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Making Cito Gaston's case for the Coop

9/29/2010

Dave Perkins on Cito Gaston's impending retirement, and his Hall of Fame prospects:

    Gaston is one of 21 men who managed at least two World Series winners. Of those 21, 13 are in the Hall of Fame. The eight who aren’t include Joe Torre (four wins) and La Russa (two), both of whom are shoo-ins someday for their vast body of work. Terry Francona (two so far) likewise is on the path to Cooperstown. The other two-time winners not in the Hall are Ralph Houk, Danny Murtagh, Tom Kelly and Bill Carrigan, a player/manager on the winning Red Sox in 1915 and 1916. Plus Gaston, of course, and can anyone guess which of those was the first black manager to win a World Series? That’s a stepping stone in baseball history, too.Based on the evidence, and notwithstanding that Gaston has a relatively short managerial history (fewer than 1,800 games), it still appears almost inevitable that Gaston will be summoned to Cooperstown by a future veterans’ committee, which handles such things and which has already inducted Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog (one Series win each).

    Gaston knows the arithmetic on this one. He also can only hope that he is on the right side of the turf if and when the call comes. To turn around today’s starting point, in the bigger picture he’d like to know what he has before he’s gone.

    On the smaller scale, he leaves his uniform job in a little more than a week, thoroughly deserving of the respectful and heartfelt sendoff he is sure to receive.

No question about that.

I'm not so sure about his Hall of Fame chances, though. Gaston began his managerial career on a Hall of Fame path, for sure. In his first five seasons, his teams won four division titles and two World Series. But then came four non-playoff seasons, a decade-long break from managing, and now three more non-playoff seasons. It's an exceptionally short career, not balanced by an exceptional amount of winning.

Ralph Houk won three pennants and two World Series in his first three seasons, then never again reached the postseason again. But Houk managed many more seasons than Gaston, with almost exactly the same winning percentage.

Unlike Houk, Billy Southworth is in the Hall of Fame. Southworth managed just slightly more games than Gaston. Like Gaston, Southworth reached the postseason four times and won two World Series. But Southworth's .597 career winning percentage ranks among the best ever. Oh, and Southworth wasn't elected until 57 years after he last managed.

Might Gaston make it someday? When it comes to the Hall of Fame, almost anything is possible. But he's 66 years old. If it happens, he probably won't be around to enjoy it.