Dan's Dugout: Veterans Committee Tackles Tough Choices • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Veterans Committee Tackles Tough Choices

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Of the 10 men listed on the Today’s Game ballot for the Veterans Committee of the Hall of Fame, only one in certain to be enshrined.

Bud Selig will make it — not because he deserves it but because he spent 22 years on the game’s throne, making a myriad of changes that turned the sport’s revenue stream into roaring rapids.

Bud Selig was a lightning rod for controversy during his 22 years

Bud Selig was a lightning rod for controversy during his 22 years

Love him or hate him, the retired commissioner cancelled the 1994 postseason, created the three-division format, launched interleague play, and presided over expansion to 30 teams. The best teams rarely reach the World Series anymore and clubs play different schedules to get there but Selig seems certain to be on the receiving end, rather than the giving end, of a Cooperstown plaque next July.

If blustering Bowie Kuhn can make it, Bud Lite is a no-brainer. So what if he stole the Seattle Pilots franchise, got the new Milwaukee Brewers to switch leagues, and yanked the Houston Astros out of the Senior Circuit after a 50-year sojourn? Not to mention failing to resolve the designated hitter dilemma, with the American League using it and the National League not.

Selig should slide into Cooperstown with at least 12 of the 16 votes to be cast by a special committee at the Baseball Winter Meetings Dec. 5. But he may not be the only one getting an early holiday present.

John Schuerholz (left) and Bobby Cox had an amazing title run

John Schuerholz (left) and Bobby Cox had an amazing title run

John Schuerholz, architect of the Atlanta Braves team that won a record 14 straight division crowns, should have gone into the Hall ahead of Pat Gillick, the only other general manager to win world championships in both leagues. At age 75, he’s still active as vice chairman of the Braves and would join a growing Braves wing that has added Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Bobby Cox over the past three years with Chipper Jones certain to join them in 2018.

Not so certain of election is the late George Steinbrenner, whose penchant for overpaying players and changing managers like chess-pieces has not been forgotten. On the other hand, The Boss made a bold move in making Joe Torre manager and watching him win five world championships.

Two others who made their mark in New York, Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson, deserve strong consideration by the committee. Piniella, who managed five teams during a 23-year tenure in the dugout, was especially successful in Seattle (AL record 116 wins in 2001) and Cincinnati (1990 World Series sweep).

Piniella was Manager of the Year three times, once more than Johnson. But the latter had a better

Lou Piniella was often outspoken as a manager

Lou Piniella was often outspoken as a manager

winning percentage — 12th all-time — thanks in part to the 1986 Mets. Johnson, once a slugging second baseman, also managed the Orioles, Reds, Dodgers, and Nationals during his 17 years as field boss.

Less likely to win enshrinement are the five players on the ballot: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, and Mark McGwire.

How McGwire even got there is a major mystery, since his vote totals dwindled every year he was eligible for the Baseball Writers of Association voting. The poster boy for steroids, McGwire did hit 70 home runs once but has as much chance of getting to Cooperstown as Barry Bonds, who owns the single-season record of 73. On the plus side, the 12-time All-Star hit a record one home run per every 10.61 at-bats.

Baines, a six-time All-Star, just missed the 3,000 Hit Club, finishing with 2,866 over 22 years, while Belle made five All-Star teams while reaching triple digits in runs batted in nine times in 12 seasons. A surly reputation won’t help, nor will his relatively short playing career.

Clark, who compiled a .303 lifetime average, had four 100-RBI years and six All-Star selections. He also won MVP honors in the 1989 NL Championship Series, when he personally destroyed Greg Maddux. As this columnist sees it, he’ll wind up in the A.B.N.Q. category: Almost But Not Quite.

Orel Hershiser was lights-out in 1988

Orel Hershiser was lights-out in 1988

Like Clark, Hershiser probably made this list because of his performance in a single season. In 1988, he not only won a Cy Young Award but was MVP of both the Championship Series and World Series. He was also the MVP of the 1995 American League Championship Series. With 204 lifetime wins, plus another eight in postseason play, he is definitely borderline. He’s well-liked too. But too many others outside of Cooperstown, notably Tommy John, Jim Kaat, Jack Morris, and Luis Tiant, were even more impressive.

Qualifications for the Today’s Game ballot required contributions to baseball from 1988 to the present. Three other Veterans Committees, also created this year, will consider Modern Baseball (1970-1987); Golden Days (1950-1969); and Early Baseball (prior to 1950). Today’s Game and Modern Baseball will be considered twice in the next five years, while Golden Days will come up once every five years and Early Baseball once every ten years.

Since Modern Baseball will be the focus next year, it is entirely possible that two-time MVP Dale Murphy could join the Class of 2018 expected to be headed by Chipper Jones, the man who succeeded Murphy as the face of the Atlanta franchise.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Now that the Arizona Diamondbacks have dumped manager Chip Hale and general manager Dave

Tony La Russa could consider returning to the dugout Credit: George Napolitano)

Tony La Russa could consider returning to the dugout.
George Napolitano photo

Stewart, would Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa — the club’s chief baseball officer — consider returning to the dugout? . . .

Also out as managers are Robin Ventura (White Sox) and Walt Weiss (Rockies), though Bryan Price (Reds) somehow survived a ridiculously bad performance in Cincinnati . . .

After getting only a slight boost from hitting coach Barry Bonds, the Miami Marlins gave the controversial home run king his walking papers — with rumors that manager Don Mattingly him out the door with a him-or-me ultimatum to owner Jeffrey Loria . . .

Since Weiss once played for the Braves, don’t be surprised if the team gives him an interview for their vacant managerial job after talking to Ron Washington, Bud Black, and coaches Bo Porter, Terry Pendleton, and Eddie Perez, plus interim manager Brian Snitker . . .

Expect good hitting in the Baltimore-Toronto wild-card playoff and good pitching in the San Francisco-New York playoff.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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