Baseball Hall's 2014 Expansion Era Ballot Features Big Bosses.
Baseball's Expansion Era Hall of Fame ballot was released on 4 November with results of the voting to be announced on Monday 9 December during MLB's annual winter meetings.
This is the evolution of the old Veteran’s Committee that took heat for electing the likes of Bill Mazeroski.
Well, they’ll have their work cut out for them on this ballot. At first glance, there are at least five shoo-ins.
Listed below are the 12 players, managers, and executives eligible for election by the Historical Review Committee. I’ll spare you the details of how that organization is comprised; rather we'll review the credentials of all the candidates, much like a recruiter screening résumés, where they give applicants a false sense of hope that they’ll even get a courtesy phone call.
These candidates are listed alphabetically. The criteria is a candidate must receive 75% of the vote to be elected.
- Dave Concepcion – Great defensive SS and part of the Big Red Machine from the 1970’s, Concepcion played all 19 years in The Show with Cincinnati. I don’t know why, but there's something unique and honorable about players who spend their entire careers with one team, especially during the explosion of free agency; thanks a lot, Curt Flood! Concepcion comes from a long line of tremendous shortstops born in Venezuela, and was a 9-time all-star who won five Gold Gloves. He wore No 13, which is why so many Latin American infielders choose it. If we’re going to elect another player from the Big Red Machine, don’t you think Pete Rose should be next?
- Bobby Cox – The first of four deserving managers on the Expansion Era ballot. Cox could get ejected with the best of 'em. Too bad Billy Martin isn’t alive; otherwise, Cooperstown could hold a contest between Cox, Martin, and Tony LaRussa as to who could best argue with an umpire. Cox turned the Braves around in 1991 when they went from worst to first and made games watchable on TBS. Amazingly, the Braves only won one World Series title during his tenure, but went up against the mighty Yankees twice; we'll discussed that when we get to Joe Torre. The Braves did make 14 consecutive postseason appearances, which would’ve been 15 had the 1994 strike not canceled the remainder of the season. It’s going to be a feelgood story to have Cox inducted along with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine this summer, assuming both players are first-ballot Hall of Famers. There's no rational reason why they won’t be elected in January.
- Steve Garvey – Now, here's a player who garnered enough support from the BBWAA to maximize his time on the ballot -- 15 seasons to be precise -- peaking at 42.6% of the vote in 1995. Garvey was a tremendous defensive 1B, won the 1974 NL MVP award, and crushed the hopes and dreams of the Wrigley Field faithful in the 1984 NLCS, but when you're remembered most for having a series of simultaneous affairs less than two years after you retire, something tells me that was held against him, much in the way the 'roiders are not receiving much support amongst HOF voters. Garvey would be a marginal HOFer but don’t think he gets in with this group.
- Tommy John – His HOF plaque should have a picture of his surgically repaired elbow rather than him donning a Dodgers cap. Seriously though, the experimental surgery he underwent in 1974 saved his career, along with those of many other pitchers and should be recognized by the HOF in some capacity. John does have 288 career wins, seventh all-time among left handed pitchers. Just like Garvey, John received enough support to remain on the BBWAA ballot for 15 election cycles, topping out at 31.7% in 2009, his final year on the ballot. John deserves a spot as a contributor -- if not a player -- in Cooperstown; otherwise Stephen Strasburg’s career might be over already.
- Tony LaRussa – I had the pleasure of meeting Tony several years ago at a card show which was a fundraiser for his animal rescue charity. He was very pleasant and spoke to me like I was a normal human being -- imagine that from a celebrity! -- and took interest in the Ryne Sandberg autobiography I had with me. During the 80’s and 90’s, the Oakland A’s ruled my roost, and although they only won the Bay Series in 1989, LaRussa truly got the most out of the role players and castoffs who comprised that team. It’s pretty easy to sit back and watch Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and Rickey Henderson do their thing, but turning Rick Honeycutt and Gene Nelson into shutdown relievers was a thing of beauty. And remember, LaRussa popularized the concept of the modern-day closer, saving Dennis Eckersley's career in the process. Maybe his HOF plaque can look like Two-Face from Batman: half A’s, half Cardinals!
- Billy Martin – When I read his name, my first thought was: “Why the hell is he not already in the Hall?” As you can see, this ballot already has two other deserving managers, and it’s a shame that Martin didn't get inducted while he was still alive, a fate suffered by Ron Santo two years ago. If George Steinbrenner was still alive as well, this would be the most entertaining induction ceremony ever, watching these two men share the same stage.
- Marvin Miller – Miller was head of the Player’s Association from 1966-1982 and oversaw the rapid growth in player salaries. Remember when everyone was up in arms about Nolan Ryan becoming the first player to make $1million in 1980 with the Houston Astros? Well, $1million barely buys you a 3B coach nowadays. Miller passed away nearly a year ago, and with the recent passing of current MLBPA Director Michael Weiner, there may be some sentimental support for Miller.
- Dave Parker, The Cobra – Here's a prime example of Tony LaRussa getting the most out of his players during the A’s championship run in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Parker does have some notable HOF credentials, including back-to-back batting titles (1977-1978) and winning the 1978 NL MVP award, along with one of the greatest performances in All-Star Game history at the Kingdome in Seattle during the summer of 1979. Parker recorded two OF assists and was intentionally walked in an All-Star game!
- Dan Quisenberry – The submariner had a solid career, mostly with the Kansas City Royals, but there's already a mediocre reliever with a short career from the 80’s enshrined. Not to mention any names but think Bruce Sutter. Sorry, Royals fans, you’ll have to keep worshipping only George Brett at Cooperstown.
- Ted Simmons – Simmons has a renewed support group after falling of the HOF ballot in 1994 after just one attempt because he didn’t receive more than 5% of the vote. Being a catcher, offense usually is diminished -- unless you’re a Johnny Bench or Mike Piazza -- and his 248 career HR’s may not look like much, but considering the era, it’s not that bad. If Simmons doesn’t get elected this time, he’s a great candidate next time the committee meets in three years.
- George Steinbrenner – One of the most powerful, influential, and combustible owners doesn’t have a plaque in the HOF? Cooperstown is located in New York; you’d think they’d want as many Yankees as possible. His plaque better have “The Boss” engraved on it!
- Joe Torre – Torre could’ve very well been elected as a player, but he definitely gets elected as a manager, winning four World Series titles in five seasons with the Yankees. If it weren’t for a Luis Gonzalez bloop single and Josh Beckett turning into Tom Seaver, the Yankees would’ve won two more titles under Torre in 2001 and 2003. Would he wear a Team USA World Baseball Classic hat on his plaque?
So there you have the Expansion Era candidates. If I had a vote, Cox, LaRussa, Martin, Miller, Simmons, Steinbrenner, and Torre would all be elected.
It could be a busy summer in Cooperstown, as the BBWAA ballot will be released on Monday, and it's still crowded from last year.
Meanwhile, the Earth will keep rotating on its axis and the sun will continue to rise and set before a couple of living legends with questionable ethics and morals -- Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens -- get a plaque in Cooperstown.