The Hall of Fame has separated its Veterans Committee voting into four eras: Early Baseball (1871-1949), Golden Days (1950-1969), Modern Baseball (1970-1987) and Today’s Game (1988 to present), and renamed it the "Eras Committee." One of the reasons for doing this was that the old Vets Committee, on several occasions, didn’t elect anyone to the Hall. The Hall has an induction ceremony every year and the more the merrier is apparently their thought.
So this year the 16-member committee will choose from among 10 names in Today’s Game:
Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Mark McGwire, Lou Piniella, John Schuerholz, Bud Selig and George Steinbrenner
Feel free to discuss any of these candidates, but my focus here is going to be on the only man there with a significant Cubs connection, Lou Piniella (Davey Johnson played for the Cubs for a couple of months in 1978, but he’s really not connected to the Cubs in any meaningful way).
This committee is comprised of 16 writers, executives and Hall of Fame players — and despite quite a bit of searching, I can’t seem to find the names of who’s on this year’s committee. All I know is that they’re chosen by the Hall’s board of directors. The committee is supposed to consider the individual’s overall contribution to baseball, which in Piniella’s case would be his 18-year playing career, as well as his 23 years as a major-league manager, the last four of which came managing the Cubs.
Lou’s playing career alone isn’t anywhere near worth Hall consideration. While he was a very good player, posting 1,705 career hits and winning a Rookie of the Year award, he was never anywhere close to the best player in his league or at his position, and was mostly a part-time player after injuries cost him most of his age-31 season. He was a key part of five playoff teams and started for two World Series winners in 1977 and 1978. His top comps on his baseball-reference page include Vic Power, Darin Erstad, Willie Montanez and Garry Maddox -- sounds about right, more players who were very good for a while, but never superstars.
His managing career gives him much more of a Hall case. He managed 23 seasons -- only 12 men managed longer. His 1,835 wins rank 14th all-time, though Bruce Bochy is going to pass him during the 2017 season. Every manager who’s won that many games who’s eligible is in the Hall, except Gene Mauch. (And with three WS titles, Bochy’s a lock for the Hall after he retires.)
There might be the difference. Mauch had an overall losing record as a manager, and just two first-place finishes. He lost both postseason series (1982 Angels, 1986 Angels) in memorable fashion.
Piniella did much better than that — though his overall winning percentage as a manager is just .517, he had seven playoff teams and one World Series winner, the 1990 Reds. Had he been able to win the World Series with the Cubs, I don’t think we’d be having this discussion; I think that alone would have put him in the Hall, as it might down the road for Joe Maddon. Incidentally, the Cubs’ 19th win of 2017 will give Maddon 1,000 for his career.
It’s really, really close, I think. Tommy Lasorda’s in the Hall with fewer wins than Lou, the same number of playoff appearances and one more WS title — and without a significant playing career. Dick Williams -- not as good a player as Lou, and with fewer wins as a manager, but two World Series titles and two other pennants. Whitey Herzog — not much of a playing career, 600 fewer managing wins than Lou, the same number of WS titles, but two more pennants. He’s in.
Dusty Baker is another manager who’s going to pass Lou in career wins next year, and Baker was a better player than Piniella, but with no World Series titles. Does Dusty eventually get into the Hall?
It’s almost a coin flip on Lou whether you think his entire body of work, as player and manager over more than 40 years, gets him in. I’d probably vote for him if I were on the committee. It takes 12 votes from the 16-member committee to elect someone.
Incidentally, this committee is almost certainly going to vote Bud Selig into the Hall. Whether you like Bud or not, and there are reasons for both, he did accomplish one thing: labor peace which made a lot of money for both players and owners.
The Today’s Game Committee will vote on the nominees listed above on Sunday, December 4, as the Winter Meetings kick off. If Lou does gain induction I’ll have more to say about him next week. The Hall’s induction ceremony will be Sunday, July 30, 2017 at 12:30 p.m. CT, televised on MLB Network.