Posts Tagged ‘Danny Murtaugh’

2015 Veteran’s Ballot: the Outfield and the Executive

November 7, 2014

Part two of my comments on the impending Veteran’s Committee vote. This time the Outfield. As there are less outfielders than either infielders or pitchers, I decided to add the lone executive to this post (I can feel the tingle of excitement from each of you). The same caveat as last time applies here.

Bob Howsam

Bob Howsam

Howsam was a general manager and executive for lots of years. He’s most famous for putting together the Cincinnati “Big Red Machine” of the 1970s. Using homegrown talent like Johnny Bench and Pete Rose and melding them with trades for players like Joe Morgan and George Foster he created a baseball Goliath that won National League pennants in 1970 and 1972 and won the World Series in 1975 and 1976. He also worked with Branch Rickey to form the Continental League, which led ultimately to the first Major League expansion since 1914 (Federal League) and was general manager for the 1964 Cardinals World Series champions. He retired in 1977 and died in 2008.

Minnie Minoso

Minnie Minoso

Minnie Minoso played first in the Negro Leagues winning a Negro World Series with the New York Cubans in 1947. As such he’s one of a handful of Hall of Famers (or in his case hopefuls) who won a Negro World Series and played in the MLB World Series (Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, and Satchel Paige all won both and Willie Mays played in both). He made the transition to the Major Leagues (Cleveland) in 1949, then settled in with the White Sox in 1951. He stayed through 1957, making five All Star games three stolen base, three triples, and a doubles title. He also led the American League in total bases in 1954 and in hit by pitch a gazillion times. In 1958 he went back to Cleveland, made two more All Star teams, then was traded back to Chicago where he led the AL in hits in 1960. His last good year was 1961, when he was 35. He hung on through 1964. He played and managed several seasons in the Mexican League, got back to Chicago in 1976 as a coach. As a gimmick he got into three games in 1976 (age 50) and two in 1980 (age 54). He managed one hit, a single. His career totals include a .298 average, an OPS of .848, and an OPS+ of 130. He stole 205 bases (and was caught 130) and ended up with 192 hit by pitch. In 1957 he won a Gold Glove in the first year of its awarding. His career WAR (Baseball Reference.com version) is 50.1, peaking at 8.2 in 1954. He was considered a good teammate, a great fielding outfielder noted for his speed. He first plays more than 10 games in the Majors in 1951, when he was 25. The color barrier cost him some years of MLB playing time and also some commentators think that the gimmick games at 50 and 54 gave him a reputation as more clown than serious ballplayer (I’m not one of those).

Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva

Tony Oliva was, like Minoso, from Cuba. He also got to the big leagues a little late, this time because of politics not the color barrier. He escaped Cuba using his brother’s passport and signed with the Minnesota Twins. At 25 he was Rookie of the Year in the American League (1964) and won a batting title. He won another the next year, helping Minnesota to its first World Series (they lost). He remained an All Star calibre player through 1971, winning a third batting title that season (and the AL slugging title). He developed bad knees and struggled through the rest of his career, which ended in 1976 at age 37. Besides the three batting titles and the slugging title, he led the AL in doubles four times, in hits five, and in total bases once. His career average is .304 with an .830 OPS and an OPS+ of 131. His career WAR is 43, peaking at 7.0 in 1970. He was an excellent right fielder leading the league in putouts and assists several times. His career is short, but impressive prior to the knee injuries.

So where do I stand. I’d vote for both Minoso and Oliva easily. Howsam is another story. Frankly, I don’t find much to dislike about him (except that several sources say he wasn’t a particularly loveable human being), but right now the so-called “Golden Era” of 1947-72 has another major contributor who isn’t in the Hall of Fame, Danny Murtaugh. As long as Murtaugh is excluded from Cooperstown, I can’t bring myself to elect another non-player from his era.

As an aside, notice that fully one-third of the players on this ballot (Minoso, Oliva, and Tiant) have Cuban backgrounds. It’s a tribute to the level of talent and competition in Cuba.

The Case for Danny Murtaugh

November 20, 2013
Murtaugh with Roberto Clemente

Murtaugh with Roberto Clemente

When I finished my post on the 2014 Veterans Committee managers ballot, I commented I would let Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre appear on my ballot, but neither of the other two candidates. I received a handful of emails from friends questioning my assertion that I’d take Danny Murtaugh over Bobby Cox. They pointed out that Cox won more than Murtaugh if you considered division titles and that his winning percentage was higher than Murtaugh. So in answer to them, here’s my case for Danny Murtaugh.

First a brief aside to tell you a little about Murtaugh. He managed a long time ago and many of you won’t remember him. He got his start managing Pittsburgh (the only team he ever managed) in the last half of 1957. He replaced Bobby Bragan (who shows up in the recent movie “42” as the Alabama born catcher who changes his mind about being traded). Pittsburgh had a losing record (36-67) when Murtaugh took over. He went 26-25 for the rest of the season. It wasn’t much but it was a winning record. He got the Pirates to second the next season. losing to the Braves (later Cox’s team) by eight games. The team slipped back to fourth in 1959, but maintained a winning record. In 1960 they won the World Series, then slid pack into the pack through 1964 when Murtaugh retired because he was sick. He moved to the front office and returned briefly to managing in 1967 when the Pirates were 42-42. He managed to keep them at .500 then returned to the front office at the end of the season. After Pittsburgh fired their manager just before the end of the 1969 season, Murtaugh was called on again to take the team. He managed the team to a division title in 1970 and the World Series title in 1971, then retired again. Finally, he was brought back late in 1973 (going 13-13) and stayed through the 1976 season, winning division titles in both 1974 and 1975 and finishing second in 1976. He died in December 1976 and had his number retired in 1977.

Now why Murtaugh for the Hall of Fame?

1. He has two World Series titles. That’s impressive enough, but if you look at the dates (1960 and 1971) it gets even better. He does it with two almost entirely different teams. The only 1960 holdovers still around in 1971 are Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, and Maz only plays 70 games (Dave Cash is the primary second baseman) and bats all of once in both the NLCS and the Series, getting a hit in the NLCS. So with very different talent Murtaugh wins.

2. He does it in two eras. It’s a very different game in 1960 than in 1971. The pitching revolution has occurred, there have been two rounds of expansion.

3. He has two seasons in which he manages his team to less than .500. They are 1963 and 1964 and in the latter year he’s 80-82.

4. He manages in five full seasons in which there are two rounds of playoffs. He reaches the playoffs in four of those (1970-1971, 1974-1975).

5. He was instrumental in easing Roberto Clemente’s way in the beginning of his career. He became a mentor and confidant. But in fairness, Bobby Bragan also did those things in Clemente’s earliest days in the Majors.

6. On 1 September 1971, he put nine American black and dark-skinned Latino players on the field at the same time, something that had never happened before. The team won the game.

So I think Murtaugh deserves a spot in Cooperstown. With his two World Series wins, I think he deserves it over Cox.

The Apotheosis of Bobby Cox

October 15, 2010

So we now say good-bye to Bobby Cox and watch him ride off into the sunset (or the cruise the announcers made such a fuss about). He’s certainly going to the Hall of Fame shortly, and that’s probably fair. He’s also been deified in the last several months. It’s as if baseball was putting up a Managerial Mount Rushmore and Cox was one of the four faces to go there. Maybe he should. Then again maybe he shouldn’t.

No knock on Cox, but I’m not sure how you quantify a great manager. You can’t just look at won-loss records, because Connie Mack ended up with a career losing record and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think he belongs in Cooperstown. It can’t be titles because Tom Kelly and Danny Murtaugh aren’t Hall of Famers and they have the same number of titles as Tom LaSorda and Bucky Harris (2) and more than Whitey Herzog (1). Is it taking a bad team and winning with it? Nope, can’t be that either because Casey Stengel couldn’t make either Brooklyn or Boston (the Braves not the Red Sox) into competitive teams (not to mention what happened with the Mets) and everybody agrees he’s a Hall of Famer because of his Yankees years.  If it’s taking a bad team and making them contenders, then where’s Gene Mauch who had a habit of doing just that? And Cox? well, he’s got a lot of division championships, but only one World Series title, same as Herzog and less than Kelly or Murtaugh. I wonder if that makes him a lesser manager or not.

I’m very serious about this. I have no idea how you determine a great manager. I’m tempted to say that Stengel and Joe McCarthy were the greatest. They each won the World Series seven times, but how hard was it to write “Ruth” and “Gehrig” into McCarthy’s early lineup, then replace Ruth with “DiMaggio”? And it must have been tough as Stengel agonized about “did I do the right thing” when he wrote in “Mantle” or “Berra.” Great talent like that makes looking like a great manager easy. And as this post was started by referencing Cox, how tough was it to write in “Maddux”, “Glavine”, “Smoltz” three out of every five days? Geez, even I might win a few games with those three rosters.

So here’s a serious plea from me to you. Can we figure out how to determine agreat manager before we haphazardly anoint Saint Bobby of Cox? Frankly I think Cox deserves a seat at the great manager table but I don’t really know how we determine that.

My personal choice for the manager’s Mount Rushmore? Based on personal preference rather than true evaluation they would be (alphabetically) John McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Casey Stengel, and Harry Wright (with apologies to Connie Mack).

Adding Managers and Contributors to the Hall of Fame

November 29, 2009

Below I’ve already made known my preference for Marvin Miller in the Hall of Fame. There are a number of others being considered on the December ballot. Some of them ought to be enshrined.

At SportsPhd there’s a good overview of the candidates, so I’ll simply add that I agree with him on managers. Tom Kelly won 2 World Series’ with teams that were underdogs and few legitimate Hall of Fame candidates. Danny Murtaugh did the same thing in the 1960s and 1970s. He had more Hall of Fame players, but he also has the advantage of leaving, seeing the team collapse, and having it revive upon his return. This at least leaves the impression he made a significant difference in the team. I think he did.

Of the contributors I like Colonel Ruppert who gave us the original Yankees dynasties, Howsam who built 2 great teams, and Ewing Kauffman of the Royals. Kauffmann? Well, at least when he was paying the checks the Royals got George Brett, Frank White, and a couple of trips to the World Series (winning in 1985). Once he left the stage, the Royals have collapsed. That ought to be worth remembering.