Is birthday boy Davey Johnson heading for the Hall of Fame?

Dilip Vishwanat

Yes it does seem sort of impossible, but exactly 70 years ago today, David Allen Johnson sprang forth on an unsuspecting world. And for most of the last 50 of those years, Davey Johnson has been making baseball headlines.

There haven't been many 70-year-old managers, but apparently Johnson's going to join the club this season. Which got me to wondering (again) if he's someday going to join another small club: the Hall of Fame. Which got me to looking (again) at what it takes to be a Hall of Fame manager. Below, my (latest) findings ...

If you win 1,900 games, you're in. There are 13 managers with at least 1,896 wins. Nine of them are Hall of Famers, and three more -- Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre -- will be elected before long. The lone exception is Gene Mauch, who won 1,902 games ... and lost 2,037.

After those 13 managers, things get a little tricky.

There are 75 other managers in the Hall of Fame, but the great majority of those were elected as players, a few as executives, and one as an umpire. Some of them were technically elected as players, but actually have more impressive records as managers. Wilbert Robinson was probably elected just for being Wilbert Robinson: "Uncle Robbie".

After those 13, though? I count only eight "pure" Hall of Fame managers, elected solely on the strength of their managerial records: Tommy Lasorda, Dick Williams, Earl Weaver, Miller Huggins, Al Lopez, Ned Hanlon, Whitey Herzog, and Billy Southworth.

That's not a large number of managers. In fact, it's a not-large-enough number that I'd like to run through them quickly, in order of career wins ...

Tommy Lasorda (1599-1439, .526)
Bonus points for spending his entire career with one team and bleeding Dodger blue. Seven division titles, four National League pennants, two World Championships. Did some terrible things to the valuable arms of Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, and Ramon Martinez. But who's counting?

Dick Williams (1571-1451, .520)
Like Lasorda, four league championships and two World Championships. But just five division titles, and his election did lower the bar for Hall of Fame managers.

Earl Weaver (1480-1060, .583)
Just one World Championship, but six division titles, four A.L. pennants and -- best of all -- that fantastic regular-season winning percentage. Also taught Davey Johnson a lot of what he knows about managing.

Miller Huggins (1413-1134, .555)
Six American League pennants and three World Championships, all while managing the New York Yankees and suffering through Babe Ruth's many shenanigans (and home runs). Late in the 1929 season, Huggins suddenly fell sick and died just a few days later.

Al Lopez (1410-1004, .584)
Better winning percentage than Weaver, but (thanks to the Yankees) won only two pennants, and lost both World Series in which he managed. Pretty obviously got a pass because of his winning percentage, and maybe also because he remained generally well-loved and well-known within baseball circles after his career.

Ned Hanlon (1313-1164, .530)
Managed around the turn of the last century, and guided his club to five league championships before the modern World Series existed. In Hanlon's time, managers were also responsible for acquiring players, making spring-training arrangements, and various other sundry duties that would today be handled by the front office.

Frank Selee (1284-862, .598)
Managed around the same time as Hanlon, and built the 1890s Boston Beaneaters into a powerhouse, battling Hanlon's Baltimore Orioles for National League primacy for most of the decade. A few years later, Selee built the Chicago Cubs into a dynasty before stepping aside as manager in 1905.

Whitey Herzog (1281-1125, .532)
I probably wouldn't have voted for Herzog, whose teams won six division titles, three National League pennants, and one World Series. I probably would have preferred one more World's Championship, or a higher regular-season winning percentage. But Herzog obviously had a great run, from 1976 through '87.

Billy Southworth (1044-704, .597)
Southworth's managerial career was relatively short and wildly successful, with four league pennants and three World Series titles in only nine full seasons. His (almost) six-season tenure with the Cardinals was particularly impressive, with three of the pennants and .600+ winning percentages every year. Later, he managed the Boston Braves to their first pennant since 1914.

As I noted, La Russa and Cox and Torre are all locks for the Hall of Fame someday. Here are five more current or recent managers who have established realistic chances for the Hall. Again, in order of career wins (so far) ...

Lou Piniella (1835-1713, .517)
Close statistical match for Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie. But whereas McKechnie won four league titles and two World Series, Piniella won seven division titles, one league title, and one World Series.

Jim Leyland (1676-1659, .503)
Like Piniella, Leyland's got seven first-place finishes and one World's Championship. But he's also got three league championships, compared to Piniella's one.

Dusty Baker (1581-1432, .525)
Six playoff appearances and one league championship, still looking for his first World Series win. That doesn't mean he's not a great manager, and Al Lopez never won a World Series. But Baker's got some work to do.

Bruce Bochy (1454-1444, .502)
He's got the two World's Championships, but the longevity and (especially) the winning percentage are a bit short. If he can manage for just a few more seasons and keep his winning percentage in the black, though, he should make it.

Davey Johnson (1286-995, .586)
It's fitting that Johnson's got roughly the same winning percentage as Earl Weaver, and both also managed just one World Series-winning team. But where Weaver won four league titles, Johnson's got just one (1986). And Johnson's roughly two (really good) seasons short of catching Weaver in career wins, too.

One of Johnson's most impressive accomplishments is turning so many different teams -- the Mets, the Reds, the Orioles, and now the Nationals -- into winners so quickly. In that regard, he's somewhat unique. What's not clear is how much extra credit the Hall of Fame voters will give him for that. Or how much they'll value his career winning percentage over the lack of championships.

Before writing all this, I sort of assumed that Johnson's 2012 with the Nationals put him over the top.

Now I'm not so sure. As things stand now -- or rather, as I expect things to look, a year or two from now, it's going to take the Hall of Fame a while to work through all the candidates, the viability of whom I would rank something like this:

1. Tony La Russa
2. Bobby Cox
3. Joe Torre
4. Jim Leyland
5. Davey Johnson
6. Bruce Bochy
7. Lou Piniella
8. Dusty Baker

Gun to my head? Yes, Davey Johnson does wind up in the Hall of Fame. But another good year or two might really help, and a second World Series would really help. Hey, why not? Seventy's the new 60.

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