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.
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.
Graham Womack of Baseball: Past and Present has a cool project going on: The 25 Most Important People in Baseball History. I thought I’d share my ballot as a way to encourage others to vote.
Well, there’s 18,000+ players, several hundred managers, all kinds of execs, writers, even fans to choose from, and I needed to choose twenty-five. Graham doesn’t define “Most Important” for us:
“most important” is a deliberately subjective term and I’m interested to see what direction people go with it.
For me, it’s about impact. Lasting impact. For me, there are three names that stand above all others, and that any baseball fan should know: Babe Ruth, Branch Rickey, and Jackie Robinson. Without them, major league baseball as we know it today simply would not exist or would be limping toward its death. Ruth who ushered in the modern mode of play, an offensive-minded game with greater mass appeal. Rickey who is the pivot man in at least three of modern baseball’s most important innovations—the farm system, the use of analytical statistics, and equal opportunity for all races—and who played a role in expansion by his attempt to organize the Continental League. And, of course, Robinson, whose success cemented the status of African Americans (and all other peoples of color) in sports, transcending the game and pointing us toward the civil rights era.
After that to understand the lasting impact a person has on the game, we can look at some of the major themes of baseball’s history. These are the major story arcs since the 1840s. They continue to unwind themselves today. The flashpoints among them constitute game-changing moments. So as we sift through the games’ most important people, they should have some kind of prominent role in short- or long-term movements that have brought us to the present day.
That’s another twenty to add to Ruth, Rickey, and Robinson for twenty-three total. Two more.
A lesser theme in baseball’s history is the ascendency of the Yankees. While Ruth accounts for much of it on the field, much of the rest can probably be laid at Ed Barrow’s feet. Barrow first built the twice-champion Red Sox of the late 1910s. Then, moving to the Bronx after the 1920 season, he took advantage of Sox owner Harry Frazee’s debt problems to build the Yankee roster into a perennial winner, thus starting The Evil Empire. Barrow continued on into the 1940s, overseeing the DiMaggio/Gehrig era as well, so this wasn’t a one-time thing. The Yankees are the game’s most loved and most hated team, and they occupy a special place in history thanks to Barrow.
Another team builder had a different kind of perennial influence. Ned Hanlon built the 1890s Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas into a two-part syndicate dynasty. But as Bill James points out in his Guide to Baseball Managers the players on those teams went on to influence the game like no other team. John McGraw managed 33 years in the majors, Wilbert Robinson nineteen, and Hughie Jennings sixteen. Fielder Jones skippered for ten seasons, Joe Kelley for five seasons, and Bad Bill Dahlen for four. Jack Dunn became famous as the manager of the minor league Baltimore Orioles of the teens and twenties…the team that sold Lefty Grove and numerous other players to the majors. Hanlon also managed Miller Huggins for two years. All those guys exerted influence over subsequent generations of outstanding managers, including Stengel, Lopez, and Durocher. You can trace Joe Torre, Tony LaRussa, and virtually any great contemporary manager’s lineage back to Ned Hanlon’s Orioles.
Here’s my final ballot. After the big three, there’s any number of orders we could settle on. I’m looking for far-reaching, long-lasting, high-impact contributions. Your mileage may vary.
1. Branch Rickey
2. Babe Ruth
3. Jackie Robinson
I could have put Ruth first for creating interest at a time when the game’s gambling problems came to light. But the sheer number and breadth of Rickey’s innovations tipped the scales in his direction.
4. Kennesaw Mountain Landis
5. Walter O’Malley
6. Henry Chadwick
I’m pretty sure these are the next three. I put Landis first because rooting out gambling’s influence and restoring the integrity of any given game was far more important to the survival of the game than anything anyone below him could have accomplished. O’Malley is next because of the extreme importance of his vision and its affect on expansion. Chadwick was “Father Baseball” for a reason.
7. Doc Adams
8. William Hulbert
9. Ban Johnson
10. Marvin Miller
11. Bill James
Another tough group. As a founder of the game, I give Adams precedence and Hulbert’s corporate-ownership innovation is absolutely huge. Johnson and Miller could be swapped, but Johnson’s impact is still felt more than 100 years later, while Miller’s is more recent. James’ is more recent yet and just as widespread as Miller’s.
12. J.G. Taylor Spink
13. Rube Foster
14. Harry Wright
We’re getting into a place where everyone’s slot is up for debate. The Sporting News was almost an arm of Major League Baseball and affected its fanbase deeply. Foster’s role as a league architect trumps Wright’s as a team architect.
15. Peter Seitz
16. Al Spalding
17. Monte Ward
Ward turned the game upside down for a year, Spalding held it together for a decade, but Seitz has had the greatest total impact of the three. I ding him a little for being a one-trick pony, but it’s one hell of a trick.
18. Ed Barrow
19. Bud Selig
20. Roger Bresnahan
21. Ned Hanlon
22. Sean Forman
23. Curt Flood
24. Frank Jobe
25. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Among this final group of eight, we really are drawing straws. Barrow’s success laid the groundwork for almost 100 years of Yankee success. Selig has made numerous, though dubious, innovations…and helped to rob a lot of taxpayers of their money. I thought about putting him last simply because of his friendships with Jeffrey Loria and the Wilpons. Bresnahan has helped catchers for more than 100 years. Hanlon’s reach has been incredibly deep, though of course diluted over time. Forman’s reach is still growing. Flood and Jobe could be anywhere in this group, but Holmes I’m solid on for #25 because of the one-trick thing but also because I’m skeptical about the positive value of the anti-trust exemption.
There are some notable omissions. For example, I only have two men on this list for their playing careers. No Dickey Pearce nor Hank Aaron. I don’t have John McGraw or Connie Mack or Joe McCarthy or Joe Torre or Tony LaRussa on this list. No Bill Veeck or Billy Beane. Maybe I could have considered HOK architects or Hillerich & Bradsby. Negatory on George Wright, Al Reach, Everett Mills. Nor Fred Lieb or Ring Larnder.
There’s one other guy I didn’t touch on that I thought a lot about and is worth a mention.
I’m not entirely sure who had the most impact on bullpens, but their evolution is also a key theme in baseball history. Bill James suggests that McGraw rolled out the first relief specialist, Doc Crandall, but McGraw didn’t really follow up that innovation. Joe McCarthy was the first manager to split his moundsmen into starters and relievers. Herman Franks in 1979 announced that Bruce Sutter would only pitch in save situations. Although the Cubs canned Franks a year later, this innovation has had startling implications. Before this, relief aces could enter in any inning with any score when the manager felt it necessary. Other bullpen roles were therefore only vaguely defined. The sharp redefinition of the ace into the closer created a cascading effect. As closers threw fewer innings in save situations, managers needed a set-up man for the eighth inning. Since most late-inning relievers were righties, skippers soon found they also needed a lefty specialist to get that one big out in the seventh or eighth, enter the LOOGY (lefty one-out guy). Since then bullpens have become increasingly hierarchical, and include seventh-inning specialists and even the ROOGY. All of this spilled out of Franks’ decision to limit Sutter to save situations. Franks was not great, he wasn’t even a good manager. But his impact is still reverberating through baseball today as we see twelve, thirteen, and even fourteen-man pitching staffs.
This has been a fun exercise. Make your own ballot and vote!