Clark Griffith is the Lou Whitaker of HoME candidates. He was really good at lots of things, but great at none. But whereas Lou did all those very good things as a player so they added up to a plaque in the Hall of Miller and Eric, The Old Fox was very good at playing, then managing, then running a team. Three distinct baseball roles.
We have three distinct baseball wings at the HoME: players, managers, and pioneers/executives. As Miller mentioned the other day, the twain do not meet. Which simply means we need to get our twain on different twacks.
Getting the job done right is more important to us than foolish consistency. (Note the adjective), and it does seem silly to us to deny someone with a wide and deep impact a plaque just because they happened to have made their mark across several roles—just as we wouldn’t count out a player because his batting average, alone, didn’t cut it, but he did lots of other things well.
So we know we made an error by excluding this kind of candidate before, and the question becomes: What do we do about this? You’ll be no doubt shocked to learn that we have a plan.
Who are these candidates?
First off, we have to ask ourselves the qualifying question: What does a deserving combo candidate look like? Experience tells us that you got to keep this kind of solution simple but also clearly defined. So we’ve come up with a helpful rubric, a ten-to-one scale for measuring someone’s electability as a player. We start there because that’s where most of our honorees reside. We’ll use second basemen as an example
- 10: An inarguable HoMEr. A clear top-fifteen player at his position—Joe Morgan
- 9: Just over the line: Someone who’s about 15th to 18th at his position—Billy Herman
- 8: True borderline candidate: Jeff Kent
- 7: First tier down: Nearly electable, but clearly a notch below the borderline—Tony Lazzeri
- 6: Hall of the Very Good: Del Pratt
- 5: Stars with weak cases: Davey Lopes
- 4: Occasional All-Stars: Dick McAuliffe
- 3: Longtime regulars: Marty McManus
- 2: Just guys: Fernando Vina
- 1: Everyone else
Of course, you can apply this to managers and execs as well. There’s slots for 19 or 20 players per batting position, while 22 managers, and 28 execs will find a home in the HoME. Our feeling: You got to be roughly 6 or 7 or higher at two places to make it as a combo candidate. So, for example, Bucky Harris picked up about 15 WAR in his career, which makes him roughly a 2, like Fernando Vina. As a manager, Harris was a little above average for his career and a little better yet on peak. Call him roughly a 6 or 7. It’s not good enough in combination. By the same token, we’re not unelecting Buddy Bell, probably the worst manager of the last 70 years. He’s a player, not a combo candidate.
So who are these combination candidates? A rough guide to them would include:
- Frank Chance: A 7 at player and probably an 8 as a manager.
- Larry Doby: A 6 or 7 player whose credentials as a pioneer may or may not be at the level required
- Clark Griffith: An 8 player and a 7 manager.
- Hughie Jennings: A 7 or 8 player and a 6 or 7 manager
- Dickey Pearce: Invented the bunt and considered by some to be the best player of the period before George Wright’s emergence.
We’ve already elected a few guys who fall into the combo category:
- Cap Anson: Elected as player and manager
- Roger Bresnahan: Elected as a pioneer but had an 8 playing career
- Fred Clarke: Elected as player and manager
- Charlie Comiskey: Elected as an pioneer/exec and had a 7 managing career
- Connie Mack: Elected as a manager and probably at least a 6 or 7 exec
- John McGraw: Elected as a manager, an 8 player, and perhaps a top-level GM too
- Al Spalding: Elected as exec, had a 6 or 7 playing career
- Joe Torre: Elected as player and manager
It’s possible that Eddie Collins also fits the bill as a player and an exec, but we haven’t studied his GM decisions yet.
A few others don’t quite make it for one reason or another:
- Al Dark: a 5 player and a 3 manager
- Hugh Duffy: a 6 or 7 player and the worst manager in history until Jimmie Wilson
- Jim Fregosi: a 7 player and a 2 manager
- Gil Hodges: a 6 or 7 player but a 2 manager
- Fielder Jones: 7 player, 2 or 3 manager
- Bob Lemon: Not enough managing to go with a 6 or 7 playing career
- Red Schoendienst: A 5 or 6 player and a 3 manager
As you can see, we have at least five combo candidates to consider. There are likely a few more that we just haven’t spotted yet.
From the Who to the How
We love transparency, and we ain’t afraid to admit when we been wrong. So here’s our plan for dealing with this combo issue.
- We’re going to keep on electing our pioneer/executive candidates apace.
- After we finish up those folks, we’re going to review the managers. We’ve already decided that Joe Torre stays as a manager, and Anson and Clarke will only be players. That means we’ll need to elect two managers and one player to backfill those slots.
- Torre’s player plaque and the manager plaques for Anson and Clarke won’t go away, but they’ll become museum pieces. We’ll keep them around to remind everyone of how great they each were in those roles, but they won’t officially count toward our totals after we reassess.
- That reassessment will probably take place, therefore, after the BBWAA and Veterans Committee elect their next slate of honorees. That means we’ll be doing a soft micro-reset for the 2017 election by rolling Torre’s, Anson’s, and Clarke’s vacated spots up into our 2017 deliberations. Which in turn means that once our 2017 election is over, we’ll be officially in parity with the Hall in both timeline and total honorees for these three wings.
So that’s our plan. Fans of Ee-Yah, the Peerless Leader, the Old Fox, and other combo characters can take heart in that we’ll be giving them a good once over once again.