Who the Veterans Should Elect

If you weren't around in the 1960s or 1970s, Joe Torre actually did PLAY baseball.

On Monday, the Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee election results are released with the possibility of as many as eight candidates being selected to get inducted into Cooperstown in 2009.

After a screening committee narrows the field down to 10 from… well just about anyone who ever had anything to do with baseball (depending on the year), the ballot is separated into two distinct categories: pre-1943 and post-1943. Four can be elected from each group, as long as the candidate receives the standard 75% of the vote.  On the post-1943 ballot, the 64 living hall of famers get to vote and if 48 vote for the same candidate, Cooperstown, here you come.  On the pre-1943 ballot, the committee consists of 12 players, historians, and BBWAA members with 10 votes needed for election.  These candidates are only eligible every 5 years, while post-1943 candidates are eligible every other year.  Since it changed to the current format (after SEVERAL different formats), the committees actually haven’t elected anyone.  Last year, some sort of committee examined executives, coaches, umpires, and contributors.  Don’t ask me the difference or about the rules because what I just wrote is about all I know, unfortunately.  What’s special about the Veterans Committee is that voters are asked to consider an individual’s total contribution to the game, which makes my first candidate sure to get in…

Nevertheless, here is who I think the vets should elect this year:

  • Joe Torre – As a player, he was actually pretty good, but maxed out at about 22% in his 15 years on the BBWAA’s annual ballot despite a career .297 average, 250 home runs (during a widely dead ball era), 9 All-Star games, and the 1971 NL MVP award.  Not a bad career, but what makes him a strong candidate is his “overall contribution” to the game, A.K.A. Torre’s managerial career.  He’s the only person in MLB history with 2,000 hits and 2,000 wins as a manager.  He has 4 rings during his time with my Yankees from 1996-2007 and six AL pennants.  In 28 seasons as a manager with the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Yanks, and Dodgers, his career winning percentage is .538 (thanks, NYY).  He was AL Manager of the Year in 1996 and 1998 and ranks seventh all-time with 2,151 wins and is bound to move into 5th place all-time if the Dodgers manage a paltry 44 wins in ’09.  If our veterans friends don’t elect Torre, he’ll get in on the first ballot when he retires as a manager.
  • Jim Kaat – Ok, people I know what you’re thinking: “you’re only voting for him because he was a Yankee broadcaster.”  Not true.  In 25 seasons, Kaat won over 280 games, just shy of the magical 300 plateau and he also was a superb fielder, winning 16 consecutive gold gloves in the middle of his career.  In 1982, the year before he hung up his spikes, Kaat helped the Cardinals win a ring.  In 1966, he won 25 games and was fifth in MVP voting.  Kaat was an All-Star three times and won at least 20 games three times.  How ’bout this: 180 career complete games with nine seasons of at least 10… absolutely unheard of these days.
  • Gil Hodges – At least 20 home runs in 11 straight season, hitting 40 twice.  He was an All-Star eight times and was listed on MVP ballots nine times.  He was THE MAN for the Brooklyn Dodgers in their heyday, until they went out west.  Overall, 370 career home runs and two rings.

Honestly, I know a lot of people like Ron Santo, but I’m not sold.  I suppose for Cubs fans this is blasphemy but I will say that if he gets in Donnie Baseball should start feeling pretty good about himself; I think they’re pretty similar type players.  The guys I selected were from the post-1943 ballot and I don’t know a lot about the other half of the ballot to make an educated vote.  I like Allie Reynolds, though, a Yankee who won 6 rings and ranks in the top 10 in 11 World Series pitching stat categories.  I always root for the Yanks, so there’s my straight biased vote.


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