We are in an era when the BBWAA can’t get it together to elect any of nearly a dozen deserving candidates for the Hall of Fame through the usual channels, so the Veteran’s Committee nominees maybe take on more significance than usual these days.
And, given that the VC is, this year, dealing with the so-called “Expansion Era” candidates (i.e. those from 1973-present), if there is going to be an induction of anyone who still alive next summer, this is the election that matters. Here are the candidates:
Tony La Russa
I’ll get to what I think of all of those guys in a minute, but I do have to note that there are players from this era who dropped off the regular ballot way too fast and way before anyone really gave them a chance. Guys like Lou Whitaker, Dwight Evans and Bobby Grich. Why they’re not on here while dudes like Steve Garvey are is beyond me, but this is the ballot we have.
As for my personal choices:
- Dave Concepcion: No. There were way better all-glove shortstops than him and being part of a winning team like the Big Red Machine shouldn’t get him extra points.
- Bobby Cox: Sure. Knock him for only having one World Series ring, but if it’s true that the playoffs are a crap shoot and that a manager’s most important job is to put his team in a position to win and to keep an even keel, Cox has to go in. Plus: that Braves run of the 1990s and early 2000s was kicked off by moves Cox made while he was the Braves GM. Plus: he was a helluva a manager in Toronto and led them to winning seasons back when people thought the idea of a winning Blue Jays team was a pipe dream.
- Steve Garvey: No. He has the “Fame” part down, but he was probably one of the more overrated players of the past 40 years.
- Tommy John: You don’t get in for surgery being named after you. John has a decent shot on the mertis, though. But juse decent. Points for durability and longevity, but never really had the peak you expect from a Hall of Fame starter.
- Tony La Russa: Yup. And twice on Sundays. Not my cup of tea aesthetically — I really loathe the degree to which we now have bullpen specialization, in large part due to La Russa himself — but the guy won like crazy and, whether you like it or not, his bullpen use did make a huge mark on the game of baseball.
- Billy Martin: I go back and forth on him. He definitely made an impact, winning quickly in most places he went. And he won a couple of titles, of course. One wonders, however, if he didn’t ruin some pitching careers too. And he was a sour sonofabitch, of course, but I don’t care about that stuff. Lots of Hall of Famers were. I would vote for him simply because I’d love to hear the posthumous roasts he’d get for several weeks on either side of the induction ceremony.
- Marvin Miller: Yes. I’ve written about this many times. The man changed baseball. Not just the business of it, but the game itself in terms of how teams are built and rosters populated. No one with the impact he had is out of the Hall of Fame. Many with far less impact are in.
- Dave Parker: He’s better than a lot of guys already in, but do we compound mistakes made in the past with greater mistakes? Let’s spend the time on his campaign to get Jim Rice taken out, OK? OK, maybe not. But Parker had a peak that could have been Hall of Fame worthy, but he blew a hole in it with drugs and ineffectiveness. I don’t think his case recovered from that.
- Dan Quisenberry: I feel like if Bruce Sutter is in Quisenberry deserves it. I also don’t feel like “well, Bruce Sutter is in!” is a great argument. Borderline.
- Ted Simmons: The best catcher not named Piazza not in the Hall? Maybe he and Bill Freehan fight over that. I dunno. I think we need more catchers in the Hall. So many good ones unrepresented. Sure, I vote for Simmons.
- George Steinbrenner: I think so. Owners are hard cases, but the guy did certainly make a mark. And presided over lots and lots of success. Much of it, to be fair, that was only possible by his being unable to meddle with it for a while. But he really did take advantage of baseball’s era of free agency in ways many other owners wouldn’t at the time, and he forced teams to be less conservative.
- Joe Torre: Sure. Both because of managing and because of a fine, fine career as a player. And because I feel like we need to have Cox, La Russa and Torre on the same stage. We didn’t really appreciate it until it was over, but the late 70s through the mid-2000s were pretty much dominated by three of the best managers in baseball history. They should go in arm-in-arm-in-arm.
So. What say you?