We’re nearly done electing pioneers/executives to the Hall of Miller and Eric. We’ve previously talked about scouts, noting that they don’t seem to quite rise to the level of contribution we’re looking for. Today, I’ll tell you where we stand on coaches.
Rather than tediously go through coach after coach, we decided to look at four coaches whose reputations represent excellence in the minds of nearly every baseball observer. We examined Johnny Sain, Leo Mazzone, Dave Duncan, and Charley Lau. If any coaches make a big difference to their teams, it’s going to be these guys. Here’s the elevator pitch for each:
With our subjects in hand, we simply tracked the performance of any pitcher 27 or older with 400 or more innings prior to meeting one of these guys in their first three years under the coach, and for the rest of their career. Same for batters, only we used 1,000 plate appearances. Our goal was to see whether these gurus were so effective that they had a dramatic effect on their pupils and how lasting the effect was. If so, we would keep studying coaches. If not, not so much. To determine this, we also tracked 20 of the closest comps we could find to test subjects and compared the subject to the controls.
In plain English, if Joe Schmuckface was a 28 year old lefty pitcher with 800 career innings, we found 20 pitchers who at age 28 had similar career totals, and whose ERA+ was similar to control for talent. We freely admit that this isn’t a perfectly scientific study, and also that this kind of work had been done previously by others (especially J.C. Bradbury). We were looking for reasons to keep coaches in the mix for a HoME plaque.
The Scoop on the Gurus
It’s pretty clear to us that Leo Mazzone stands out here. He’s the only one of the four where the differences are dramatic and where they persist to the greatest degree. All of these guys improved their players, especially in terms of innings or PAs, which is, of course, correlated to improving overall performance. But except for Mazzone, the improvement among the other coaches was close enough to the controls’ averages that we felt we couldn’t build a strong case that the effects we saw could be isolated only to the coach’s teaching. We ended this experiment at this point and pushed Leo into our group of final candidates.
Back to the Bench
Well, we’re going to spoil things for you. We had a quick hook on Leo. The evidence in the literature on him is mixed. According to Chris Jaffe’s wonderful Evaluating Baseball Managers, Bobby Cox had a relatively quick hook for much of his career, including his time in Atlanta. Is that Cox pushing the bullpen button or Mazzone? If it’s Cox, that may bias the numbers slightly in Mazzone’s favor by saving his tired pitchers some runs. And we just can’t know. But also, we can’t know precisely how much input Mazzone had on veteran pitchers the Braves acquired. If he had a lot of input, that’s probably helpful to his cause, but Cox and John Schuerholz weren’t exactly slouches either. Those early Braves teams were built around great defense. Pendleton, Lemke, Bream, Nixon, Belliard, all good defenders. Giving pitchers the confidence to use their defense is vital, but much of that confidence comes from Schuerholz and Cox assembling a good defense. And around and around we can go.
Look, Bobby Cox won before Leo Mazzone, with Leo Mazzone, and after Leo Mazzone. John Schuerholz won before, with, and after Leo Mazzone. Leo Mazzone did very little with the Orioles for a couple years after leaving the Braves. Which leaves us with the decision to send Leo to the showers. The state of research on the effect of coaching is not nearly so advanced as the many player-based information streaming out of MLB.com’s statcast and websites devoted to analytics. If someone finally cracks the code on coaching, we’re absolutely willing to pull the trigger on Mazzone or anyone else who is proven excellent. But we’re not there yet.
I wouldn’t blame you if you weren’t familiar with Joe Brown, the guy who replaced Branch Rickey in Rickey’s last GM position in Pittsburgh in 1955. I don’t believe I had heard of him either before we began this process. But Joe Brown was indeed a great general manager.
He led the Pirates for 21 years, from 1955 through the 1976 season and was the architect of the Pittsburgh dynasty that went to the playoffs five times in six years from 1970-1975. He won the World Series in 1960 and 1971, plus he had a lot of influence on the 1979 winners.
Yes, he arrived with Roberto Clemente, but much of the rest of the 1960 champs were acquired under his watch.
He signed some great amateur free agents like Willie Stargell (57.5 WAR for the Pirates), John Candelaria (35.2), Dave Parker (34.7), Manny Sanguillen (28.2), Al Oliver (27.1), Richie Hebner (22.5), Tony Pena (22.3), Bob Veale (21.2), Kent Tekulve (19.6), Richie Zisk (15.7), Doc Ellis (12.8), and Dave Cash (10.2). He traded for 1960 parts Smoky Burgess, Harvey Haddix, and Don Hoak. He signed 1971 star Bob Robertson and drafted 1971 closer Dave Giusti. And for the 1979 winners, he drafted Don Robinson and traded for Bill Robinson. He hired Danny Murtaugh four times, but he didn’t do a great job overall hiring managers.
Oh, and one more thing. When his successor Pete Peterson was fired early in the 1985 season, he was brought on as the interim GM and oversaw the 1985 amateur draft. That’s when the Pirates signed Barry Bonds (50.1 WAR in Pittsburgh).
Joe Brown is now #29 out of 30 in our Pioneer/Executive wing. Two weeks from now, we’re going to finish things off, at least until the Hall elects another.
Sometimes you just happen into greatness. Well, maybe not. But I’d bet that many of us, if we’re being perfectly honest, can attribute some (many?) of our successes in life to one decision that could have gone either way, or one lucky break not necessarily achieved through any of your own doing.
Okay, maybe you can’t, but I certainly can.
So can Bob Howsam. Howsam’s GM career got off to a great start when he took over the St. Louis Cardinals on August 17, 1964. The Cards stood in fifth place, nine games back of the 71-45 Phillies. Of course, Philadelphia went 21-25 the rest of the way, while St. Louis closed at 30-14 to win the NL pennant. Eleven days later, they were World Series champs, having beaten the Yankees four games to three.
Howsam clearly got lucky. The champs were Bing Devine’s team. He’s the one who pulled off the Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio trade. He’s the GM who deserves credit for this title. But Howsam gets it, at least a large part of it. Of course, his next two years in St. Louis, his teams played barely above .500 ball, and he moved on.
Obviously, Bob Howsam isn’t being inducted into the HoME today because of his fortunate Cardinal title. He’s being inducted because he was the architect behind the Big Red Machine. Howsam took the GM job in 1967, and in 1973 he was named President of the club. Though he only lasted until 1977 as GM and 1978 as President, there were some remarkable achievements during that time.
His teams were excellent overall, performing at a .559 clip, and he might have even gotten more out of the massively talented teams than he should have expected. From 1970-1981, his teams finished first seven times and second three others, winning the World Series in both 1975 and 1976. He traded for Joe Morgan, George Foster, Tom Seaver, Fred Norman, and Jack Billingham. He drafted Ken Griffey and Dan Dreissen. And he was smart enough to give Sparky Anderson his first big league managerial gig.
Howsam is our shortest-term GM elected to the HoME. But he’s in because he was both a bit lucky (St. Louis) and clearly great (Cincinnati). We now have 28 of 30 in the Pioneer/.Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. Stay tuned for our next to last entrant in two weeks.
Everyone putting together a Hall of Fame will include Babe Ruth, Casey Stengel, and Marvin Miller. Well, almost everyone. The actual Hall of Fame foolishly won’t elect Miller, and that’s why we’re here. But when we get to the margins, we admit that we elect some debatable guys. That’s what it means to be a boarderliner. Reasonable people might not support Chuck Finley, Jeff Kent, Whitey Herzog, or today’s entrant into the Hall of Miller and Eric, Barney Dreyfuss.
Dreyfuss owned the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 until 1932. During that time, he built the mini-dynasty of the century’s first decade. Led by Honus Wagner, Fred Clarke, and others, Dreyfuss’ Pirates finished first or second eight times from 1900-1909, losing the first World Series of 1903, and winning their first crown in 1909.
By the start of the next decade, Pittsburgh began to rebuild. Folks like Max Carey, Kiki Cuyler, and Pie Traynor joined the team that was quite strong from 1921 through the last season Dreyfuss led the club, 1932. Since the 1933 team was almost all his, we’ll look at their finishes during those thirteen campaigns. They finished second and third four times each. They lost the World Series to the 1927 Yankees, but won it two years earlier mainly on the backs of their three stars.
Overall, Dreyfuss had a great .562 winning percentage, and he won an impressive 2701 games. He wisely hired Fred Clarke and Bill McKechnie to manage. While it’s true that he signed but sent away the likes of Rube Waddell, Red Faber, Dazzy Vance, Burleigh Grimes, and Joe Cronin, it’s his eye for talent that made the Pirates one of the great franchises of the game for the first third of the 20th century.
And now Barney Dreyfuss is a member of the Hall of Miller and Eric, just like Branch Rickey and Henry Chadwick are. And our 27th entrant in the Pioneer/Executive wing deserves to be there. Only three more to go; the next announcement will be in two weeks.
Most voter recalls unelect crappy selections. We have to unelect three guys that we’re pleased with then replace them with three others.
Of course, this isn’t quite so simple as yea/nay. Upon reflection, we recognized that we shouldn’t have allowed one person to be honored in more than one wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. We were being too clever by half, but about six months ago we realized it. Now it’s time to change. Here’s exactly what we’re up to.
We elected three people in both the player and manager wings of the HoME: Cap Anson, Fred Clarke, and Joe Torre. All three highly deserving candidates for both honors. Then we realized that we were no longer truly comparable to the Hall of Fame by three spots because the Hall doesn’t elect individuals to more than one wing. Only, which three spots were we talking about?
Anson, Clarke, and Torre all belonged in both wings without question, so which wing would they be removed from? For Anson and Clarke, the answer seemed simple: They were great managers and even better players. So they stay put as player and are removed from our managerial roster. Joe Torre, on the other hand, rated better and lasted far longer as a manager. He’s moving from player to manager.
This leaves us with two empty spots among our skippers and one hole to fill among the players. There’s a lot of electoral activity going on right now at the HoME, so here’s how we’re going to schedule things.
Friday February 3rd: 2017 player election (3 slots in accordance with the Hall’s 2017 election)
Friday February 24th: Backlog player election (1 slot to make up for Torre’s shuffling over to manager); this player must have retired by 2015, due to the fact that Torre was elected as player before we caught up to the Hall in 2015.
Friday March 10th: Backlog manager election (2 slots to make up for Anson and Clarke being just players); because we caught up the Hall’s managerial elections before the 2017 election, this election will be for pilots eligible through 2016. We should note that because the Today’s Game committee meets roughly biannually, we may consider managers who gained eligibility in 2016 but were not voted upon until 2017.
Friday March 24th: Resumption of our pioneer/executive elections with number 27 (4 slots to catch up to the Hall’s 2017 count!).
Friday April 7th: Pioneer/executive number 28
Friday April 21st: Pioneer/executive number 29
Friday May 5th: Pioneer/executive number 30
And then after that, we’ll be completely caught up, and it’ll all be neat and tidy.
For a day or two.
Then we’ll tell you our plans for the future. Hint: We aren’t going anywhere.
I’m a big fan of questioning assumptions. What I mean by that is pretty simple. We all have lots of opinions, but none of us is perfect. Thus, some of the things we believe to be true must be wrong. If we don’t question what we believe today, we’re going to continue to be wrong about a bunch of things tomorrow.
That brings me to the guy we’re electing to the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric today, Sam Breadon. Breadon was a Cardinal owner and president who won nine pennants and six World Series from 1920-1947. So what’s the assumption I’m talking about? It’s about dynasties.
I’d actually been making a couple of assumptions that helped me to hold back on electing Breadon. The first is that it may be the wrong thing to do to elect too many representatives from the same dynastic franchises. The second is that we had already elected too many Cardinals.
The second one is easier to deal with than the first. As you’ll see below, the only Cardinal who we had previously elected based only on his time as an executive is Branch Rickey. And to be fair, Rickey is a lot more a Dodger than a Cardinal. This wasn’t so much an assumption I was holding, but an error. We make those, you know. And if you don’t recheck your work, they’re subject to hold you back.
The first assumption is that we should be wary of electing too many dynastic executives. My concern is that we weren’t looking deeply enough at credentials, that we were just electing the guys who ran the teams that won the most games and titles. But I got over that for two reasons. First, Eric has never done a single thing in this process with sub-standard depth, and he liked Breadon. Second, I think I know whether the chicken or egg came first in this case. What I mean is that while it’s true that dynasties become dynasties because of the great players, those dynasties couldn’t ever come to pass if the executives in charge didn’t put all of those players on the same team.
The things that make Breadon so attractive include an unprecedented .570 winning percentage and much of his working relationship with Branch Rickey. Breadon promoted Rickey to General Manager in 1919, the year before he took over as majority owner. And he let Rickey do his thing as both GM and manager. By 1925, Breadon replaced Rickey with Rogers Hornsby, allowing him to focus on GM duties. Part of that focus led to the first strong farm system in all the game. Rickey deserves a ton of credit for this innovation. But Breadon shouldn’t be ignored. He had to lobby Commissioner Landis to allow Rickey’s brainchild to flourish. He also had to fund the farm system, doing so in part by leasing Sportsman’s Park in 1920 so he could sell Robison Field for $275,000. For an idea of how strong this farm system was, the Cardinals never bought a player from another team from 1926 until after Breadon’s last year with the club. Smart businessman.
While Rickey basically ran the team, Breadon was responsible for hiring incredibly successful field managers. There was the aforementioned Hornsby. Bill McKechnie didn’t gain fame in St. Louis, but he was a great hire. Add in Gabby Street who won a World Series, Frankie Frisch who won one, Billy Southworth who won two, and Eddie Dyer who won one. That’s a pretty exceptional group.
One area where Breadon stuck his nose in was to prevent the sale of Marty Marion to the Cubs. Marion played for the Cards for eleven years, making seven All-Star teams, winning the 1944 MVP, and posting 31.6 WAR. That was about it. Otherwise, he generally let Rickey do his thing.
And that, among his other outstanding accomplishments, make Sam Breadon the 26th member of the HoME’s Pioneer/Executive wing. Our next member will be announced in two short weeks.
A few elections after the enshrinement of Buzzie Bavasi and on the heels of the Walter O’Malley election, today we elect another Dodger, Al Campanis.
Campanis’ Dodgers won 2856 games over two decades in Los Angeles. He went to the playoffs six times and the World Series four times. His Dodgers won the title in 1981, and a squad that was a lot his won again in 1988. While he brought in only about 2/3 of the WAR on that team, he’s responsible for Orel Hershiser, the guy who could be described as the man who most made that title happen.
Speaking of Hershiser, Campanis seemed to have an excellent eye for pitching. His hurlers who posted 15+ WAR for the Dodgers include draftees Hershiser (43.2 WAR) and Bob Welch (33.3). He also bought Fernando Valenzuela (37.3), signed amateur free agent Ramon Martinez (26.2), and traded for Burt Hooton (36.5), Jerry Reuss (20.2), and Andy Messersmith (17.4).
On the hitting side, he drafted Mike Scioscia (26.0) and traded for Pedro Guerrero (32.6), Dusty Baker (19.9), and Reggie Smith (19.3). And we should also give him some of the credit as Scouting Director under Buzzie Bavasi for drafting Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Ron Cey, and others.
There have been plenty of instances where a GM entered a similar initial scenario, that is, getting a position with a very talented team and strong organization, yet blew it. Haywood Sullivan is one. You might say that Herk Robinson was another. Ruben Amaro, of course. Frank Wren. Bill Bavasi. Gord Ash. So even if Campanis’ success is not unique, it’s still his. And it’s less frequent than we might think. Plus, Campanis took it multiple steps from there.
An impressive thing about Campanis is that he succeeded in three different scenarios. He completed the transition from the Drysdale Dodgers to the Garvey Dodgers. He kept the Garvey Dodgers at the top for a very long time. And he transitioned the Garvey Dodgers to the Hershiser Dodgers. And the team never had a lengthy down period under his watch.
Okay, but there’s an elephant in the room, right? Early in the 1987 season, preparing to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s Dodger debut, Campanis appeared on Nightline with Ted Koppel. And he made some racist statements. Just listen for yourself.
While I make no excuse for Campanis, I do attempt to explain by saying that he was a product of his times, a man born 100 years ago. He was far from perfect. Also, he should have lost his job.
Regarding Campanis’ comments, Steven Goldman put it better than I ever could:
“The important thing to remember is that no one who knew Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis thought he was a racist before he went on TV and revealed himself to be one…. And Campanis wasn’t a racist—not in the rabid stars ‘n’ bars-waving, sheet-wearing sense of the word. He probably didn’t even know he was, until he found out along with everyone else.”
The Dodger first baseman at the time of Campanis’ comments was African American slugger, Franklin Stubbs. Stubbs was drafted by Campanis’ Dodgers in the first round of the 1982 draft. He was coming off a season in which he hit 23 home runs, leading the Dodgers and tied for tenth in the NL. He said of Campanis:
“To this day, I don’t think Al was a racist. He probably did more for black and Latin players than most people in this game.”
Racism didn’t go away when Jackie became a Dodger in 1947, when interracial marriage became legal in 1967, when Frank Robinson became manager of the Indians in 1975, or when Barack Obama was elected to the U.S. presidency in 2008. I think we’re getting better. Maybe “less bad” is a more apt term. But incidents like that on Nightline and that which we seem to see on television every week remind us that we have far, far to go.
What Al Campanis said on television in 1987 is likely no worse than 100ish HoMErs have said behind closed doors or have thought. Voting for the HoME is difficult enough without trying to determine who is and is not a racist, or by what societal standards to even consider. And I know I don’t possess the moral authority to even try.
Al Campanis is now the 25th member of the Pioneer/Executive wing of the Hall of Miller and Eric. In the next few weeks, we’re going to add another.
MILLER: So, the results are in, and to the surprise of few, it’s John Shuerholz and Bud Selig going to the Hall.
ERIC: Selig’s election was about as surprising as winter snowfall in New England.
MILLER: I have to say that I don’t understand all of the anger in the Twitter world about Selig’s election.
ERIC: You are very kind to hang a slider to me. He treated baseball fans like fools, held municipalities hostage, canceled the World Series, colluded with other teams against free agents, approved horrible owners and denied folks like Mark Cuban who actually wanted to win games from owning teams, etc etc etc. He represents for many people, the money-grubbingest, most deceitful, and most informationspeak aspects of the game we love. Which isn’t to say he didn’t do good things…but most everything he did do felt laden with ulterior motives. There’s a sense that he’s the George W. Bush to the owners’ Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz/Cheney machinations. Right down to the doofusy public speaking gaffes.
MILLER: You’re welcome. And I hung it so I could say the following. We disagree. Why is it that baseball is unlike any other business in the minds of fans? We’re a group, basically, of capitalists. We generally don’t begrudge private companies for making the money they make. Sure, many object to Walmart busting unions. And lots of people would prefer a higher minimum wage. But we’re proud of those who can make money. It’s the American way.
ERIC: People resent capitalists all the time. We resent drug companies for jacking up the prices of drugs because we recognize that public health is a higher good than some company’s profiteering. Especially when it might affect us someday. What we really resent are bad actors and profiteers. I believe that what sports fans dislike is when the bad actors intrude on the game itself. Whether literally on the field (by canceling the World Series) or by colluding to rob teams of potential acquisitions. No one is complaining about MLBAM. What they are complaining about is that Bud Selig was the captain of a crew of mercenaries who routinely threatened to take the game away in some fashion if their profiteering demands weren’t met. No one likes a bully. Especially one with a fountain pen.
MILLER: A bully? Seriously? His job was to get the most for his constituents. It just so happens those constituents are billionaires. Anyway, if we agreed that Selig’s job was to please the fans, we’d agree that he failed. If we agreed it was his job to please the owners, we’d agree he succeeded.
We’ve talked about these issues a lot at this point, and I don’t expect we’re going to suddenly start agreeing. So I have another angle. The Twittersphere seems replete with folks saying Selig’s election opens the door for the election of steroid guys. The line of thinking is that since Hall of Famer Selig ran the show during the so-called steroid era, steroid using players will/should now receive BBWAA votes. I think this notion is a bit silly. You?
ERIC: Yes, we can agree that the Twitter steroid stuff makes little sense. Selig positioned himself as the champion of not-steroids. Why, then, would his election suddenly fling the doors of the Coop open to roiders? What’s much more likely is that the election of one is not connected to the election of the others. What reasoning would suggest that there’s any connection when there are two different voting bodies involved?
MILLER: No good reasoning. That’s for sure. So we’re happy about Schuerholz, right?
ERIC: Absolutely. I’m a little surprised that he gained unanimity (and that Selig didn’t), but in a sixteen-person vote there’s no telling.
MILLER: Hey, even Griffey wasn’t perfect. Are you bothered by the fact that these Veterans Committees seem not to elect players anymore? It’s only Ron Santo and Deacon White since 2008.
ERIC: I am not terribly bothered this specific year by the lack of an elected player. In this inaugural version of the Today’s Game ballot, there simply aren’t many great and overlooked players to go around. That’s because a lot of Today’s Game’s most overlooked players are still busily being overlooked by the BBWAA. The good news in this election is that we’ve cleared the decks a bit by getting Selig and Schuerholz out of the way. When next this committee meets, the players will have more room to shine. With these two suits gobbling up two spots on every ballot, it forced the other eight people to scrabble for 33 elect-me slots. No wonder no one else got more than five votes.
MILLER: The fun for us is that we get to elect two more to our Pioneer/Executive wing!
Go west, young man. Manifest Destiny. America was so great that expansion westward was preordained. When Walter O’Malley took the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957, he wasn’t such a young man, but his move to the west absolutely exemplified the idea that baseball was supposed to exist throughout the nation. And when O’Malley and the Dodgers made the move, he convinced the Giants to go with him, and the game was forever changed. More than 628 million fans have gone to ballparks on the west coast since then.
O’Malley was nearly as influential in his hires. He brought on Buzzie Bavasi in 1951 to replace Branch Rickey. Today Bavasi is a member of the HoME. He brought in Walter Alston for the 1954 season, and Alston ran the Dodgers for just about 23 years. Today, Alston is also a HoMEr. After Alston stepped down, O’Mally installed Hall of Famer Tommy LaSorda, and the Dodgers were set in the dugout for nearly 20 more seasons. A fourth incredible O’Malley hire was announcer Vin Scully. Hired in O’Malley’s first year running the team, Scully just retired after 67 years announcing Dodger games. Under O’Malley, the Dodgers were the most stable franchise in the game.
And they were one of the best. From the 1950 campaign until his 1979 death, the Dodgers went to eleven World Series, winning four of them. After the Dodgers lost seven straight times in the Fall Classic, O’Malley finally brought them their first and only victory in Brooklyn in 1955. Four years later, he won his first of three in Los Angeles.
Walter O’Malley is now a member of the Hall of Miller and Eric. That means there are only four more to go to fill our Pioneer/Executive wing.
So who’s left among pioneers and execs? About two dozen people for the final five Hall of Miller and Eric plaques, and today I’m going to tell you a little about all of them. I’m also going to give you a status update on how the rest of our pioxec elections will go.
Turns out that we’ve whittled that number down over time from nearly 100 candidates to a quarter of that. The easy part is over. The degrees of difference between the remaining candidates are often either narrow or difficult to compare across divergent roles. Like this:
They come in many forms, including HoME members (author and leader of the sabrmetric revolution), J. G. Taylor Spink (publisher), Frank Jobe (surgeon), and many more. In short, anyone whose innovations wrought important, lasting effects on the quality of play. Our remaining pioneers fall into these groups:
So let’s find out whose left, starting with the more conventional executive candidates.
Special Note: Alderson is eligible for election through our initial 28 pioxec honorees because the electoral rules through 2016 allowed any sitting executive 65 or older to be eligible. Alderson was born very in 1947, so for 2016, he was 68. He will not be eligible again for us until 2018 because for 2017, the rule was changed so that sitting executives must be 70 or older.
There is some distortion in Finley’s record that we should be aware of. He inherited an absolutely abysmal team, the Arnold Johnson A’s who in the late 1950s routinely dealt all their good players to the Yankees for a few sleeves of peanuts. Prior to Finley’s arrival, the A’s had managed a single winning season since 1950, and it was a .513 year. Since then, they’d played .388 ball, which in 162 notation is 63-99. The A’s won 61 games in Finley’s first year, then 72 and 73 as he learned how to acquire players. He realized that crappy vets wouldn’t help him contend, so he dispensed them and won 57 and 59 games in 1964 and 1965. From there, things progressed as we know. 1961–1965 happened, no denying. But the talent he inherited was that bad, in fact, -40 of his poor wins vs expected come from 1961 to 1965.
Special note: Jocketty is eligible for election through our initial 28 pioxec honorees because the electoral rules through 2016 allowed any sitting executive 65 or older to be eligible. Jocketty was born in 1951. He will not be eligible again for us until 2021 because for 2017, the rule was changed so that sitting executives must be 70 or older.
We recently went over his case in some detail, and here’s what we wrote:
MILLER: [Selig] forced interleague play into the game. Yuck! He made the All-Star Game worth something, so the ads say. But the game is actually as unimportant as ever. He expanded the playoffs, which I hated. But then he added the second wild card. That one-game playoff is exciting. And it’s the crapshoot that’s deserved by those who don’t win their division.
But there a huge reason that Selig rises above many others for me. He was placed in a Commissioner position unlike any before him. He wasn’t given the job to look out for the best interests of the game. Rather, he was put in there to make the most money possible for the game’s owners. And that he did. Has there ever been anyone who’s brought as much money into the game as Bud?
ERIC: Money. If that’s the best thing about Bud Selig, then he’s got issues. The reality of baseball as a business has a curious relationship with the Hall of Fame. I don’t recall any plaque that mentions money, revenues, licensing, concessions, or gate receipts. Lots of mentions of winning championships and personal achievements. Some pioneer and executive plaques talk about improvements of the experience for fans or innovations that made the game stronger.
And Selig has some of those innovations. During his tenure, MLB Advanced Media grew and thrived. It now leads all sports in providing a more immersive, interactive online connection with the game. A big plus for baseball overall. Though it’s hard for me to imagine that an octogenarian used-car salesman had much of a hand in creating something steeped in contemporary technology.
But very few of his accomplishments came without a dark side to them. And that dark side was always about one thing…grabbing more money from players, from fans, from taxpayers, from any pocket in sight.
Take the boom in new ballparks. Baseball rebuilt its entire infrastructure during the Bud era. And in municipality after municipality, the commissioner rode into town and talked about how the team would have to move if there wasn’t a new ballpark paid for mostly if not entirely by the city and regional taxpayers. To create leverage for this ruse, Selig had to badmouth his own product and make empty threats about contracting teams. If I ever hear the word “disparity” from him again, I might go postal. All this just before and after expanding the league! If so many viable markets were queued up to embrace a team on the move, why haven’t we seen more interest in relocation or further expansion? The move to Washington made sense, but what huge market has had a hankering for baseball since? To sell these stadia he also made claims about community financial benefits that economists have found dubious.
A nasty undercurrent of dishonesty and dissembling pervaded much of what Selig said in public. His stern position on steroids after years of ignoring them and lapping up the beaucoup bucks from fans who dig homers. Crying poverty while baseball busted the billion-dollar revenue mark and signed players to big contracts. Claiming people loved interleague games when attendance figures suggested otherwise.
Selig also had terrible taste in friends, and his favoritism has led to on-field issues. Jeffrey Loria is among the very worst owners in sports today, and it was Bud who welcomed him to the fold. Loria ran the once proud Expos into the ground before the smoke-and-mirrors deal that gave him the Marlins. In Miami he pulled the same routine until the city capitulated to a stadium deal, despite county voters first rejecting it. Now he runs the team at a profit by sucking off revenue sharing money and chronically underfunding team payroll. All this while acting like a tyrant, churning through managers, and behaving like a petty tyrant.
Then there was Frank McCourt. His purchase of one of the Dodgers, one of baseball’s crown-jewel franchises, in 2004 was almost entirely debt-leveraged. He proved an utter embarrassment to the game and the team in both his very public divorce proceedings, which laid bare how he mismanaged the team, and the over-extravagant lifestyle he led. All this despite the team raising ticket prices each year of his reign to service its debt. There was also a scandal in which a close friend was paid about a quarter of the funds of the McCourt Foundation to be its executive officer. (McCourt himself was required to pay back $100,000 dollars of that money.)
And then there’s the Wilpons. Bud allowed them to carry a debt load much higher than the league’s ownership rules allow. This meant he was supporting beneficiaries of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Bernie was a good friend of the Wilpons, so wink-wink. The Mets, a successful franchise situated in the nation’s largest metro area, had to shed payroll like crazy and are still hamstrung by the Wilpons’ debt issues.
Meanwhile, thanks to the anti-trust exemption, Bud and his cronies have denied Mark Cuban a chance to buy in. He’s been highly successful in other sports, but, you know, he calls a spade a spade, and owners shouldn’t make waves. Just ask model citizens McCourt, Loria, and Wilpon.
Let’s not forget that Selig was one of the hardline owners associated with the 1986–1988 collusion cases. He was at it again in the 2002–2003 collusion case, and probably in the blackballing of Barry Bonds.
The question isn’t whether Bud Selig was good for baseball. On the whole he likely was. But does he rise to the level of a Hall of Famer? No one is Ghandi in the back rooms of baseball, but Selig seemed like either a snake oil salesman or a mere tool of the owners. In the former case, I’m not buying. In the latter case, why would I buy? In any case, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the money argument.
MILLER: I think we’re just going to have to disagree here. Selig was the first baseball Commissioner whose job is was to make the owners money. Did he hold cities hostage? Maybe. But baseball makes them money. Did he build on the backs of the players? Hardly, they’re making millions. Did he hurt the fan? Attendance says he didn’t.
So, the reality here is that our researches are ongoing, but we’ve narrowed down to these four coaches. We are beginning the process now of looking for any statistical evidence of their effectiveness. That is, easy-to-spot stuff, you know, big flashing red neon lights. Then we have to assess whether they meet the criteria of pioneer, because they sure ain’t execs. But this is actually going to take us a while for reasons we’ll describe at a later date. Which means that we can only elect through our 24th pioneer/executive until we finish the coaches. Which leads us to our status update….
Because of the data we need to dig up for the coaches, we are going to take a little break from electing into this wing. For the next several weeks, we hope to entertain and edify you, dear reader, with another kind of status update. This time it’s our annual look at how much active players and managers helped (or hurt) their case for the Hall of Miller and Eric. We’ll go position by position (with pitchers broken into lefty starters, righty starters, and relievers). After that, it’ll be Hall of Fame ballot time, and soon after that, VC results analysis. But we’ll be back cranking on these folks shortly after all that.