SweetSpot: Tom Kelly

Hall adds manager, umpire, no exec

December, 7, 2009
12/07/09
11:04
AM ET
You'll pardon me if I'm not leading three cheers for the Hall of Fame's Veterans Committee(s). There were two lists of candidates, one of them loaded with outstanding candidates and one of them almost bereft of good candidates. And the results? Of course: none of the outstanding candidates were elected from the loaded list, while two were elected from the other:
    Results of the 2009 Managers/Umpires Ballot (12 votes needed for election): Doug Harvey (15 votes, 93.850 percent), Charlie Grimm (3 votes, 18.8%). Davey Johnson, Tom Kelly, Billy Martin, Gene Mauch and Steve O’Neill each received less than 3 votes.

    The Veterans Committee for Managers and Umpires consisted of Hall of Famers Jim Bunning, Tommy Lasorda, Eddie Murray, Phil Niekro, Tony Perez, Robin Roberts, Ryne Sandberg, Ozzie Smith, Billy Williams and Dick Williams; former executive Jim Frey; current executives Roland Hemond (Diamondbacks) and Bob Watson (Major League Baseball); and veteran writers Tim Kurkjian (ESPN), Jack O’Connell (BBWAA) and Tom Verducci (Sports Illustrated).

    The Veterans Committee for Executives and Pioneers also considered 10 candidates for election to the Hall of Fame in 2010. No candidate on that ballot received the necessary 75 percent of all ballots cast needed for Hall of Fame election. Former Detroit Tigers executive John Fetzer received eight votes, the highest total of any of the 10 candidates.

    Results of the 2009 Executives/Pioneers Ballot (9 votes needed for election): John Fetzer (8 votes, 66.7%),
    Marvin Miller (7 votes, 58.3%), Jacob Ruppert (7 votes, 58.3%), Ewing Kauffman (6 votes, 50 percent). Gene Autry, Sam Breadon, Bob Howsam, John McHale, Gabe Paul and Bill White each received less than 3 votes. The Veterans Committee for Executives and Pioneers consisted of Hall of Famers Robin Roberts and Tom Seaver; former executive John Harrington (Red Sox); current executives Jerry Bell (Twins), Bill DeWitt (Cardinals), Bill Giles (Phillies), David Glass (Royals), Andy MacPhail (Orioles) and John Schuerholz (Braves); and veteran media members Rick Hummel (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), Hal McCoy (Dayton Daily News) and Phil Pepe(New York Daily News).

My four choices from the Executives/Pioneers ballot were Miller and Ruppert (who both came close) and Breadon and Howsam (who both did not). Just a reminder: There are 11 owners in the Hall of Fame, and Breadon accomplished more than almost all of them. Before Breadon owned the Cardinals, they hadn't won any sort of championship since the 1880s. While Breadon owned the Cardinals, they won nine National League pennants and six World Series. In the 60-some years since Breadon sold the Cardinals, they've won three World Series. With the exception of George Steinbrenner, it's hard to imagine who might clear the bar for owners if Breadon can't even come close. (Oh, and by the way, Fetzer's Tigers won one American League pennant and one World Series in his 28 years as owner. One can only assume that he nearly gained election because he played a pivotal role in negotiating TV contracts. Or something.)

My three choices from the Managers/Umpires ballot were Doug Harvey, Billy Martin, and umpire Hank O'Day. Harvey should have been elected a long time ago. O'Day, because he umpired a century ago, is easy for some voters to ignore. In response, a commenter wrote this:
    You seem to ignore the fact that Billy Martin routinely took the very good teams he created and routinely destroyed them, mostly by the same method. He wore out his best pitchers arms' by overwork (What he did to Ron Guidry alone should disqualify him for the Hall of Fame) and he micromanaged his players, who eventually got tired of playing for him. He usually deserved to be fired, which is not great credentials for the Hall of Fame.

Point taken. I suspect that I fall victim to the same impulse that often afflicts the real voters: the desire to vote for someone, even if there's no obviously deserving candidate. I also suspect that this impulse explains Herzog's election. He picked up 14 of 16 possible votes? After failing to gain election in many previous elections? Herzog's 1,281 wins rank just 32nd all-time, and his .532 career winning percentage is good but not great. I suspect that he was elected because he (and his teams) had a personality -- in St. Louis, they called it "Whiteyball" -- and because his teams did win six division titles and three league championships.

Essentially, Herzog doesn't obviously rank among the managers already in the Hall of Fame -- or for that matter, with Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre -- but was (arguably) the best candidate on the ballot. It's more fun to elect someone than not.

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