Posts Tagged ‘Tony LaRussa’

A Baker’s Dozen Random Thoughts on the Newest Hall of Fame Vote

January 8, 2014

Here, in no particular order, are some thoughts on the just completed Hall of Fame voting cycle.

1. Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre. It’s certainly a much more formidable list than last year (and remember I like Deacon White).

2. Sorry for Craig Biggio. The Hall is the only place in baseball that doesn’t round-up. As I mentioned in the post just below it’s happened before (see Nellie Fox) so there’s no need to cry “foul” about not letting Biggio into Cooperstown “hallowed halls.”

3. Hey, Dan LeBatard, how about letting me have your vote next year? I know something about baseball and I’m willing to listen to the people who read me before I fill out the ballot. BTW, readers,  I can be bribed cheap.

4. So 16 people didn’t think Maddux was Hall of Fame worthy. Son of a gun. Actually, I can see something of a reason for it. If I had a ballot this year I might seriously consider leaving off Maddux. Before you scream, read on. Let’s say I have 11 people I think should be in and I’m afraid that one of them (let’s call him Don Mattingly) might drop off the next ballot without my vote. I know Maddux is getting in easily (unless everybody thinks like I do), so why not add the 11th guy and leave off Maddux? Maddux gets in anyway, and I get a chance to help one of my guys stay around until I can convince the others that Mattingly deserves to be elected. I have no idea if any of the non-Maddux voters thought that way, but I hope they did, because about any other rationale is absolutely stupid. And of course it also shows how damaging the 10 vote limit is at times.

5. I understand the BBWAA website indicates that 50% of voters chose 10 names for enshrinement. That alone should tell us how truly stacked is this ballot.

6. I also understand there was one blank ballot. I have two things to say to that person. First, quit sending in a blank ballot. If there’s no one worth voting for, don’t vote. And second, “You dope.”

7. To the guy who won’t vote for anyone from the “steroid era,” which I note he didn’t define by date, see the second part of number six above.

8. To the Hall of Fame I have the following piece of advice. Dump the vote only for 10 rule. Yutz.

9. I note of the holdovers, only Mike Piazza and Biggio actually saw their percentages rise. That’s probably good for both. It’s also very bad for everyone else whose staying on the ballot next year. Barry Bonds actually polled less than 200 votes (198).

10. I’m a big opponent of letting the PED guys in the Hall, but I also favored the election of both LaRussa and Torre. Frankly, I failed to connect the two men to the PED issue. I shoulda paid more attention. That’s my mistake, no doubt about it.

11. I’m sorry Jack Morris is now off the ballot, but not sorry that Rafael Palmeiro is also gone.

12. I’m stunned Kenny Rogers only got one vote. I thought he might end up right about the 5% line. I’m also stunned that Mike Mussina didn’t do better.

13. Next year should be equally interesting with Randy Johnson almost certain to make it and with Pedro Martinez showing up for the first time. It will be interesting to see how Martinez does in light of his low win total (219), a number that still matters to most of the writers.

A Year’s End 9 Inning Celebration

December 31, 2013

So the year is ending, is it? Well, good riddance to bad rubbish. In many ways 2013 was a lousy year. The weather, the politics, the expenses, my wife broke a leg (which is now healed fine). But baseball provided some good moments. Here, in honor of nine innings and in no particular order, are some moments, both good and bad, that I remember.

1. The Dodgers made the playoffs and promptly hashed it. If you’re a Dodgers fan like me, this is a good sign.

2. The Miguel Cabrera/Mike Trout controversy stayed around. Isn’t it great that there are two players this quality in the Major Leagues today so we can debate the meaning of greatness?

3. Biogenesis. Who ever heard of them? I wish the whole PED issue would just go away, but I know it won’t.

4. Mariano Rivera did finally go away. That’s the wrong kind of going away. Never a Yankees fan, but it was a joy to watch Rivera perform. He was good, he had class, he had style. Name five other players you can say all that about.

5. The Red Sox won the World Series. OK, I’m not a BoSox fan either, but they’re a good team, a good organization, and David Ortiz is one heck of a hitter.

6. Clayton Kershaw proved why it’s now alright to mention his name in the same breath as you mention Sandy Koufax’s.

7. Albert Pujols proved mortal again. I hope it’s not the end of the line for the finest first baseman I ever saw.

8. Mike Matheny got his Cardinals to the World Series. Finally he can begin to move out from under Tony LaRussa’s shadow.

9. The Hall of Fame put in Deacon White and Jacob Ruppert, both of which I’d been pushing for, but left out everybody else except an ump and three managers. Are you kidding?

Hopefully, you have your own list of nine. These are mine. May you have a better 2014 than you had a 2013.

Thoughts on Enshrining 3 Managers

December 10, 2013
Baseball's newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

Baseball’s newest Hall of Famers (from MLB.com)

So the Veteran’s Committee has put Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, and Joe Torre into the Hall of Fame. Although I stated earlier I wouldn’t vote for Cox myself, I have no problem with the three making it to Cooperstown (as if the Committee cares what I think). Here’s a few thoughts on the newest election.

Again, Marvin Miller failed to make the Hall of Fame. According to reports the three winners were unanimously elected and no other candidate received more than six votes (out of 18). I’m surprised that Miller got at most six votes. There were six players on the committee, but I have no idea if any or all of them voted for Miller. So Far I’m unable to find out exactly how many votes anyone other than the three managers received.

And it’s not at all strange that a player was not elected. I went back to 2000 (the entire 21st Century, depending on what you do with 2000) and looked at the Veteran’s Committee inductees. It’s an interesting group. First, I need to remind you that the Committee was, for a  while, not a yearly institution, so in some of those 15 years there was no Committee and thus no one had a chance of election. For the purposes of this comment, I’ve excluded the 17 Negro League players and executives elected in 2006 because they were elected by a separate committee set up specifically to enshrine Negro League members. Only four players have been elected. They are Bill Mazeroski, Ron Santo, Bid McPhee, and Deacon White. Two of the players span the 1960s, the other two play in the 1800s. On the other hand, the Committee has elected two Negro Leaguers (Turkey Stearnes and Hilton Smith), seven managers (including the three just chosen), and seven contributors (executives, commissioners, umpires, etc.). So recently, the Veteran’s Committee has been shorting players.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that we’ve almost gotten to the end of those players who genuinely deserve Hall of Fame status. It may mean that the selection committee will continue to put up players and the election committee will continue to turn down almost all of them. I want to see what the various ballots look like over the next dozen or so years (remember there are 3 committees, so a dozen years would be four of each). If the same people keep making the list and keep failing election it should indicate that the various Veteran’s Committees have determined that the era for which they vote is devoid of quality candidates for enshrinement. Of course evolving lists and new stat methods can change this very much. The problem is that the pressure to elect someone, anyone, can be great. After all if you go five years without electing someone, then people begin to ask “why do we have a Veteran’s Committee?” This could lead to more marginal players elected or, more likely from what we’ve seen lately, more managers, umpires, owners, and executives making the trek to Cooperstown for enshrinement. Although I admit that the contributors have a major role in baseball and should be commemorated in Cooperstown, let’s not get carried away and start putting in everybody who ever umped a game or owned a team.

I also found out something about the Veteran’s Committee rules. According to MLB.com the members of the committee are restricted to voting for not more than five candidates (like the writers and the 10 candidate rule). As with the writers ballot this tends to depress the election results, which may not be bad, but I really wish they’d let the committee members vote for as many as they want. After all, they can vote for as few as they want, including no one.

So congratulations to Cox, LaRussa, and Torre. Now we wait for the Spink and Frick Awards and the big ballot writer’s selections. Those should be interesting, particularly the latter.

2014 Veteran’s Committee Results Announced

December 9, 2013

The 2014 Veteran’s Committee announced its results this morning. The following were elected to the Hall of Fame for the class of 2014:

Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre.

No players or executives were chosen. Commentary on my part to follow.

Star Managers

December 5, 2013

Recently my son reminded me that Eddie Mathews, Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Ted Williams all have something in common other than being Hall of Famers with 500 home runs. Each was a manager with an overall losing record. Mathews’ .481 is the highest winning percentage of the four. He wondered if I knew that (I didn’t).

It got me to thinking about how commonplace an idea it is that great players don’t make great managers. The great managers are guys like Earl Weaver who never got to the big leagues,  Tony LaRussa who was a marginal player (he hit a buck-99 in 132 games), or Walter Alston who got all of one at bat in the Major Leagues. And no one is going to question that the three of them were great managers. But let me point out a small handful of exceptional players who made pretty fair managers.

1. John J. McGraw has the second most wins of any manager ever, and the one with the most wins of any manager who didn’t also own the team (Connie Mack). McGraw was a true star in the late 19th Century. He was the heart and soul of the most famous of all 19th Century teams, the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. He hit well, played a fine third base, ran well, and was unmatched at on field shenanigans.

2. Hughie Jennings was a teammate of McGraw’s and led Detroit to three consecutive World series appearances (1907-09). The Tigers lost all of them, but the next time they got the Series was 1934.

3. Yogi Berra led two New York teams to the World Series: the Yankees in 1964 and the Mets in 1973. Both teams lost.

4. Joe Torre, who admittedly wasn’t the player McGraw and Berra were, won four championships as a manager after winning an MVP as a player.

There are also a number of player-managers who were both successful managers and star players. Bucky Harris, Frank Chance, and Joe Cronin are only three examples.

So while it’s true that being a great player doesn’t necessarily translate to a great manager, it also doesn’t mean the guy is a disaster as manager.

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 Lawyer and Napoleon

November 1, 2011

So I see Tony LaRussa has retired. He went out on top and there’s much merit to that. I know people who think he should stay for one more year so he can pass John McGraw as the second winningest manager in Major League history (Connie Mack is first). As of today, LaRussa is 35 wins short of McGraw and would make it easy if he managed one more season. Well, that’s LaRussa’s call and he’s made it. But the two men, LaRussa and McGraw, have a lot in common.

Both men managed about the same amount of time, although LaRussa changed teams more often than McGraw. Both were notorious micromanagers (although McGraw may not have ever used that word) who ended up winning almost exactly the same amount of games (as I said above). Both relied heavily on pitching but could count on good hitting if necessary. McGraw had to negotiate the transition from the Deadball Era to modern baseball and did it well. That lets us look at him managing the same kind of ball as LaRussa. Both won the same number of World Seires championships (3), although McGraw got to more Series’ than LaRussa (8 to 6) and McGraw had the 1904 pennant when there was no Series played (thanks primarily to McGraw himself). Both men unquestionably ran their team (meaning the weren’t “player’s managers”). Maybe that’s part of LaRussa’s legal training. In McGraw’s case it surely had to do with his background and size. They called him the “Little Napoleon” for a reason. Both were innovators, LaRussa with his bullpen and McGraw with his continual attempts to break the color line.

There are of course differences. McGraw had no Dave Duncan (and I wonder how much of LaRussa’s success had more to do with Duncan than LaRussa). Although McGraw adapted well to the power game of the 1920s, he never liked it. LaRussa seems to have embraced whatever game was thrown at him.

McGraw is an easy pick for the Hall of Fame and I’m sure LaRussa will be there shortly. I never liked his act (he could slow the game to a crawl), but he was good at what he did. So congratulations to him for a great managerial career and I hope he enjoys both his retirement and his well-earned trip to Cooperstown.