could have saved time and put McGwire in the “Definitely won’t make it” collection, but I suppose there’s a one in a hundred chance that this committee will want to make a statement about PEDs in the Selig Era. OK, maybe one in a thousand.

Someday, I hope, people will consider Mark McGwire singularly rather than lumping him in with all the rest. As far as I know, he remains the only star player from the 1990s to come out voluntarily to admit using PEDs, to apologize for using them and to explain, best he could, why he did it.

Now, people will say it wasn’t voluntary — he HAD to come clean or he would not have been allowed to work in baseball. That may or may not be true. Barry Bonds works in baseball and few believe that he’s come clean. Lots of players who may have used PEDs before there was testing or any real impediment to using PEDs are working in baseball now. McGwire knew full well he was putting his Hall of Fame chances on ice and knew full well that he would be losing many fans. He did it anyway. Because he loves baseball.

McGwire grew up in a culture that promoted steroid abuse. He came to a point in his career where PEDs seemed his only chance to keep playing the game. And he used, he absused, he became the greatest home run hitter the game has ever seen. He made the game fun again after a few dismal years after the strike. He brought in millions of people — literally millions of people — just to watch him take batting practice.

And when the bill came due, when everyone tired of the home runs and began to feel duped, when the steroid stories began to leak, when Congress began looking hard at baseball lassez faire PED policies, McGwired retired and he took the fifth in lieu of lying and then admitted what he had done. No, it’s not admirable, of course it isn’t. But it’s more than any other player of his time did.

Is he a Hall of Famer? For me he is. But I think it’s a borderline case, and I would not argue with anyone who thinks he definitely is not a Hall of Famer. Bob Costas’ thought on McGwire is that his numbers, his home runs, are not AUTHENTIC … and I can see that. My biggest thought is that he should not be lumped in with anyone else. He deserves his own argument.

* * *


— George Steinbrenner. He has been on the ballot twice, and both times he did not come close to election. But this ballot seems a better fit for him because I don’t think any of the players, including McGwire, will garner much support. And I think Steinbrenner will appeal to the voters more than either manager. I don’t think he will quite get 12 voites, but I would not be surprised to see him come close.

There’s an argument you sometimes hear that the Hall of Fame should induct people like George Steinbrenner because you can’t tell the story of baseball without him. I probably have made an argument or two like that myself. But the more I think about it, the less convincing that argument becomes. The Plaque Room at the Hall of Fame does a lot of things. But it most certainly DOES NOT tell the story of baseball. It’s a sprawling, weird, inconsistent mishmash of great players, good players, successful managers, early day pioneers, owners who did very little good for the game, owners who did a lot of good for the game, umpires …

The story of baseball might be in there somewhere but it’s like reading Sanskrit. You need a baseball Rosetta Stone to follow the story at all.

The rest of the Hall of Fame DOES tell the story of baseball, through exhibits, movies, art, music, relics, whatever. George Steinbrenner, like Pete Rose, like Shoeless Joe Jackson, like all the biggest figures in the game, are in the HALL OF FAME. They have just not been inducted. I’m not sure that really matters for the storytelling.

As mentioned above, I wish George Steinbrenner would be on a ballot of 10 baseball owners. Hey, if you’re going to induct owners, fine, give them their own ballot every so often. Then you have context. In such a scenario, with Steinbrenner on the ballot with Charley O Finley, who was mad like Steinbrenner and won three pennants. Ted Turner is in that mix too. Put him on there with a modest innovator like Ewing Kauffman and the first woman owner Joan Payson (and the most famous one, perhaps, Marge Schott) and the flamboyant Harry Frazee and the not-so-flamboyant Calvin Griffith and Edward Bennett Williams and so on, yes, then you can make a determination. Was Steinbrenner more influential than any of them? Maybe and maybe not. Was he better for the game than any of them? Maybe and maybe not.

Comparing him with players and managers, though, and Steinbrenner’s sheer force  of personality (and regular appearances on Seinfeld) make him bigger than life.

* * *

Will get elected

— John Schuerholz (general manager). I mentioned Ewing Kauffman in the section about Steinbrenner; it is AMAZING what Kauffman did when he brought baseball back to Kansas City. He was a quiet man, modest to a fault, and so no one ever saw him as the great showman that, say, Bill Veeck or Steinbrenner were.

But he basically reinvented baseball in Kansas City. He was personally involved in designing Royals Stadium, which essentially became the model for the stadium of the future. He came up with the Baseball Academy, one of the most innovative ideas in recent baseball history and a forerunner of the academies that every single team now has in the Dominican Republic and other countries. He believed in the fan experience, developed all sorts of interesting sales techniques, he brought the fountains to baseball (every stadium now has something) and his teams won year after year after year because he had a knack for hiring good people, from the front office to the scouting department down to George Toma, the best groundskeeper in the world.

Along the way, he hired a 29-year-old John Schuerholz. In time, Schuerholz became general manager and led the Royals to their first World Series championship. He went on to Atlanta and everyone knows how that turned out — 15 division titles, four pennants, one World Series championship. Schuerholz is about as good as anybody who has ever done the job, and he should get elected.

— Bud Selig. Ah, Bud. I suppose I should save all these things I’d like to say about my friend Bud for election day, but for our purpose here let’s just say this: He had a vision for the game, a vision where smaller markets would compete, where more teams would have hope on Opening Day, where some of the traditional walls (like the one between the American and National Leagues) were broken down, where the All-Star Game mattered again, where more teams made it to October and where owners and players stopped fighting.

You can argue about the costs of such things — and argue about their value in the first place — but the reality is that Bud Selig saw through his vision. He’s the most influential baseball commissioner since Happy Chandler, who was commissioner when the color line was finally broken (Chandler had little to do with it but he was supportive). Bowie Kuhn is in the Hall of Fame. Bowie bleepin’ Kuhn. Of course Bud Selig has to be elected.


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41 Responses to Today’s Game Ballot

  1. Huw Richards says:

    The real missing person here is Marvin Miller. I loved the HoF when I visited, think it is a decent museum (gives short shrift to the Doubleday nonsense where rugby is still naming its trophies for the parallel Webb Ellis legend) and wished British sports had anything half as good or as well-resourced. But until Marvin goes in, it lacks credibility. As you say, if Bowie Kuhn is in…and what goes for Bud goes many times over for Marvin,

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      Yeah, putting Kuhn in and leaving Miller out is sort of like putting Alydar in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame and excluding Affirmed. Except, of course, that Miller beat Bowie far worse than Affirmed ever beat Alydar. And that Alydar, unlike Kuhn, was great for his sport.

      • Carl says:

        He ruined the ’72 season and the ’81 season and fought against PEDs testing. Putting Miler in would be like putting Alydar’s backside in.

    • Vidor says:

      Every time I read someone talk about the HOF candidacy of Marvin Miller I have to remind myself again that Miller never held any job in Major League Baseball at any time in his life.

      Never a player, never a manager, never an umpire, never an owner.

      Hell of a labor leader, though. If there’s an Organized Labor Hall of Fame somewhere, Miller is first-ballot.

    • invitro says:

      Marvin Miller of course made baseball much, much better… for the players. I suppose the jury’s out on whether he made baseball better for anyone else. When I was younger, I believed that Miller made baseball better for me because I was happy if the players were happier. I don’t know if I still think that way, it’s a quite complex problem. But I do think that anyone who supports Miller for the HoF needs to show that he made baseball better for the fans. Because that’s what being a HoFer is all about. (Don’t get me wrong; I still think the Reserve Clause was evil.)

      • Otistaylor89 says:

        He most certainly made baseball better for everyone. Baseball would be a dead sport without him as players would continue to get paid pennies and would be trapped with teams, unless they were bad enough to cut. The NFL would still have had boatloads of TV money to pay their stars and I don’t think you would have seen money put into Latin America for player development.

  2. BobDD says:

    Morgana. She never played defense, but she was big in other areas.

  3. Johnny P says:

    Even as a Yankees fan, I can’t endorse Steinbrenner as a HOFer. His tactics during the 1980s stopped any progress the team could have made during the decade. It took him being suspended for a few years for the championship core to be built.

    • Howard says:

      Think you mean, ESPECIALLY as a Yankees fan

    • SDG says:

      I’m curious – as a Yankees fan, to what do you attribute the late 90s dynasty? Did they get lucky with the right combo of players in the farm system and then buy themselves the rest of the way there with big free agents? Was it because Torre and Steinbrenner imbued the players with a winning attitude? Was it whoever trained the players to grind out long ABs, and decided that was something they should scout for? Because I’ve heard all those things.

      • Tim says:

        I’m a lapsed Yankees fan, I grew up in the mid 90s and became a real baseball but by the late 90s pinstripe dynasty. I’m lapsed now for a whole bunch of reasons. I firmly believe that 96-2001 era was built mainly by Gene Michael’s tenure, and begin in earnest during Steinbrenner’s ban. Cash man inherited the team and made some good small piece moves, but the cracks showed in the early Noughts. Steinbrenner did one thing and that’s open his wallet for payroll, and the old rosters with deadwood all over the field and fifteen or so years of not one single starting pitching prospect making a lick of difference tells a lot of the story.
        The “push for wins” or whatever you call the “Boss’ attitude” helped no one. Steinbrenner was an obstacle more often than he was anything else.

      • invitro says:

        Should Gene Michael get more credit? Or maybe -any- credit… I don’t think I’ve ever heard him get any for the Yankees dynasty. Well, this is from Wikipedia: “In 1990, he was made general manager of the Yankees, during this time he built the Yankees farm system and laid the seeds for their dominance in the second half of the decade. This was facilitated in part by the suspension of Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had earned a reputation as a meddler. The Yankees also began building young talent, rather than trading it away, as they had done in the 1980s with little success. During Michael’s tenure as general manager, the Yankees drafted or signed such notable players as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada (collectively known as the Core Four), and others. Further, he traded popular prospect Roberto Kelly for Paul O’Neill, whose fiery persona and play would become a cornerstone for the team. This foundation paid off with Yankee championships in 1996, and from 1998–2000. However, Michael was fired before the Yankees dynasty began, as a result of the fallouts from the 1994 strike, which ruined the Yankees having the best record in the American League that year in 1995. It was the second time that the Yankees fired Michael as a result of a strike; in 1981, he was fired as manager as a result of the strike that year.”

        Gene Michael was also master of the old hidden-ball trick… Wikipedia says he pulled it off five times.

        And Brian Cashman… he started with the Yankees as an intern in 1986, and slowly moved up until he became GM in 1998.

  4. Karyn says:

    I think we don’t yet have an appreciation for Selig’s influence on the game. Maybe the gap between retirement and possibility for inclusion in the Hall of Fame should be ten years for non-players. That would give everyone a better sense of their historical impact.

  5. invitro says:

    Sounds like Ewing Kauffman should get some more consideration. Wikipedia says he was nominated for the 2008 class. It also says: “After serving in the United States Navy in World War II, Kauffman worked as a pharmaceutical salesman until 1950, when he formed Marion Laboratories with a $5,000 investment, operating it initially out of the basement of his home.” Now that’s something… let’s see one of you fellows run a drug lab in your basement. (No, not -those- kinds of drugs.)

  6. dshorwich says:

    Marge Schott was not the first female owner of a major league baseball team:

  7. invitro says:

    I’m gonna say something unpopular. Ted Turner should be in the HoF. The way I judge HoF candidates is how much they improved the state of major league baseball. Turner did a whole lotta crap, but he also made TBS, which allowed tens of millions of people (like me) who lived far away from big league cities to enjoy baseball on a daily basis. Now I know he didn’t do this because he loved the residents of flyover country, but who cares? It’s a major accomplishment, and made millions of new baseball fans.

    • EnzoHernandez11 says:

      I think that’s a great point. I grew up in Southern California, within two hours of three major league teams. But I’ve met dozens of people over the years who were drawn to baseball, and especially to the Braves, by TBS. They were from places like Alaska and Montana and Mississippi, and Turner gave them a “home” team to follow. Anyone under 40 probably doesn’t realize that, until Turner, baseball on TV consisted primarily of the NBC Game of the Week, three hours each Saturday that usually featured the Yankees, Red Sox, or Dodgers plus whatever team they happened to be playing. (I used to hope the lead game would rain out so I could watch the backup game.) If you lived near a TV station affiliated with an MLB team, you could watch maybe a dozen of their road games over the course of a year. It was Turner who proved there could be a demand for baseball on an almost daily basis. His vision led to the ubiquitous baseball coverage we enjoy today, and the game has benefited greatly from it.

  8. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    What Steinbrenner did to Dave Winfield is far worse than anything Mark McGwire ever did. If McGwire is kept out, George certainly should be (actually, Steinbrenner should be kept out regardless of what happens to Big Mac).

    And of course Selig, who will be a Hall of Famer by tomorrow morning, only insults the rest of us by continuing to suggest that he didn’t know exactly what was going on in 1998. He was more than happy to see the excitement surrounding the McGwire-Sosa duel rescue the sport he almost destroyed through his own arrogance and incompetence. The Selig record: collusion, threatened contraction, the extinction of baseball in Montreal, the tarnishing of some of the the game’s most revered records, the transformation of the “national pastime” into a niche sport (as Paul Tagliabue and David Stern ran laps around him), and, last but certainly not least, the cancellation of a World Series, a greater crime against baseball than any wrongdoing ever committed by Pete Rose or Barry Bonds. But, hey a lot of people got rich on his watch, and isn’t that what’s really important?

    • Brad says:

      I would agree with you on Selig, who always seemed to me to be a clueless, bumbling idiot. Stiffing Montreal was borderline criminal and who can forget the All-star game ending in a tie, while feckless Bud sat in his field box. I would, however, disagree that baseball has become a niche sport. I think the NBA is far more niche than MLB. In my fairly wide circle of friends and acquaintances, none of them watch the NBA, but nearly all of them watch baseball.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Your friends must be older. Millennials watch the NBA as does Europe, South America, Australia, and much of Asia and Africa. It’s the #2 sport in the world behind soccer. Of course, old men will find that funny.

        • wechslerh66 says:

          Even Pauline Kael knew at least one person who voted for Nixon.

        • invitro says:

          I’m a middle-aged gentleman who loves the NBA. I urge any old folks to give the NBA another try, especially when the playoffs roll around. I still think playoff NBA is the #1 pro sport in the world, although MLB is getting close. But the NBA is a young fan’s game… it has a lot of nonsense in it, and nonsense is a lot easier to bear when you’re young and can ignore things. But if you want excitement and ultrahuman feats, for my money the best bet is an NBA playoff game that includes (say) Russell Westbrook.

          • Brad says:

            Thanks for the NBA update guys. I might take a look at Westbrook, I read he’s been on a Jordanesque roll. For sheer playoff intensity, I’ll take the NHL playoffs over any other sport, any day of the week. Soccer? Yeah, that is funny. I value my time too much to watch soccer. The rest of the world can keep soccer.

    • Johnny P says:

      Take a look at attendance figures in the 1980s and early 1990s compared to now, and try to tell me that MLB isn’t at least as popular as it was back in its supposed “glory days”.

      • invitro says:

        You know that the number of watchers of the World Series and other playoff games was much, much higher in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, right? Not just a little higher, twice or thrice higher, IIRC. (I’m not sure how to weigh the greater attendance of today, or rather a few years ago, against the big TV audiences of the 1980’s/90’s.)

      • SDG says:

        Attendance figures are artificially inflated because they count corporate seats that are purchased but empty. By the standard of ordinary fans, attendance is down. We hear it all the time – games are too expensive and are played at night so how is a kid supposed to get into the game. Half the time he can’t even watch his team on TV. Baseball is increasingly seen as an old person’s game and that accelerate under Selig. He made money in the short term but the long-term trendlines are terrible.

        The goal should be that seven year olds have Trout and Arrieta posters in their bedrooms. They don’t. They didn’t even have Jeter or A-Rod posters. Football and basketball (and possibly soccer) have taken over baseball in the culture.

  9. I know that Murray Chass is unpopular with a lot of the people here, but he wrote a piece pointing out that Selig was guilty of being part of the collusion in the 1980s (more than once, according to Chass), and of refusing to acknowledge the steroid problem. So, my argument is, if Selig goes in, there’s no justification for keeping out McGwire or Bonds or Clemens or anyone else who did use or is accused of using steroids.

    Or let’s contrast it with Happy Chandler. Joe says he didn’t have much to do with integrating baseball. Except that Landis had opposed it, and the owners had voted 15-1 against it. Chandler could have gone along with them. He didn’t, and while I am not convinced that’s enough, it certainly puts him head and shoulders above a guy who declared a day in Robinson’s honor and then has done nothing beyond cosmetic garbage to promote the hiring of more managers and executives of color.

    As for Marvin Miller, if we are talking about people having an effect on the game, he affected the game. And if George Steinbrenner is on the ballot for trying to buy pennants with free agents, Mr. Miller did more than almost anybody I can think of to make that possible.

    By the way, I’ll make a case here. Harry Wendelstedt was a well-respected NL umpire for 33 seasons. For more than 30 years, he ran the school that trained most of the umpires in the majors. And he doesn’t even get noticed? Please.

    • SDG says:

      This is why the “affected the game” standard isn’t enough. If it were it would include Carl Mays and Curt Flood and Fred Martin who allegedly invented the splitter and Randy Hundley. How many Candy Cummingses do we want in there? The problem is there is a way to judge who the best players are, but give or take a Branch Rickey, no real way to judge managers, execs, umpires, or commissioners. George Weiss won 5 consecutive rings. Did he actually have anything to do with that? Who knows? Miller should be honored in some way. I’m not sure that should include a plaque.

      Chandler is probably the only commissioner who worked for the players rather than the owners, which isn’t exactly unrelated to why his tenure was so short.

      • invitro says:

        I think you might have to put Curt Flood in if you put Marvin Miller in. Although I’ve read so much about Flood, I might need to read even more to make sure I’m remembering him correctly as a true hero. But I think that’s what he was.

        • Michael Green says:

          It’s interesting that Flood IS a heroic figure–he stood up to the owners–but he’s often wrongly credited with doing anything to damage the reserve clause. Maybe he did inspire others to think about standing up for themselves, helping to trigger future changes.

          As for who’s deserving and who’s not, if we’re going to have a committee with expertise, we’re going to have to defer to that expertise on who most “affected the game.” Marvin Miller prompted bigger changes than Curt Flood did and certainly more significant and good changes than anything Bowie Kuhn did. Weiss did win those 5 rings, but he also got other rings with the Yankees, and ran their farm system for a long time. Given that team’s success, we might guess he had something to do with it. Fresco Thompson ran the Dodgers farm system for nearly two decades and it was extremely productive, but at the same level that Weiss was? He’s not in, and that strikes me as reasonable.

          On another topic, today, the Frick Award winner was announced, and it was Bill King, who was a magnificent broadcaster. It’s more than a decade after his death, and that’s a shame, but the committee was fellow Frick winners and four historical experts. I’d say that’s a pretty good set of judges.

  10. Scott says:

    We’re reaching the point where the Hall of Fame is electing as many non-players as players, and that’s outrageous. No one goes to the park to see owners or managers or commissioners. Given the increasing role of General Managers and the lack of an impact on how managers are viewed, this will likely increase in future years.

    My fix is simple – select only one each year. Yes that can create a backlog, like in 2014, but was anyone really clamoring for Dick Williams and Whitey Herzog?

    P.S. In the early years, many managers had personal roles as well, which contributed to the success of certain teams. For example, John McGraw was essentially the Giants’ GM – was his importance greater here or on the field?

    • SDG says:

      That’s the other thing. The history of MLB baseball is managers being less and less important. John McGraw was the manager, GM, scout, director of scouting, and everything else. Now managers increasingly don’t even write the lineup card or make substitutions – that’s increasingly done by the GM and analytics guys, and for the superstar players, their agents. They basically manage egos – players and front office. How do you compare someone like McGraw to someone like Maddon?

  11. invitro says:

    I’m watching the Winter Meetings on TV, and there was just a blurb that Schuerholz and Selig were elected. Schuerholz got in unamimously; Selig got 15 of 16 votes, according to . (That article doesn’t give the votes for the other eight men.)

  12. Jason says:

    The argument for McGuire is compelling. As an anti PED guy I object to the cheaters being included because they hurt the game’s character twice; first by cheating and second by lying about it. So what of someone like McGuire who comes clean and even shows contrition? Trouble is, we are now basing selection on whether or not we believe in the sincerity of their apology and penance. A-Rod, Clemens, and even Barry Bonds would suddenly have a motive to clean up their apology game too though and now we’d be giving points for being the best actor.

    I don’t think McGuire expects to get in the Hall but I think it’s important we thank him for his sincerity. Recognizing what he gave up will have to be enough.

    There are people in the Hall because we didn’t care enough about important things back when they played (Ty Cobb?) but I sure hope we’ll never say that a home run is more important than the integrity of the game.

    • SDG says:

      I could see that argument if MLB tried sincerely to stop PED use and some guys did it anyway but it was never detected until after the records had been set. Then I could see believing the numbers aren’t valid because it wasn’t a real competition on the field. Similar to if, say, instead of taking PEDs, Bonds had bribed opposing pitchers to throw him meatballs.

      But they didn’t. Everyone was taking them, including the pitchers, or at least enough people that you can’t say the record-holder had some kind of unique advantage. They earned their records in the playing environment of all time, and just like some eras have better numbers because of a juiced ball or artificial turf, some have an advantage because of this.

      Besides, where does it end? Are Willie Mays’ numbers suspect because the Giants stole signs with a telescope (which has since been made against the rules)? The guy with the most hits and the guy with the second-most hits bet on baseball. The guy with the seventh-most artificially depressed the league talent pool, but that was explicitly not against the rules at the time (wrong, but not against the rules). Barry Bonds holds the two HR records whether he’s in the Hall or not, and all keeping him out does is turn him into a cause like Pete Rose and the Black Sox.

  13. Mike Schilling says:

    Will Clark […] good teammate

    Tell that to Chris Brown, whom he called an N-word.

  14. Eric Schmutter says:

    Hi Joe,

    Your comments on Steinbrenner made me wonder if we could “tell the story” of an owner (or general manager) using just the stories of current/future HOF-ers. For example, I think you would be able to tell a fairly in-depth story of Steinbrenner’s life in baseball by discussing the careers of Reggie, Winfield, Jeter/Rivera and a little Henderson and A-Rod sprinkled in. Would this work for other owners/GM’s too? Umpires?

    Keep up the good work

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