Cooperstown Should Open Gates For Managers (Special from the IBWAA)
Cooperstown Should Open Gates For Managers
By Dan Schlossberg (Special from the IBWAA)
This article was featured in “Here’s The Pitch” the newsletter of the IBWAA and is shared with permission. This article was published in October 2023.
In 2014, the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee gave unanimous approval to all three managers listed on their ballot: Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, and Tony La Russa.
Nine years later, its latest offshoot — the post-1980 Baseball Era Committee — needs to do the same.
All four managers listed in the group’s eight-man ballot are Cooperstown-worthy, with five world championships among them.
Davey Johnson won with the ‘86 Mets, Jim Leyland with the ‘97 Marlins, Cito Gaston with the ‘92 and ‘93 Blue Jays, and Lou Piniella with the 1990 Reds. All also collected a pile of pennants and division titles, with Piniella’s 2001 Mariners even winning an AL-record 116 games.
The Hall of Fame gallery has only 22 plaques for managers — even though there are 30 teams in the majors now — and should find room for more.
A slugging second baseman as a player, Johnson was a computer whiz who managed 2500 games in 17 seasons starting in 1984. He led the Mets to six straight winning seasons, including the world championship decided in part by Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6. He also managed the Dodgers, Reds, Orioles, and Nationals.
Gaston had two stints in Toronto, where he once won four division titles in five years. The former outfielder was the first black manager to win a World Series — and was the last man to bring a world championship to Canada.
In 22 seasons, Leyland led the Pirates, Rockies, Tigers, and Marlins in addition to Pittsburgh, where he won three straight division titles from 1990-92. His 1997 Marlins rode a wild-card berth to a surprise world championship in just their fifth season. Leyland finished with 1,769 career wins, 18th on the career list for managers and just behind Piniella (1,835).
Sweet Lou served as manager and general manager of the Yankees during the Steinbrenner years but also piloted the Reds, Mariners, Cubs, and Devil Rays (who have since dropped the Devil from their nickname). He won the 1990 World Series in his first season with Cincinnati and had multiple playoff teams in both Chicago and Seattle.
If they weren’t still in uniform, Dusty Baker (Astros) and Bruce Bochy (Rangers) could be on the ballot too, and should join just-retired Terry Francona when managers are considered again. Maybe Brian Snitker (Braves) and Dave Roberts (Dodgers) too.
Meanwhile, the latest Veterans Committee ballot — that name still sounds more appropriate — also includes former executives Bill White and Hank Peters and former umpires Joe West and Ed Montague. White was the last president of the National League, while Peters served as general manager and front-office figure for 42 years, dating back to the days before the St. Louis Browns went defunct. He even worked under Charlie Finley in Oakland before creating the Cleveland powerhouses of the ‘90s.
West umpired more games than any other arbiter: 5,460. Montague was also a workhorse among men in blue, with 4,000 games to his credit from 1974-2009. West, nicknamed “Country Joe” and “the Singing Cowboy,” retired a year ago, in February 2022.
Nominees need 12 of 16 votes (75 per cent) to win election. The voting will take place during December’s Winter Meetings in Nashville and induction will be held in Cooperstown next July.
Players elected by the baseball writers will be revealed in January. Leading contenders are Todd Helton, Billy Wagner, Gary Sheffield, and Andruw Jones from last year’s ballot and newcomers Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer, who both could win entry on their first try.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is the author of 41 baseball books, including The New Baseball Bible. Catch his byline in forbes.com, Memores & Dreams, Sports Collectors Digest, USA TODAY Sports Weekly, and other outlets.