The 2017 “Today’s Game Era” ballot contains a number of interesting Baseball Hall of Fame candidates, and three executives deserve enshrinement.
Voting is now underway for the 2017 candidates to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Under rules amended two years ago, players are now considered for 10 years. Those who are not elected pass into the “Era” committees, formerly known as the “Veteran’s Committee”, for future consideration.
The current committees include “Today’s Game”, which evaluates from 1988 – present. “Modern Baseball” looks at 1970 – 1987. “Golden Days” votes on 1950 – 1969. “Early Baseball” examines 1871-1949.
These committees will select individuals on a rotating basis. For the upcoming 2017 Hall of Fame class as well as for 2019, the “Today’s Game” committee will do the evaluating. “Modern Baseball” will go in 2018 and 2020. “Golden Days” and “Early Baseball” will take their turns together for 2021.
The “Today’s Game Era” committee working this year includes 16 members selected by the Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors. They will do their voting at the upcoming Winter Meetings. Each of the other committees who will do their selecting in future years have the same membership size They are selected in the same manner as well.
Per the Baseball Hall of Fame website, the following are the eligibility requirements for nomination and election by an Era Committee:
(A) Eligible candidates must be selected from managers, umpires, executives and players. They must meet the below criteria related to their classification.
• Players who played in at least 10 major league seasons. They must not be on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list. They must have been retired for 15 or more seasons; • Managers and umpires with 10 or more years in baseball and retired for at least five years. Candidates who are 65 years or older are eligible six months following retirement; • Executives retired for at least five years. Active executives 70 years or older are eligible for consideration.
(B) Those whose careers entailed involvement in multiple categories will be considered for their overall contribution to the game of Baseball. However, the specific category in which these individuals shall be considered will be determined by the role in which they were most prominent. There are instances when a candidate is prominent as both a player and as a manager, executive or umpire. In those, the BBWAA-appointed Historical Overview Committee shall determine that individual’s category as a player, as a manager or as an umpire or as an executive/pioneer. Those designated as players must fulfill the requirements of 6 (A).
(C) Any person designated by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball as ineligible shall not be an eligible candidate.
THE 2017 “TODAY’S GAME” BALLOT
The 2017 ballot being considered by the “Today’s Game” committee includes five former players who are no longer eligible under the normal 10-year vote. There are also two managers, as well as a trio of baseball executives.
All are worthy of consideration, and valid positions can be put together for their cause. But it is my opinion that only the three executives should be enshrined at this time.
Former Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves executive John Schuerholz is one of these men. The colorful and controversial late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner is another. And the former Milwaukee Brewers owner and Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig is the third.
First hired in baseball by the Baltimore Orioles in 1966, Schuerholz was 29 years old in 1969 when he became one of the original executives of the expansion Kansas City Royals.
Schuerholz worked in the Royals organization through the 1970s in a variety of positions, including as the Farm Director, Scouting Director, and assistant GM. He was then named the club’s General Manager in 1981, the youngest GM in baseball at the time, serving until 1990.
His teams in Kansas City won back-to-back American League West Division crowns in 1984 and 1985. He is given much credit for building the 1985 team that became the first in Royals history to win a World Series championship.
JOHN SCHUERHOLZ IN ATLANTA
In 1990, Schuerholz was hired with the Atlanta Braves organization and served there as general manager through the 2007 season.
Nicknamed “The Boss”, Steinbrenner worked for, purchased, and grew a family shipping business into a business empire during the 1960s and early 1970s.
In January of 1973, Steinbrenner led a group of investors in purchasing the legendary New York Yankees franchise from CBS, which had owned the club since 1965.
The Yankees had won 20 World Series championships to that point, but none since 1962. The club was floundering through eight consecutive non-contending seasons.
The 1973 season was the first of nearly four decades of colorful Steinbrenner ownership of Major League Baseball’s highest profile team in the biggest city and media market in the western hemisphere.
Steinbrenner became notorious for firing numerous manager and general managers, including a nearly comical relationship with former Yankees player Billy Martin, hired and fired five times as the skipper.
YANKEES RETURN TO THE TOP
But the owner also was extremely competitive, willing to spend money to make and keep the Yankees as a top contender.
The club quickly rose to the top once again, finishing in first place in the AL East in five of the six seasons between 1976 and 1981. They won the World Series in both 1977 and 1978, defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers each time.
By the end of the 1980s, the Yankees were again floundering. But after four straight losing campaigns the club again emerged as a strong contender just as the 1994 strike hit.
Since 1994, the Yankees have finished in either first or second place in the AL East in all but two seasons. They captured the World Series crown in four of five seasons between 1996-2000, including three in a row.
In failing health, Steinbrenner ceded control of the operation to his sons after the 2007 campaign. But as if to hand him a goodbye gift, the Yankees won the 2009 World Series while he was still the owner.
Steinbrenner passed away on the day of the 2010 MLB All-Star Game. In addition to his legacy of seven World Series championships and 10 American League pennants, Steinbrenner also held the important distinction of being the first MLB owner to sell broadcast rights to cable television.
Probably the easiest slam-dunk call of the entire 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame voting process is the inevitable selection of the former Commissioner of Baseball, Allan H. “Bud” Selig.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Selig became a minority owner of the Milwaukee (now Atlanta) Braves during the 1950s. After the majority owners moved the team to Atlanta after the 1965 season, Selig began concentrated efforts to bring the big leagues back to his hometown.
A 1969 attempt to purchase the Chicago White Sox and move them to Milwaukee fell through. Selig was then able to purchase the Seattle Pilots, an expansion franchise in 1969, and successfully move them to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.
The Brewers reached the postseason only twice in Selig’s stewardship, including the 1982 season when the club played in its only World Series, losing to the St. Louis Cardinals.
From the late 1980s through the early 1990s, Selig became increasingly influential in the dealings of the baseball owners as a group. He would eventual become chairman of the Executive Council of Major League Baseball, and openly feuded with Commissioner Fay Vincent.
When the owners forced Vincent out, Selig took control, though he was not immediately named as a formal “Commissioner” until midway through the 1998 season.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS AS COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL
During Selig’s tenure as both acting and actual Commissioner of Baseball he instituted many changes. Many of these were extremely beneficial to the growth of the game into the $9.5 billion industry that it is today.
Selig led the push to realign the NL and AL each into three divisions, and begin Wild Cards and divisional playoffs. He instituted Interleague play, and in 2000 consolidated the two leagues into one entity under the Commissioner’s office umbrella.
Baseball expanded to both Arizona and Tampa Bay in 1998. He presided over the move of the Montreal Expos to Washington, D.C. and the Brewers’ switch from the AL to the NL.
He instituted Jackie Robinson Day each April 15. Selig also laid the groundwork for the World Baseball Classic. Instant replay was both introduced and expanded during his years as Commissioner.
CONTROVERSIES AND SCANDALS
There were a number of controversies during Selig’s reign. These included the canceling of the 1994 season and World Series.
There were attempts to contract the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins in 2001. There was controversy surrounding the eventual move of the Houston Astros to the AL West Division.
A major scandal enveloped the game during the 2000s as baseball’s PED controversy came to light. Selig was at the helm then through numerous investigations and black eyes on the sport. This was highlighted by the pursuit and passing of Hank Aaron‘s career home run record by Barry Bonds.
As a result of the numerous investigations and allegations of PED usage, Selig was influential in instituting and evolving a formal disciplinary procedure with the MLBPA.
He also was behind the winning league in the MLB All-Star Game gaining home field advantage in the World Series. Selig took the lead with postseason scheduling changes that have pushed the Fall Classic into early November.
In addition to numerous lucrative television and other broadcast deals, Selig’s reign included the expansion of baseball into new media. This included the Internet with MLB.com and TV with the MLB Network. Twenty new ballparks were opened during his time in office.
Selig finally retired following the 2014 season. The Brewers have retired the number “1” in his honor and erected a statue to him outside of Miller Park.