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Friday, October 07, 2016

Eras

The Baseball Hall of Fame has again tinkered with what we might generally call their "second chance for induction process," previously known as the Veterans' committee, and now called the "Eras Committee." It operates on the same principle, but is now in four categories rather than three: Early Baseball (1871-1949), Glory Days (1950-1969), Modern Baseball (1970-1988) and Today's Baseball (1988 to the present). Also, instead of rotating the eras one by one, the Modern and Today's Baseball categories will go twice every five years, the Glory Days one every five years, and the Early Baseball once every ten years. Cleary, from many years gone by when no one was elected, they've realized the earlier years have been exhausted of qualified Hall of Famers.

But this year's ballot is a strange one. Only one of the five players listed, Mark McGwire, reached higher than twelve percent in the writers' vote (he topped out at 23.7 percent), He would have been a shoo-in if not for PED use, but I doubt the committee of sixteen will be any more lenient than the writers. The other four players, Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, and Orel Hershiser, received scant attention from the writers. The only one with HOF numbers is Belle. He only played twelve years due to injury, but he averaged 40 homers and 130 RBI a season. But the players he most closely resembles, statistically (according to Baseball Reference) list only two HOFers, Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg. But Belle is done in by two factors--he played during the PED era and he was hated by just about everyone. Maybe a hundred years now someone will look at his numbers and wonder why he never got in, but his foul personality is still remembered too well.

Their are five managers and executives up for induction. Of the managers, both are close but no cigar to me, but I wouldn't begrudge their elections. Davey Johnson managed one of the best teams of the last fifty years, the 1986 Mets, to the title. But he never won another one. He did take four teams he managed, which included the Orioles, Reds, and Nationals, to the post-season, though. I don't know if that's a record for number of teams taken to a post-season, but it's got to be close (Billy Martin also took four). His .562 winning percentage is nothing to sneeze at, and of his 17 years managing, he only had five sub-.500 seasons. He just doesn't feel like a Hall of Famer to me.

Lou Piniella might stand a better shot, even though he has a lower winning percentage (mostly from a disastrous three-year stretch as Tampa Bay's manager). He also won just one title (with Cincinnati in 1990), and took two other teams to the post-season, including the 2001 Mariners, who won a record 116 games. But that team, as well as two Cub teams, underperformed in the playoffs. He was a better player than Johnson, which might get him more consideration.

Of the three executives, George Steinbrenner, bumptious owner of the New York Yankees, is back for another go-round. He didn't get enough votes to even qualify for stating how many votes he got last time, so I doubt voters will change their tune. The two that stand the best chance of election are for different reasons.

John Schuerholz, who is best known for building the dominant Braves of the 1990s, should be elected. If building the Braves wasn't enough, he also was the general manager of the 1985 Kansas City Royals, and is thus the only GM to win titles in both leagues. Though Atlanta won only one title, they did win 14 straight division titles. Schuerholz is a no-brainer.

Lastly, what do make of Bud Selig's presence on the ballot? Here is a man who was booed heartily every time he was introduced at a Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Not a fan favorite, he might be inducted simply because he was commissioner during an upswing in baseball popularity. He did preside over the 1994 strike, and the debacle of the tied All Star games and interleague play. He is not much of a fan of purists, because he also oversaw the addition of the wild-card game, but that has proved to be an exciting addition to baseball's post-season.

Not all commissioners have been elected, though almost all of them have. Bart Giammati served only a few months before an untimely death, and his successor, Faye Vincent, as well as Peter Ueberroth, have never been brought up for Hall consideration. But if Bowie Kuhn can get in, so can Selig. I will give him this--he loves baseball.

If Schuerholz and Selig are elected by the "Eras" committee, the writers better elect someone, because no one will show up for just these two.

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