Wow. Hard to believe it's that time of the year again. But yes, in just a few short weeks, the results of another "old-timers" Hall of Fame ballot will be announced at the Winter Meetings, and the Hall of Fame's got your comprehensive preview:
(COOPERSTOWN, NY) - Six former major league players, four managers and two executives comprise the 12-name Expansion Era ballot, featuring candidates whose greatest contributions to the game were realized from 1973 through the present. A 16-member Expansion Era electorate will review and cast votes at the 2013 Baseball Winter Meetings for consideration for the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum announced today.
Dave Concepcion, Bobby Cox, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Tony La Russa, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Dave Parker, Dan Quisenberry, Ted Simmons, George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre are the candidates that will be considered by the electorate. Any candidate who earns votes on 75% of ballots cast will earn election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and will be inducted on Sunday, July 27, 2014 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Results of the Expansion Era vote will be announced on Monday, December 9 at 10 a.m. ET from the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Fla.
Seventy-five percent means 12 votes. The last time around, three years ago, only Pat Gillick made the grade. Marvin Miller fell one vote short, while Concepcion received eight votes, and everyone else -- including Garvey, John, Martin, Simmons, and Steinbrenner -- received fewer than eight votes. This year's first-time candidates are Cox, La Russa, Parker, Quisenberry, and Torre.
The voting body includes eight actual Hall of Famers, plus four executives, three longtime newspaper writers, and one longtime statistician (oddly, these last four are described by the Hall of Fame as "historians"). For various reasons, it's always going to be difficult to garner the support of 12 of these men for any particular candidate. Put another way, it's always going to be relatively easy to put together a coalition of five voters against a particularly candidate.
The bad news is that the list of candidates doesn't include intriguing players like Bobby Grich and Dwight Evans. The good news is that the list of candidates doesn't include any poor candidates who are nonetheless likely to attract a dozen votes. With the possible exception of Ted Simmons, I wouldn't vote for any of the players. If you'd like to know why, here's a pretty good start via Steve Goldman. And yes, Steve Garvey in particular was routinely described during his career as a future Hall of Famer. It's actually quite surprising that Garvey wasn't elected by the BBWAA when they had their chance, but today his numbers do not look like Hall of Fame first baseman numbers.
Marvin Miller is everyone's favorite cause célèbre. My take on Miller has long been ambivalent, and tolerant of different opinions. Miller's importance as a historical figure can hardly be disputed. But the Hall of Fame has always been based on precedent, and there's no precedent for electing a labor leader. There are people who seem genuinely offended that Bowie Kuhn's in the Hall of Fame, and Miller isn't. And yes, Kuhn's election probably owes something to cronyism. It also owes a lot to precedent; commissioners get elected, simple as that. Meanwhile, no one devoted to the enrichment of the players has ever been elected.
I would vote for Marvin Miller, while knowing that his election would open the way for Donald Fehr and Scott Boras and other labor leaders. I'm not offended by voters who don't necessarily want that way opened. I do believe that Miller will eventually be elected. I'm just not sure it will happen this year, because the ballot is stuffed.
Stuffed with managers, that is. I believe voters can vote for as many candidates as they like, but I also suspect that at least some voters have self-imposed limits. And it's manifest that managers Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre are ridiculously qualified. As it happens, they rank third, fourth, and fifth on the all-time wins list. The two managers ahead of them (Connie Mack and John McGraw) are, of course, already in the Hall of Fame. So are the six managers behind them. Torre's teams won four World Series, La Russa's three; Cox's teams won just one World Series, but they were in the playoffs 16 times and his personal winning percentage is actually higher than Torre's and La Russa's.
None of those guys should have to wait until 2017 for induction, but I suppose it's possible that one of them might.
Oh, about George Steinbrenner ... There's a great deal of precedent for electing longtime owners of successful franchises. In just the last few years, Jacob Ruppert and Walter O'Malley and Barney Dreyfuss -- all of them deserving -- were elected. And it's hard to argue that every owner in the Hall of Fame was a perfect citizen. But all of those men, to one degree or another, generally considered themselves a part of Organized Baseball, and generally worked within that framework to improve their positions, while also working to improve the position of the sport, generally. Steinbrenner, like Miller, saw himself as apart from the sport. Steinbrenner -- like Charlie Finley, another titanic figure in the game's history -- thought nothing of suing Major League Baseball or ripping the Commissioner in public or doing just about anything else that stirred his soul in the moment.
Like Miller, Steinbrenner will be in the Hall of Fame someday. But he might need to wait until more voters never met him.