Vero Beach, Florida – It took a highly successful NCAA basketball coach, Tom Crean of Indiana University, to put into words what MAS learned long ago as a head high school football coach.
Crean admirably admitted: “Coaches receive FAR too much credit for a team winning — and FAR too much blame for it losing.”
In the end, it’s the talent you are given to develop that is most critical to a team’s success. Trust MAS, no coach has ever made chicken salad out of chicken, um, feathers.
But the Baseball Writers Association of America have never coached — or managed, so they wouldn’t know what Crean was talking about.
That’s why this year they saw fit to select a whopping three baseball managers with over a thousand managerial victories apiece — Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre — for induction last week into The Baseball Hall of Fame.
All while snubbing many much-more deserving players — including some guys who got the skippers to the Hall in the first place (more on this later).
As many managers were enshrined this year as players.
MAS finds it interesting that, while talented Cox-managed teams won a ton of ballgames, they managed to garner just one World Series title in five tries.
Umm, where was Bobby’s managerial acumen in his FOUR Series losses?
Proof positive that players win — and lose — games. MLB managers mostly go along for the ride.
But the picking of a whopping three managers is just the latest example of a great institution’s operation being entrusted to the wrong people.
Last year the BBWAA decided no 20th century players were worthy of induction for the first time in decades.
Regular readers of this space already know how MAS feels about the Hall of Fame selection process: it needs be blown up and my fellow free hot dog mustard-stained wretches of the keyboard should be stripped of their judge-and-jury duties regarding who makes it to Cooperstown.
All the writers know about baseball is gleaned second-hand from those directly involved in MLB; the scribes are in no position to determine who the best players in the history of the game are.
At best, they deserve just a tiny proportion of say in the selection process.
The larger amount of power should go to ex-MLB players and team administrators — insiders who truly understand the game.
Oh, and the fans deserve a tiny smidge of input as well.
Selecting three managers in one year — by far a record — after admitting a total of two players in the previous two classes is typical BBWAA cluelessness.
Who knows how well LaRussa, Cox and Torre would have fared had they not been blessed to fill out line-up cards with the abundance of talent they had at their disposal.
Tom Crean and MAS have an inkling.
Of the big four North American pro sports coaches/managers, baseball skippers have the LEAST impact on the outcome of a game — by far.
They are mainly button-pushers; all follow the same time-honored, unwritten “book” of baseball strategy.
In turn, the “field generals” are then made to look like either geniuses or idiots depending upon the performance of the player whose button they push at a given point.
MAS recently bounced his gripes about 600 writers who never wore a jockstrap in anger deciding who makes it to Cooperstown off Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, the ex — Milwaukee Brewer and Minnesota Twin, now a coach in Minny.
Understandably, Molitor was reluctant to bite the hands that penciled him in.
“You’re always a little bit careful,” Paul admitted. “There’s always gonna be some cases that are more debatable than others; but the Hall seems to have gotten it right for the most time.”
“They have the right guys in there.”
Molly did at least agree, however, that some tweaking of the selection system is in order.
“If I could change anything, it would be the process of the vote,” said Molitor. “And maybe the criteria for eligibility.”
“The cluttered ballots (containing too many names) and limited vote opportunities for the writers make it tough,” Paul explained.
“And why are we limiting how many players a guy can vote for (currently 10 votes per ballot).”
What about MAS’ assertion that the writers are becoming too picky?
“Maybe a little bit,” offered Molitor. “But the steroid thing has changed the whole dynamics of the vote.”
And then there’s the prickly Pete Rose matter — which has resurfaced after a recent book on the “Hit King”.
“If you make a change on Pete,” Paul offered, “then every time you read the no gambling rule to the players each spring, you’re saying there might be an exception if you’re good enough.”
Last year, Molitor served on the Expansion Era Committee which has the power to nominate up to five players whose eligibility has run out.
“We had some really good candidates (who didn’t make the list of five),” revealed Molitor. “Guys like Steve Garvey, Dave Parker, Davey Concepcion and Ted Simmons.”
“I can’t say those guys might not get another chance — there were some very valid points made for them.”
Hmmm, let’s see if MAS has this straight then.
Steve Garvey — who was a star Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman for well over a decade and in his career accumulated 2,599 hits (.294 lifetime average) and bashed 272 homers while driving in 1,308 runs — is not worthy of Hall induction.
Yet, enshrined long ago was Tommy Lasorda, Garvey’s Dodger manager who mostly sat on his butt during games trying to stay awake and mining for nose gold (he must have the record for most times caught plucking on live TV) while serving as a manufactured ebullient “ambassador of the game” (bleeding Dodger blue, yada, yada, yada).
MAS rests his case for blowing up a system that gives selection powers to unqualified writers who this year used that clout to elect a record three button-pushers while passing over more deserving on-field talent.
Speaking for both Tom Crean (though not authorized to do so) and himself, MAS says this to the Hall of Fame Board of Directors: You have the constitutional power to change who does the voting; it’s high time you flipped the demolition switch.
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