For anyone who’s ever undertaken a project like this, you know that electing your own Hall of Fame is hard work, really hard work if you’re trying to do a good job as opposed to just getting it done. And it’s much harder if you don’t just stop after the players have been elected.
For years now, Eric and I have been working on the HoME. For months, we have been working on managers and then pioneers/executives. We’re defining that term rather loosely, already electing Bill James, Marvin Miller, Frank Jobe, and others. And we’ve begun thinking about tweeners, those who have been nearly electable in one category and have something to offer in one or more of the others. Why shouldn’t they be elected too?
Today we’re going to explore just that question. Should we allow career candidates in the HoME even if they don’t eclipse enough people in any individual category?
We’re Trying to Be Like the Hall
At least a little, we’re trying to mirror the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Hall very clearly identifies people as second basemen, managers, pitchers, and executives. There’s no combination designation. Sure, for someone like Red Schoendienst, his plaque discusses his successes as a coach and as a manager. However, it also discusses his road living quarters with Stan Musial, and nobody would suggest he was elected for that reason. Trumping it all. you might argue, the Hall calls Schoendienst a second baseman. We probably want to keep the HoME like the Hall in many ways. Electing combo candidates would make us even less like the Hall.
We’ve already elected people as a player and again as a manager: Cap Anson, Fred Clarke, and Joe Torre. By doing so, we’ve set a precedent saying that these areas are separate. If they weren’t separate, we couldn’t elect someone to two wings. So we can’t both elect someone in combination, which would say that they’re not separate, and still have three people elected to both, which would say that they are. We’d then operate without internal consistency. The very unattractive alternative would be to remove Anson, Clarke, and Torre from one of the HoME wings.
There’s an argument to be made that if we elect a combined candidate, we’d have to somehow equate player WAR (so MAPES and CHEWS) to manager contribution to whatever it is that Bill James, Marvin Miller, and Frank Jobe contributed. I don’t want to say that we can’t do that, but we can’t do that.
We Want Baseball’s Greatest in the HoME
Given that we’ve elected not just players, but managers, and now a group loosely resembling pioneers and executives, there seems no longer to be a great case to be made for excluding someone who was an excellent player and also brought something to the table as a manager and/or executive. This argument holds water because we’re not just electing players. If we were, we would focus only on playing, obviously. Once we decided to elect non-players, we necessarily decided that things other than playing matter. Thus, if someone was very good at playing and/or managing and/or something else, a case can now be made to elect him.
We Shouldn’t Be Hamstrung By the Hall’s Rules
The Hall doesn’t have elections for career candidates, at least not in any formal way. It specifically denotes whether a person was elected as a player, manager, umpire, etc. But the whole reason we started this project is that we believe the Hall has been getting it wrong. Just because their rules don’t allow for something doesn’t mean ours shouldn’t. Our rules can and should evolve as we see problems in our system. Just because the Hall struggles in its evolution doesn’t mean we have to.
We’re Electing at the Margins Anyway
Out last manager in was Harry Wright. Perhaps he could have been saved for the Pioneer/Executive wing, but we put him in as a manager, at least in part, because we didn’t like our other choices. As far as players, it’s not like Sal Bando, Jeff Kent, Tony Phillips, and Pud Galvin are no-brainers. We could either go – and it appears we may – with ten or more general managers for our final fourteen Pioneer/ Executive slots, or we could look at career candidates who have been passed over. Frank Chance and Clark Griffith had substantial careers beyond the playing field. Some of our last managers out like Lou Piniella, Hughie Jennings, and Charlie Comiskey have some merit in other facets too. Hitters who were reasonably close like Ralph Kiner and Gil Hodges might have some added merit because of their work in the booth and dugout respectively. If we acknowledge we’re electing at the margins anyway and that our calls are far from clear, let’s try to elect the most attractive overall candidates.
Let’s Get it Right
At some point we’re going to finish this process, and depending on the way we go, we might end up with Buzzie Bavasi and Joe Brown in the HoME, or we might end up with Frank Chance and Clark Griffith in it. When I look at the totality of our work, trying to evaluate how successful we’ve been, I think I’ll be more proud seeing the likes of Clark Griffith with a plaque.
Well, that’s the thought process such as it is. I’m leaning toward electing combination candidates, but I have a partner who is pretty persuasive. Coming soon, he’s going to talk about how we figure out what to do with Clarke and Comiskey, with Chub Feeney, Charlie Finley, Leo Mazzone, Bob Davids, Paul Kritchell, Mel Allen, and others. I never thought I’d say this, but electing players was easy by comparison.