Posts Tagged ‘Billy Martin’

Hammerin’ Hank vs. The Mick: The Yankees

July 12, 2016
The "Old Perfessor" about 1953

The “Old Perfessor” about 1953

No team was ever as successful as the 1950s New York Yankees. The won the World Series in the first four years of the decade, lost a pennant to Cleveland, lost a World Series to Brooklyn, then won a fifth championship in 1956. But in all the winning they’d done since 1923, their first championship, they’d never played the Braves. They beaten every other National League team at least once. But the Braves, either the Boston team or the Milwaukee version, had never won a pennant in the same year that the Yankees won an American League pennant. That changed finally in 1957.

Manager Casey Stengel’s charges won 98 games and took the AL pennant by eight games over Chicago. They led the league in runs, hits triples, batting average, slugging, and OPS. They were third in home runs, fifth in doubles, and third again in stolen bases with all of 49. The staff led the AL in ERA, in strikeouts, gave up the least hits and runs.

The infield was still in transition. Gone were the stalwarts of the early ’50s, Billy Martin (although Martin played in 43 games) and Phil Rizzuto. The new guys up the middle were 21-year-old Bobby Richardson and long time jack-of-all-trades Gil McDougald. Richardson hit .256 with no power, no speed, and he didn’t walk much. McDougald hit .289 with 13 home runs, good for fifth on the team. He was second on the team with 156 hits and 5.8 WAR. Bill “Moose” Skowron held down first. His .304 average was second among the starters. He had 17 home runs, 88 RBIs, and 3.1 WAR to go with it. Andy Carey had more games at third than anyone else, although McDougald had done some work there also. Carey hit .255 with 0.8 WAR. As mentioned above Martin started the year in New York but was traded to Kansas City (now Oakland). He was joined on the bench by former starters Joe Collins and Jerry Coleman. Coleman’s .268 led the bench infielders.

Five men did most of the outfield work. The key was center fielder Mickey Mantle. He hit a team leading .365 with 34 home runs (also the team lead). He had 94 RBIs, 173 hits, scored 121 runs, had 11.3 WAR, ad 221 OPS+. All led the team. All that got him his second consecutive MVP Award. Hank Bauer flanked him in right. His average wasn’t much, but he had 18 home runs and was a good outfielder. Elston Howard did most of the left field work, but also served as the backup catcher. He was the Yankees’ first black player and still a long way from the MVP Award he’d win in the early 1960s. Hall of Famer Enos Slaughter was the primary backup outfielder. If Howard was a long way from reaching his prime, Slaughter was a long way beyond his. He hit .254 with no power and had lost what speed he had while with St. Louis. Tony Kubek was new. He was used very much in a utility role dong work in left, center, and at all the infield positions except first. He hit .297 and showed 2.5 WAR. They also had “Suitcase” Harry Simpson (one of the great nicknames in baseball). He hit three triples for the Yankees (after coming over from Kansas City), but tied for the league lead with nine. He tied with Bauer and McDougald.

The man behind the mask was Yogi Berra. He was beyond his MVP years, but still formidable. He hit .251 but with 24 home runs (and 24 strikeouts) and 82 RBIs. His WAR was 3.0. Howard, as mentioned above, was his primary backup Darrell Johnson got into 21 games, hitting .217 with a home run.

It was a pitching staff without a true ace. In most years Whitey Ford would hold that position but in 1957 because of a shoulder problem he appeared in only 24 games (17 starts). He managed only 129 innings and an 11-5 record. His 1.8 WAR was fifth on the staff. Tom Sturdivant’s 16 wins topped the team while former Rookie of the Year Bobbie Shantz had the lowest ERA at 2.45. Bob Turley’s 152 strikeouts led the Yanks while Johnny Kucks and Don Larsen had ERAs over three.  Bob Grim and Art Ditmar did most of the bullpen work while former started Tommy Byrne gave the pen it’s lefty.

New York was defending champion. They’d won seven of the last eight AL pennants and six of the last eight World Series. They were favored to repeat.

 

The Last Segregated World Series: Casey’s Crew

May 8, 2015
Hank Bauer

8 Hank Bauer

In the 1950 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies were tasked with defeating the current World Champion New York Yankees. The Yanks were winners of two of the previous three World Series and were a formidable foe.

They were led by retired player and former dental student (Thanks, Bloggess) Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel. He’d taken the reigns in New York in 1949 and led his team to a championship. In 1950 they were one game better than in 1949.

He had Joe Collins and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize at first. Both played about the same amount of games and both hit left-handed. Collins was a slightly better fielder and Mize the better hitter. For the season Mize hit .277 and was third on the team with both 25 home runs and 72 RBIs. His .946 OPS and 142 OPS+ were both second on the team. Jerry Coleman played second, hit .287 with no power, and was finding himself pushed by 22-year-old rookie Billy Martin. No one was pushing Hall of Fame shortstop Phil Rizzuto. He hit .324, led the team in both hits (200) and runs (125), played a good shortstop, and won the American League MVP for 1950 (his only MVP award). Billy Johnson and Bobby Brown (later AL President) were in a rough platoon system at third. Johnson hit .260, Brown .267.

Four men did most of the outfield work. Hall of Fame center fielder Joe DiMaggio was 35 and a year from retirement, but he hit .301, led the team with 35 home runs and a .979 OPS. His 122 RBIs were second on the team and his 5.3 WAR was third. In typical DiMaggio fashion he posted 80 walks to go along with only 33 strike outs. Hank Bauer was settling in as the new right fielder. He had 13 homers and hit .320. Gene Woodling did more work in left field than anyone else, hit .283 with only six home runs and made two errors all season. Cliff Mapes was the fourth outfielder, but got into 108 games. He had 12 home runs, but hit only .247.

The only other everyday players who appeared in 20 or more games were Jackie Jensen and Tommy Henrich. Jensen was a rookie outfielder who hit all of .171. Henrich was in his final season. He started 30 games at first, but spent most of his time as the main left-handed pinch hitter. He hit .272 with six home runs, a .918 OPS, and only six strikeouts to go with 27 walks. He had 41 total hits for the season, twenty were for extra bases: six doubles, eight triples, and the already mentioned six home runs. A lot of people forget that Henrich, never noted for his base stealing speed led the AL in triples twice (1947 and 1948).

Yogi Berra did almost all the catching. He had a great year hitting .322 (second to Rizzuto), with 28 home runs (second to DiMaggio), and a team leading 124 RBIs. His OPS was .915 and his WAR 5.6 (again second to Rizzuto’s 6.7). He struck out all of 12 times in 656 plate appearances and walked 55. His backups were future Yanks manager Ralph Houk and Charlie Silvera. Between them they got into 28 games (Houk started one game, Silvera seven).

The New York pitching corps was aging, unlike Philadelphia’s. Of the six men who started 10 or more games, only one was under 30. If you kick that up to all the men who pitched in 10 or more games, there were only two (and Bob Porterfield only pitched 20 innings over 10 games). Vic Raschi, Eddie Lopat, Tommy Byrne, and Allie Reynolds all started at least 29 games with Byrne, at age 30, being the youngest (Reynolds at 33 was the oldest). Raschi had 21 wins but an ERA of 4.00. Lopat was 18-8 but had given up more hits than he had innings pitched (WHIP of 1.307). Reynolds led the team with 160 strikeouts and Byrne had 160 walks (with 118 strikeouts). Fred Sanford only started 12 games but walked more than he struck out. The other guy (and the other pitcher under 30) was a rookie named Whitey Ford. He went 9-1 over 20 games (12 starts), had a 2.81 ERA, and was on the way to a Hall of Fame career.

The bullpen was still anchored by Joe Page. He’d posted 13 saves, but his ERA was north of five and he had given up 66 hits in 55 innings. Tom Ferrick was 35 and had posted nine saves, for second on the team. And by way of trivia, Lew Burdette, age 23 pitched 1.1 innings over two games in his rookie campaign. In 1957, now playing at Milwaukee, he would handcuff his former team to lead the Braves to a World’s Championship.

They were a formidable team, World Champs, and ready to defend. They were favored over Philadelphia, which was considered an upstart.

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Managers

November 14, 2013
LaRussa as Cardinals manager

LaRussa as Cardinals manager

And now my look at the four managers on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot. Again, they are listed alphabetically.

Bobby Cox did something I’ll bet a bunch of you don’t know. He managed the Toronto Blue Jays to a division title. Cox is so tied to Atlanta that most people don’t know he spent part of his managerial career in Toronto. In the beginning he was less than successful. He managed Atlanta between 1978 and 1981, never finishing above fourth and producing one winning season (1980). He managed four years in Toronto finishing second in 1984, then breaking through to win the American League East in 1985. Up three games to one against Kansas City, the Blue Jays lost three in a row to end their season (and the Royals won the World Series).

He returned to Atlanta as general manager in 1986. The team wasn’t all that successful, but as general manager he picked up a number of players for the team that were instrumental for future Braves teams. In 1991 he appointed himself as Braves manager and remained until his retirement in 2010. His first team (in his second stint with Atlanta) went from last to first in the National League and squared off against Minnesota in one of the great World Series’ ever. They lost, but it was the beginning of a great run in the NL. Cox’s Braves made 15 playoff appearances, won five pennants, and the 1995 World Series. During his career he was four-time Manager of the Year, once in the AL and three times in the NL (one of only four to win the award in both leagues). His career winning percentage was .556.

Ton LaRussa is the third winningest manager ever behind only John McGraw (2nd) and Connie Mack. He is also one of the four managers to win Manager of the Year in both leagues (Jim Leyland and Lou Piniella are the others). He began his managerial career late in 1979 with the Chicago White Sox. He brought one AL Western Division title to Chicago in 1983. The ChiSox started slow in 1986 and he was canned.

Oakland picked him up for the last 45 games of the year and he stayed there through 1995. He won a division title, two pennants, and the 1989 World Series with Oakland. In 1996 he went to St. Louis where he immediately won a division title. By his retirement at the end of the 2011 World Series he had won five division titles, one pennant, and the 2006 and 2011 World Series. This gave him 14 playoff appearances, six pennants, and three world championships. He secured four Manager of the Year Awards and had a career winning percentage of .536. He was also known for being so obsessed with the “book” that he would change pitchers between pitches and slowed games to an absolute crawl. Because he continued to win, his system has become common.

Billy Martin is the oldest of the four managers and is also the only one not living. He played in the 1950s, primarily for the Yankees, then began managing in 1969 with the Minnesota Twins. He took them to a division title, but they lost to Baltimore in the first American League division playoffs. He got into a fight with one of his players and was fired. He picked up his next managing job in 1971 with Detroit. He picked up a division title in 1972. He was fired in 1973 for ordering his pitchers to learn the spit ball. Texas picked him up to complete the season. He stayed into 1975 when he was fired after a confrontation with the owner. He was picked up by the Yanks, his dream job. He spent four terms with the Yankees, winning a pennant in 1976. His team was drilled by the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine”, but won the 1977 World Series over the Dodgers. He clashed with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner (more on him in another post) and resigned in 1978. He was rehired for the last 55 games of 1979 then was dumped again after his infamous fight with a marshmallow salesman. He also spent time in 1983, 1985, and 1988 as New York manager. Between his 1979 and 1983 terms in New York, he managed Oakland to a 1981 split season division title. He died on Christmas Day 1989 in a truck accident. Over his career he won two pennants, one World Series and took his team to five playoff appearances. He ended with a .553 winning percentage. For most of his managerial career there was no Manager of the Year Award (it began in 1983). Over his career he was known to overwork his pitching staff and thus cut short the careers of several of his starters.

Joe Torre was probably the best player of the group, winning and MVP award in 1971. He began managing the Mets in early 1977 as player-manager. He remained in New York through 1981 finishing as high as fourth in the 1981 split season. He was picked up by Atlanta (replacing Bobby Cox) in 1982 and promptly won a division title. He lost the playoff and his team regressed each of the next two seasons. In the broadcast booth from 1983 through 1990, St. Louis picked him up late in the season. He stayed there until early 1995 when he was fired. In 1991 he got the Cardinals as high as second.

In 1996 he replaced Buck Showalter (who had just won a division title) as Yankees manager and won the World Series. He won consecutive World Series’ in 1998-2000, lost the Series in 2001 (and 2003),  picked up division titles in 2002 and 2004-2006, and won two Manger of the Year Awards. In 2008 he left New York, ending up in Los Angeles (and in a slew of TV commercials). He stayed three years winning two division titles. For his career he made 15 playoff appearances, won six pennants, and four World Series titles. His career winning percentage is .538. Torre was, by his own account, a miserable manager with the Mets, a “genius” at Atlanta, and lucky with the Yankees. The labels were applied when some reporter asked him why he was doing so well with the Yanks (proving Torre also has a good sense of humor). He was good enough as a player to be a borderline Hall of Famer, but he’s supposed to be considered here strictly on his managing career.

All of which brings me to the obvious question, “so what do I think?” Well, I have no problem with any of these managers being enshrined. Each has a valid case as a Hall of Fame candidate (I think Martin’s is weakest). But if I had a ballot, I’d vote for  two of these men only: LaRussa and Torre. Both were proven winners with multiple championships. LaRussa has the distinction of being third in wins among managers. For Cox and Martin I have two words: Danny Murtaugh. Murtaugh has as many championships as Cox and Martin combined, two. And another two words would be: Tom Kelly. He has twice as many wins as either Cox or Martin (as does Ralph Houk). Until the men with more championships get in, then I can’t see voting for either Cox or Martin. And let’s be honest about it, championships count. If they don’t you have to ask yourself where’s Charlie Grimm (1200 wins .547 winning percentage, but no World Series titles)?

Newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot Revealed

November 5, 2013

Just looked at the Hall of Fame website. They have posted the Veteran’s Committee ballot for the election next month. Here’s the list divided into 3 categories (alphabetically within categories). All are individuals who played, managed, or were executives primarily since 1972:

Players: Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons

Managers: Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Billy Martin, Joe Torre

Executives: Marvin Miller, George Steinbrenner

That’s the entire list. The election is in December during the winter meetings. Make your own choices. I’ll detail mine in 3 later posts divided into the categories listed above. I know you’ll be waiting on pins and needles.

The Chairman of the Board

September 26, 2012

Whitey Ford during the 1950s

I note that the Atlanta Braves have tied the mark for the most consecutive wins by a team with a particular pitcher starting the game. One of the reasons I love baseball is this kind of esoteric stat. Kris Medlen now joins the ranks of all-time greats Carl Hubbell and Whitey Ford.

It’s amazing to me how very obscure Ford has become over the years. He is the greatest starter, and Mariano Rivera not withstanding, arguably the greatest pitcher on the greatest team (the Yankees) in Major League Baseball history and he’s sort of fallen off the face of the earth. You wonder how that happens.

I was, as a Dodgers fan, not a big fan of Ford. He played for the wrong team. But as I grew older, I began to understand exactly what the Yankees had. They had a solid starter who ate innings, gave them a chance to be in a game, won a lot of them, and year after year was there to count on. He was an American League version of Warren Spahn in his consistency. And part of Ford’s recognition problem is that much of his career is contemporary with Spahn (and the latter part overlaps Sandy Koufax).

Having said that, he wasn’t just Warren Spahn light. He had a great winning percentage. His .690 winning percentage is third among pitchers (according to Baseball Reference). The two guys ahead of him are Spud Chandler, whose career was about half as long; and Al Spaulding, who never once pitched at 60’6″. That’s pretty good for a guy that’s gotten really lost in the shuffle.

Part of Ford’s problem is that he only won 20 games twice (1961 and 1963), led the AL in shutouts twice, in wins three times. He also won the Cy Young Award in 1961 when they only gave out one award, not one per league.  Above I compared him to Warren Spahn, and those wins certainly aren’t Spahn-like numbers. But the basic career type still holds. Ford’s other problem, besides that it’s a long time ago now, is that the 1950s early 1960s Yankees were not seen as a pitcher’s team, but were viewed as a bunch of bashers. It’s the team of Mickey Mantle (who plays almost exactly the same years as Ford), of Yogi Berra, of Billy Martin, and Roger Maris. It’s also the team of Casey Stengel. Behind that crew, Ford sort of gets lost.

There also aren’t a lot of Ford stories. There are a handful of drinking stories, but not much else. A couple of stories emphasize Ford cutting the baseball to make his pitches move more. One has him using Elston Howard to cut the ball with his shin guards. Another says he filed down his wedding ring and used it. Don’t know if the latter is true, but wouldn’t you love to know Mrs. Ford’s reaction when she found out? Also Ford is supposed to have told the grounds crew to keep the area right behind the catcher moist so Howard and Berra could rub mud on the ball before they tossed it back to him. Those are about it on Ford.

And that’s despite some of the records he holds. He has more wins in the World Series than any other pitcher, and also more losses. He has the most consecutive shutout innings among starters in World Series history. He leads in inning pitched, in games started, in strikeouts (and walks), and at one time was the youngest pitcher to win a World Series game (game four of 1950). I don’t know if that last stat is still true. He pitched some truly fine World Series games. Some were blowouts like games three and six in 1960. Others were tight duels like game four in 1963 against Sandy Koufax or game six in 1953 against Carl Erskine.

Ford was the mainstay of the most consistently victorious team ever, the 1950-1964 Yankees. His last good year was 1965, the year the Yankees dynasty stumbled. I think it’s important to note that when Ford fell off so did the Yankees. It wasn’t just him, Mantle got old also and Berra retired. The loss of the three was devastating to New York.

As I grew, I grew to appreciate Whitey Ford more and more. I’m sorry he’s sort of gotten lost in the shuffle by now. He shouldn’t, he was a great pitcher and I was privileged to see him throw.

Game Six: Apex of a Dynasty

July 25, 2011

Between 1947 and the beginnings of expansion in the early 1960s, baseball had a number of good game six events. The 1948 World Series ended on a game six, as did 1951. But I’ve chosen the 1953 game six to look at. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons. First, it was a terrific game and sits at the very edges of my memory. I remember listening to it on the radio and actually recall very little about it other than just the act of  listening. I remember my grandfather agonizing over the game, grumbling if the Yankees did something right (to him “damn” and “yankee” were one word, which had to do with both baseball and several other things) and slapping the arm of the chair if the Dodgers did something well. I’ll put the second reason I chose this game at the end of the article. Now the game.

Billy Martin in 1954

1953 

With New York leading the World Series 3-2, the Yankees took on Brooklyn on Monday, 5 October 1953 in Yankee Stadium. The Yanks started Whitey Ford, the Dodgers countered with Carl Erskine. Erskine had a win in the Series, Ford was 0-1. The Yankees rocked Erskine early, getting three runs in the first two innings. He lasted four,  giving up the three runs, on six hits and three walks. He was replaced by Bob Milliken, who got through two innings without giving up more ground, before being replaced by Clem Labine. Ford was masterful through five. In the sixth he gave up a run as Jackie Robinson stole third and came home on a ground out. Ford lasted through the seventh, giving up the one run, with six hits and seven strikeouts. His replacement was Allie Reynolds, who had an easy eighth inning, giving up a single. Then in the ninth, Reynolds gave it all back. With one out, he walked Duke Snider. Carl Furillo promptly tied it up with a two-run home run.

With Dodgers reliever Labine on the mound, the Yankees faced the bottom of the ninth with their three, four, and five hitters up. Hank Bauer walked, Yogi Berra hit a fly that was caught. Mickey Mantle singled sending Bauer to second. That brought up Billy Martin. Martin, whose exceptional catch in 1952 was credited with winning the Series for New York, was having a great World Series. He was 11 for 23 with five runs scored, seven RBIs, and two home runs. He proceeded to rip a single to center, plating Bauer, ending the World Series, and cementing his place in Yankees lore. It was final of five consecutive World Series victories for the Yankees. 

Now the second reason I picked this game six to represent the 1950s. The Yankees Dynasty begins, in some ways, in 1921. But it really takes off with the Murderer’s Row team of 1926 (who go out and lose the World Series to St. Louis). The winning dynasty begins in 1927 and lasts through 1964. It’s turning point is 1954. Prior to 1954, the Yankees were 15-2 in World Series play beginning with 1926, losing only to the Cardinals in both 1926 and 1942 making the Yanks  13-0 against everybody else (except the Braves, who they didn’t play until 1957) and 2-2 against St. Louis (go figure). Then beginning in 1955 and lasting through 1964 the Yankees are still the class of the American League, they just aren’t as dominant as previously. They go 4-5 in those years, winning in ’56, ’58, ’61, and ’62, losing in ’55, ’57, ’60, ’63, and ’64. The National League finally caught up to them. So 1953 marks the apex of that Yankees team that dominated 40 years of baseball history (1926-1964). That seems a fitting reason to recognized game six of 1953. Besides it was a heck of a game.

The Yankees Way at Second

June 24, 2011

Some teams seem to stockpile players at one position. Take a look at the Giants and their history of great pitchers as an example. For the Yankees there are three positions like that: Center Field, Catcher, and Second Base. I recognize they’ve had some pretty good players at other positions, but when you have Ruth and Gehrig it’s such a fall off to whoever you pick as the second best guy at the position that you tend to overlook the other players in right field and at first. A while back I did a look at the Yankees center field history, so in keeping with a look at second base, here’s a brief look at the quality of Yankees second basemen since 1921.

When the Yankees won their first pennant in 1921 the second baseman was Aaron Ward. He was a decent player, hitting .300 that year with five home runs. He’s most famous for making the final out in the Series by trying to reach third on a ground out to second (the first time a World Series ended on a double play). He stayed in New York through the 1922 pennant and the first championship of 1923, got hurt in 1924, didn’t bounce back well in 1925 and yielded his place to Tony Lazzeri in 1926.

Lazzeri is the first of the Yankees Hall of Fame second sackers. He’s most famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) for striking out with the bases loaded in game seven of the 1926 World Series (he led the American League in striking out in 1926 with 96). He went on to be a key player in the Murderer’s Row Yankees of 1926-32 and in the first couple of years of the 1936-42 Bronx Bombers. He hit well, was OK in the field, and had a decent World Series record (4 home runs, 19 RBIs in 30 games). In 1938 he was sent to Chicago where he helped the Cubs to a World Series (against the Yankees). He went o-2 in two pinch hit tries.

The Yankees replaced him with their second Hall of Fame second baseman, Joe Gordon. As good as Lazzeri had been, Gordon was better. He hit better, had more power, and was a considerably better second baseman. He won a controversial MVP in 1942, slumped in ’43, then went off to war in 1944 and 1945. He was back in New York in 1946, did poorly, and went to Cleveland the next season. As with Lazzeri, he helped his new team to a pennant, although in took a year (1948) to get to the top. And unlike Lazzeri’s Cubs, the Indians won.

Snuffy Stirnweiss took over for the war years, remaining through most of the 1940s. He was terrific against wartime pitching, not so great postwar. Jerry Coleman replaced him. Coleman was a good glove, no stick player who held the job until Billy Martin arrived.

Martin is much more controversial today than he was when he played for the Yankees. He had a great 1952 World Series, beating the Dodgers pretty much single-handedly (if only he coulda pitched). He stayed at second through the bulk of the 1950s, giving way to Bobby Richardson in the late 1950s. Richardson was another Coleman. He was a good second baseman and hit well enough to eventually lead off for the Yankees through the first half of the 1960s. He hit well, but as a leadoff hitter he was problematic. He never walked and on a team that relied on power over speed, had no power.

As with the rest of the Yankees in the last half of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, the second basemen were not players particularly worth remembering (unless you’re a relative). That changed with Willie Randolph. Randolph played the position well, hit well, ran the bases well (again without stealing a lot of bases), and was a critical member of a Yankees revival that lasted into the mid-1980’s. His later stint with the Mets as a manager has damaged his reputation to some degree, but as a player he was very good. He’s not in the Hall of Fame, maybe shouldn’t be, but was a truly fine player.

The Yanks went into another funk that lasted into the middle 1990s. They picked up a  number of good players, drafted some others, and went on to become the formidable force they are today. One of the pickups was Chuck Knoblauch. He hit well, gave them a leadoff hitter with some power, decent speed, and until he forgot how to throw the ball, a pretty fair second baseman. He was replaced by Alfonso Soriano, who ended up in Chicago and in the outfield for a reason. Robinson Cano is the new guy and he’s a throwback to the Lazzeri/Gordon years of a second baseman who can hit and hit for power. I hate to jinx the guy, but he may end up being the best Yankees second sacker ever.

There’s a brief rundown of Yankees second basemen in their glory years. It’s a fairly formidable list. I can think of very few teams that boast two great second basemen. The Yanks have that many, plus a number of above average ones and one current player who may surpass them all. No wonder New York wins a lot.

The Next Hall of Fame Vote

November 15, 2010

The Hall of Fame

Well, the new Hall of fame ballot for the Veteran’s committee is out. Here’s the list: Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons, and Rusty Staub as players. Billy Martin is the only manager listed. Pat Gillick, Marvin Miller, and George Steinbrenner are the executives on the ballot.

This is the “Expansion Era” list. It includes players from 1973 through 1989 and owners, managers, execs, etc from 1972 through the present. There are some other qualifications that make guys like Joe Torre ineligible for now, but those are the key dates for people being considered this time. They’ve created three Veteran’s Committees now: this one and two others. The others are the “Segregation Era” which runs from 1871 through 1946 and the “Golden Era” which is 1946 through 1972. Remember you heard that here first. And it’s interesting that the National Association isn’t a major league, but by making the first period begin in 1871, it seems the players in the Association can be considered. I find that a bit of a strange coupling. 

Apparently the three committees meet in rotation one a year. So any one on this current list will be available for consideration again in 2013. The committee consists of eight current Hall of Famers, four executives, and four writers. Unlike the writer’s ballot, which restricts a member from voting for more than 10 players, the committee can vote for any number of people they deem worthy of the Hall.

It’s an interesting list this time, with no player that is a certainty. I will point out that Johnny Bench, Bill Giles, Tony Perez, and Frank Robinson are all on the committee. This makes four members with close Cincinnati ties, which could be good for Concepcion. I don’t have any idea who they’ll pick.

But of course I can’t leave it at that. What fun would that be? I’ve got to tell you who I would vote for if I were a member of the committee. 

I’d vote for George Steinbrenner. I never liked his act, but his importance to the game is significant enough that I think he deserves a nod. I do wish that Colonel Ruppert would get a try, but that is apparently the job of the “Segregation Era” committee. You gotta admit that Steinbrenner, love him or hate him, put his stamp on the game.

The second person I’d vote for is Marvin Miller. Again I guy I don’t particularly like but whose influence on the game is great. Maybe the Player’s Union makes a strike more likely. Maybe free agency makes the movement of players more likely so that you never get a chance to fall in love with a favorite player on your team (but then a lot of really good players have been traded). Maybe it led to “rent a player”, but it led also to player emancipation and salaries that made the Black Sox scandal almost impossible. For all those good and bad things, we owe Marvin Miller. Few non-players ever had a greater effect on the game.

The only player I’m sure I’d vote for is Ted Simmons. I think he is terribly underrated. He wasn’t Johnny Bench behind the plate, and being a contemporary of Bench certainly hurt him, but he was a heck of a hitter and wasn’t a bad catcher. His SABR numbers are a lot better than his traditional numbers, which may hurt him with the committee, but he’d get my vote. There are others like Concepcion, Garvey, Blue, and John that I could be talked into if someone had a persuading argument, but can’t see voting for them just on my own reading of the information. I suppose, in fact, that I might be talked into voting for most of the list, that’s how close together they are.

There’s one other name I’d like to see  considered for the list, Dr. Frank Jobe. He invented “Tommy John surgery.” Considering how many players careers he has changed an argument could be made for giving him a slot in Cooperstown. Consider that, to use simply one 2010 example, Liriano led the Twins to a division title this season. Without Jobe’s pioneering work, Liriano doesn’t pitch and the Twins probably don’t win. There’s a lot of players like that, including Tommy John, of course. I don’t know that Jobe should be in Cooperstown, but I’d like to see his merits debated by both the committee and the public in general.

And finally, when the “Segregation Era” and the “Golden Era” vote comes up in the next two years, I’d like to see a couple of ladies from the 1940s girls league given consideration. I know there’s an exhibit on them, but it isn’t the same thing as being elected. There are a handful of them still with us and if they’re going to be enshrined, it needs to be quickly. Again, I’m not certain any of them should be elected, but I’d like to see the issue debated by fans and the Veteran’s Committee. It could be interesting.