Posts Tagged ‘George Steinbrenner’

Thoughts on the 2018 Modern Game Ballot

November 14, 2018

Albert Belle and bat

A couple of days ago I posted the names from the Modern Game Veteran’s Committee ballot. I promised to make some comments later. Knowing how much you were dying to read them, I decided to carry out that promise.

The first two thoughts are both sides of the same issue. It wouldn’t hurt me if any one of the listed players (Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith) made the Hall of Fame. It also wouldn’t make me jump for joy. It’s not a bad list. It also isn’t an inspiring one.

I look at Baines and Carter as solid players, excellent contributors to their teams and to the game, but I can say that about hundreds of players. Belle was a superior power hitter, arguably the most feared slugger in the game. Clark was a good and sometimes great players who helped his team. So did both pitchers. And so did a lot of other players.

For the managers (Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella) my problem lies in the fact that their are other managers equally qualified for the Hall of Fame (Danny Murtaugh and Jim Leyland come to mind). All three have rings and both Johnson and Piniella also have rings as players (two in Piniella’s case). But as I read the rules the committee is allowed to consider only their managerial record.

Which brings me to George Steinbrenner, the only executive on the list. He was probably the most controversial man in baseball for much of his career as owner of the New York Yankees. Some of the controversy was overblown, much justified, much of his own making. He was abrasive, overbearing, and dedicated to winning. Apparently so was Sam Breadon of the Cardinals.

And much of my problem is that when I see this list, I see a hundred other players, fifty other managers, a dozen other executives and ask “why this list?” It seems to me if you have to ask why you probably don’t have a lot of genuine Hall of Famers on the list.

The Hall gives committee members five votes. This time I’ll use only one. I’ll hold my nose and vote for Steinbrenner. I think his contributions to the revival and continued excellence of the Yanks is both notable and worthy.

And as a guess, and it’s strictly a guess, I think the committee adds two new Hall of Famers: Steinbrenner and Smith.


The 2018 Modern Game Ballot is out

November 12, 2018

The latest iteration of the Veteran’s Committee has a ballot out. This time it’s the Modern Game Ballot which is supposed to look at very recent people. I’ll comment later, but here’s a look at the ballot without player/manager/executive commentary:

Players: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Joe Carter, Orel Hershiser, Lee Smith

Managers: Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella

Executive: George Steinbrenner

As a note, I presume from this that Marvin Miller is eligible for the ballot of the era just before this one. I am also informed (by the place where I found the list) that Johnson and Piniella are to be judged strictly on their managerial record, not their playing record.

Picking the Winners for the Latest Vet’s Committee

October 7, 2016

Well, we have the newest version of the Veteran’s Committee getting ready to make its call for the Hall of Fame (5 November). The ballot is posted below and I always make my choices for enshrinement. This year is no different, but the way I’m going at it is.

Let me start with the players (Baines, Belle, Clark, Hershiser, McGwire). It’s not like there’s a bad player there, but there’s not much to be excited about either. McGwire has the steroid issue, Hershiser is known for one season (and more like two months), Clark was great for a few years and got hurt, Belle was a monster (ask Fernando Vina about it) but also got hurt, and Baines may be the ultimate in compiling numbers over a long, long time. It’s not like any of them is exactly a bad choice, it’s just that none of them are an inspired choice. I wouldn’t be overly upset if any of them got in, and in Albert Belle’s case I’d certainly tell him I’m all for him if he asked (I very much value my continued good health), but then again if none of them got in, I wouldn’t be overly upset either. So I guess all that means I wouldn’t, as a member of the committee, vote for any of them.

The managers are quite a different story. I loved Lou Piniella. He had fire, he had savvy, he could win with weaker teams. Davey Johnson seemed to win when he had good teams and lose with weaker teams. Like Piniella he won it all once (in 1986, before the current committee’s beginning date of 1988) and went to the playoffs a lot. But I’m setting both aside because I think the people who set up the ballot made a huge blunder here. Where the heck is Jim Leyland? Like Piniella and Johnson he made the playoffs a bunch and won it all once (1997). He’s a three time manager of the year winner, as is Piniella (twice for Johnson). Of course I’ll admit his winning percentage is lower than either of the others, but he spent time making the Pirates a winner and had to put up with Loria at Miami and still won a World Series. I’m not about to vote for the other two without being able to at least consider Leyland.

For the executives I know I would vote for John Schuerholz. He built winning teams in both Atlanta and Kansas City. Granted the KC team already had Brett and Willie Wilson and many of the others, but Schuerholz added the players necessary to get to the 1985 championship. The other two, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner have decent cases (and I expect Selig to make it in November), but I have a personal preference for one executive at a time, so Schuerholz gets my nod.

When I first thought about this list I got a call from my son. We spent time talking about a lot of things, including the Vet’s Committee vote. He had a suggestion, which I pass along to you. Currently there are 4 Veteran’s Committees. He suggested pushing it to five. Now hear me out before you scream too loud, “They already have four and you idiots want to jump to five?” His idea was that the four current committees confine themselves to players and that a new fifth committee meet periodically (the frequency can be determined) to vote strictly on non-players (managers, owners, executives, contributors, Negro Leagues, etc.). This would allow the current committees to concentrate more on players while the new committee did all the others. Frankly, I think it’s a decent idea. They’ll never do it because then the current committees would never elect a player. In all the time they had the three previous committees they elected two total players: Deacon White and Ron Santo. They did elect a handful of non-players and taking those away would require the committees to focus on players. Maybe they wouldn’t elect anyone and maybe they shouldn’t. Anyway I thought it an idea worth passing along.

New Veteran’s Ballot Announced

October 4, 2016

After revamping the Veteran’s Committee (s) for the 1000th time (give or take), the Hall of Fame just announced its newest ballot. This one is for the Vet’s Committee now known as “Today’s Game.” It covers the last handful of years (since 1988) and includes the following names:

Players: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire;

Managers: Lou Piniella, Davey Johnson (who might also be considered a player);

Executives: John Schuerholz, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner.

The election will be 5 December 2016 by a 16 member committee. For election an individual must get 75% of the vote (12 voters).

2014 Veteran’s Committee: the Executives

November 17, 2013


Here’s a few comments on the two executives listed on the newest Veteran’s Committee Ballot.

Marvin Miller is the most important non-player in baseball since Kennesaw Mountain Landis, Frank Jobe not withstanding (For those who don’t know, Jobe is the Tommy John Surgery doctor and someone I’d support for the Hall of Fame.).  As executive director of the Player’s Association he changed the economics of the game. Players got the freedom to change teams, to make a lot of money, and, as a fringe benefit of more money, a chance to train fulltime instead of work at a “real” job. He was also, apparently, an absolute jerk of a human being. Even the players didn’t particularly like him. But this isn’t a contest for “Miss (or Mr.) Congeniality”, it’s a vote for the Hall of Fame. I think Miller absolutely belongs. Now that he’s dead and won’t get to make a speech, maybe they’ll finally let him in.

George Steinbrenner bought the New York Yankees in 1973 and owned them until his death in 2010. No one would ever accuse him of being a “hands off” owner. Steinbrenner took personal charge of returning the team to its 1920s-early 1960s glory. He was one of the first owners to understand and use the new economic program Miller had instituted with his successful challenge of the reserve clause. Steinbrenner, with a huge budget, brought in free agent after free agent. Some of them worked, some didn’t. but he continued putting pieces together until his team picked up pennants from 1976 through 1978, winning the World Series in 1977 and 1978, then picking up a division championship in 1980 and a pennant in 1981. Between 1990 and 1993 Steinbrenner was banned from running the Yanks (but not stripped of his ownership) for paying gamblers to find out anything unflattering they could about one of his players (Dave Winfield). Apparently it was using gamblers that got Steinbrenner in trouble. In 1993 he was reinstated for day-to-day running of the Yankees. His teams won further championships in 1996, 1998-2000, and 2009. There were also pennants in 2001 and 2003.

There is no question that Steinbrenner was one of the more influential men in baseball for 30 years, but I don’t think the Hall should install more than one executive a year and this year Miller is much more significant. I know the one a year criteria is arbitrary, but it’s the way I look at the issue. This is a Hall that should be dominated by players. I’m all for executives, managers, umpires, and other contributors getting elected, but I don’t want their numbers to overwhelm the players.  This particular ballot is heavy with both managers and executives and they may put in up to four or five non-players and no players (I have no idea what will actually happen). So for me Miller is in and Steinbrenner isn’t for this year.

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.

Tammany and the Team

September 9, 2013
New York Mutual, 1872

New York Mutual, 1872

Back when I was a kid, my Grandfather once told me that there were three things you never discussed in public: politics, religion, and sport. Because you never discussed them, you ended up arguing them. And even worse was to combine any two. Back a long time ago (in blog years) I combined religion and sport when I did a post on Billy Sunday. It’s time to throw in politics with sport and see what we get.

In the 1850s Brooklyn provided the great teams in New York baseball. There were the Atlantic, the Eckford, the Excelsior. They were arguably the three finest teams in the US and none of them were in New York City. That changed in 1857 with the founding of the Mutual. Named for the Mutual Hook and Ladder Company (a local fire brigade) the team began play in 1858. From the beginning it had an advantage that no other New York team could top, it had money. It had lots of money. Why? Glad you asked. You see, the Mutual quickly became the darling of Tammany Hall.

Tammany Hall about 1870

Tammany Hall about 1870

Founded in the 18th Century, Tammany Hall began as a gentleman’s club and quickly became the gathering place for the elite of the Democratic-Republican Party (Vice President Aaron Burr served as President for a while). Now a brief foray into 19th Century politics is in order. The Democratic-Republican Party was the political party formed by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The party splintered in 1824 and the part that joined Andrew Jackson’s campaign became the modern Democratic Party. The Jeffersonian Republican Party has nothing to do with the modern Republican Party (which got its start it 1854). Got all that?

Tammany Hall was (into the 1930s) the centerpiece of the New York Democratic Party. If you wanted to be in politics in New York, you had to have Tammany support if you were a Democrat. If you saw the recent movie Lincoln, Fernando Wood, played by James Pace, was one of the principal speakers in the House of Representatives opposing the 13th Amendment. Wood was head of Tammany for a while. Of course one thing that goes with political power is money and that meant that a lot of money ended up in Tammany Hall. One of the things they did with it was support the Mutual.

The Mutual won the National Association of Base Ball Players title in their initial campaign (1858) and did well throughout the period of the Civil War (although never quite up to the level of the Atlantic). The team board of directors, all Tammany men, made sure that the team had the best uniforms, and equipment. Although the league was supposed to be amateur, most clubs had at least one professional and with Tammany money, the Mutual were no exception.

When the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was formed in 1871, the Mutual joined the league, making them one of the acknowledged professional teams and, because of their backers, one of the most well-financed.

By this point William M. Tweed, known as “Boss” Tweed and leader of the “Tweed Ring” was head of Tammany. Tweed was among the first of a group of political “bosses” who dominated urban (and in some cases state) politics for long periods. The “machine” was a major factor in politics for around 100 years and are generally seen as corrupt, graft-ridden organizations that are one of the country’s shames. But most “machines” had their benevolent side. Tweed was known for his aid to immigrants arriving in New York. His “ward heelers” were noted for finding new arrivals housing, jobs, midwives, etc. Of course they also pushed the immigrants to obtain citizenship and then vote for “machine” candidates for various offices. Some, like the Pendergast machine of Kansas City were noted for making sure one honest man was elected to office, leave him alone, let him do his job properly, then hold him up as proof the “machine” wasn’t corrupt. In Kansas City, the honest guy was named Harry Truman (whatever happened to him?). So the urban machines were a mixed bag. States like Louisiana had statewide machines (the one in Louisiana being led by Huey Long) that had corruption problems but also built roads and bridges and provided free school books to students. Again, something of a mixed bag. But, as far as I can determine, only the New York machine had a baseball team.

Although Tweed served on the Mutual board, he was not President of the board, so it’s difficult to say how much clout he had in team decisions (although it’s difficult to believe that the board would go against him too often). What Tweed and the board did was to pump money into the team. It did some good, but as George Steinbrenner discovered later on, it didn’t guarantee pennants. The Mutual never won an Association pennant, They finished fourth in 1871. The 1872 team (pictured above) came in third. They managed to reach second in 1874, then dropped to seventh in 1875.

What happened? Simply, the Tweed Ring was in trouble. By 1875 the machine had crumbled and Tammany Hall was fighting for its political life. They needed money for survival, not for baseball. Economically they pulled the rug out from under the Mutual and the team suffered tremendous loss of players. They managed to survive the season and when the National League replaced the Association in 1876, they were the team chosen to represent New York in the new league (despite their problems, they were still the dominant team in New York). But their financial problems remained. By late in the 1876 season they were broke, too broke to make the final western swing of the season. This got the attention of National League owner William Hulbert, who moved to have them thrown out of the league. With no league and no financial backing, the team folded. Its name was resurrected in the 1880s American Association team, but that was a different team.

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.

RIP George Steinbrenner

July 13, 2010

Just heard that George Steinbrenner, New York Yankees owner, died today at age 80. From this blog to his family, my he rest in peace.

I am not a Yankees fan but I did appreciate Steinbrenner’s loyalty to his team, his constant striving to improve the level of play. Sometimes he made it worse instead of better, but we all do that on occasion. Here’s to giving him a fast track to Cooperstown. He was one of the most important and controversial owners in baseball history and deserves his spot on the wall beside some of his best players.

George Didn’t Start It

March 21, 2010

One of the great things about baseball is that no matter what it is you see, the odds are overwhelming it’s been done before. I remember when George Steinbrenner got control of the Yankees and free agency hit he started buying up talent. A bunch of people complained that he was trying to buy a pennant and wasn’t that just horrible. Well, maybe it was or maybe it wasn’t. What it for sure wasn’t was brand new. Frederick Stearns had done it before.

Frederick Kimball Stearns was born in Buffalo, NY in 1854, graduated from the University of Michigan, and took over his father’s hugely successful pharmaceutical business in Detroit. He loved athletics and was instrumental in the local Amateur Athletics Union. But for our purposes, he owned the Detroit Wolverines, a National League team.

The Wolverines were formed in 1881. They were not overly successful finnishing fourth, sixth, seventh, and eighth (last) between their founding and 1884. In 1885 Stearns bough the team and immediately began spending money on trying to improve the team. In 1885 they rose to sixth. Then Stearns really began to lay out the cash. In 1886 they rose to second and won the NL pennant in 1887.

So what did Stearns do? Well, frankly, he bought a pennant. He dumped most of his 1885 team and went with a group of players that were stars of the era.  From the last place 1884 team Charlie Bennent, a catcher; Ned Hanlon (a Hall of Fame manager), the center fielder; and pitchers Stump Weidman and Charlie Getzein remained. In 1885 he picked up right fielder and Hall of Famer Sam Thompson along with pitcher Lady Baldwin. The next year left fielder Hardy Richardson, and the entire infield (from first around to third) Hall of Famer Dan Brouthers, Fred Dunlap, Jack Rowe, and Deacon White were on board and Charlie Ganzel was giving Bennett a second catcher that could ease the burden behind the plate. For the era it included some of the most important players in either league: White, Rowe, Brouthers, Richardson, and Thompson.

The Wolverines rolled to the pennant winning by 3.5 games. Thompson won both the batting and RBI titles (.372 and 166) and led the league in hits with 203. Brouthers led the league in runs with 153 and in doubles with 36. The team was first in hitting at .299, slugging at .434, and had 818 RBIs to also lead the league. In fact it led in all major offensive categories except home runs, finishing second to Chicago.

In the post season series of 15 games, Detroit beat the American Association’s St. Louis Browns 10 games to 5. They clinched the series in game 11, but the rules of the day required the entire series to be played. They split the final four. Thompson, Rowe, and Bennett had a great series and both Getzein and Baldwin picked up four wins.

It shold have been a great season for Detroit, but it turned into a disaster. Stearns was putting out a lot more money than he had. The rules for gate receipts were changed during the season to deprive the team of needed revenue and Stearns and the Wolverines couldn’t maintain the pace. From a share of the gate receipts as was normal, the new rule limited the visiting team to $125 per game. It was aimed directly at Detroit and its payroll.

With massive debts and discontented players, Detroit fell to fifth in 1888. Out of money and luck, Stearns disbanded the team at the end of the season, and sold the players to other teams for $45,000 (a whole lot of money in 1888). Detroit would not see Major League baseball again until 1901 when the American League put the Tigers there.

Stearns lived to see the Tigers and to watch them in three World Series. His Wolverines had better luck the the postseason. The Tigers lost all three World Series’ Stearns saw. He died in 1924 at age 70.