As expected, John Schuerholz and Bud Selig are the newest members of the Baseball Hall of Fame, as the 16-person Today's Game Era committee, focusing on players and contributors from 1988 on, elected the longtime executive of the Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves and the former commissioner and Milwaukee Brewers owner. Managers Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson were shut out along with former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and players Mark McGwire, Will Clark, Albert Belle, Orel Hershiser and Will Clark.
Some quick thoughts:
It's not surprising that no players were elected. In recent years, the various incarnations of the Veterans Committee have been stingy, electing just two post-1950 players since 2000 -- Bill Mazeroski in 2001 and Ron Santo in 2012. That trend continued in this election and the five-player group wasn't especially strong. Remember as well that there are seven Hall of Fame players on the committee; those guys like being part of a small club. Plus, you need 12 votes to get elected, the same 75 percentage as the BBWAA requires. That's a tough road to climb.
Bud Selig becomes the fifth of the 10 commissioners to get elected to the Hall of Fame, joining Kenesaw Mountain Landis, Happy Chandler, Ford Frick and Bowie Kuhn. In other words, it was a pretty low standard for Selig to cross. Considering Kuhn basically bumbled his way through 15 years as commissioner, it's no surprise Selig was elected. His fingerprints are certainly all over the game, good and bad: He presided over unprecedented revenue growth and was a key force in implementing more revenue sharing, interleague play, the World Baseball Classic and the wild card; he also presided over the cancellation of the 1994 World Series, ignored the flush of steroids into the game and too often created negative publicity with his constant whining about competitive balance and economics. In the end, it's hard to stomach Selig getting elected while Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and McGwire still wait on the outside, essentially blacklisted for PED use. Everyone was responsible for the steroids era -- players, agents, managers, front offices, owners -- but the commissioner oversees the game and while the BBWAA has, for the time being, vetoed those players they view as PED users, another electorate has just chosen a man who helped enable the whole era to happen in the first place. Logic says Selig's election should open the door for Bonds and Clemens, but we know there isn't always logic when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
McGwire had a difficult case with Bonds and Clemens still on the regular BBWAA ballot. He wasn't anywhere near as good as those two players, so I can see the committee having a problem putting McGwire in before Bonds and Clemens. The more interesting case will be when Bonds and Clemens run through their 10 years on the BBWAA ballot and how the Today's Game committee views them. McGwire will likely have to wait until then.
John Schuerholz: This was a no-brainer after Pat Gillick's election a few years ago, considering both had similar levels of success (Gillick was actually one of the committee members). Schuerholz becomes the sixth person we would label a "general manager" to get elected. He averaged 90 wins a season with the Royals and Braves and became the first GM to win the World Series in both leagues (1985 with the Royals, 1995 with the Braves). His Braves teams won 14 consecutive division titles. It only took him this long to get elected because he had to wait until turning 70 to be eligible since he's still active. Mark Armour and Dan Levitt wrote a terrific book, "In Pursuit of Pennants," on the history of baseball front offices and ranked Schuerholz as the No. 6 GM of all time.
Steinbrenner was the one candidate aside from Selig and Schuerholz who I thought might get in. As Buster Olney wrote earlier today, No owner in North American professional sports has made a bigger dent in the public psyche than the polarizing Steinbrenner, and whether you loved him or couldn’t stand him -- and for most baseball fans, it was the latter -- you couldn’t possibly ignore him. This is why it's somewhat incredible and more than a little ridiculous that the late George Steinbrenner is not acknowledged with a plaque at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. ...If you tried to explain the 1970s, '80s and '90s in Major League Baseball -- if you tried to tell the history of the sport -- you could not do it without talking about the role of George Steinbrenner, unless you chose to willfully ignore his impact. There's no denying Steinbrenner's legacy and personality, and while his teams won seven World Series, I do think there are questions about whether he was a great owner (I say he did more harm than good). Remember, the dynasty that won four titles from 1996 to 2000 was basically built while Steinbrenner was suspended for two-plus years from running the team. Gene Michael built up the farm system in that time with the likes of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posada; in the past, Steinbrenner had often traded away his best minor leaguers. Upon his reinstatement, he didn't meddle like he once did and the Yankees flourished. As big of a name as he was, I don't think he transformed the game at all like Walter O'Malley did in opening up the West Coast when he moved the Dodgers. I'm OK with leaving Steinbrenner out.
Piniella and Johnson: They have pretty good cases when compared to many Hall of Fame managers, although Johnson probably didn't manage long enough and both have just one World Series title. Piniella is hurt by the fact that Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa were just elected in 2014 and his record doesn't match those three. Plus, Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona are active managers with stronger cases down the road.
Now ... let the other debates begin! (Dear voters: Go look up Edgar Martinez while you have a few seconds ...)