Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen, your 2014 Hall Of Fame Class

A year ago the Hall of Fame induction weekend was a disappointment.  Some long time worthy individuals (Hank O'Day, Jacob Ruppert and Deacon White) were voted in by the veteran's committee, although, they were given little attention since the BBWAA failed to vote anyone into the Hall of Fame.

I have already discussed what makes a Hall of Fame player and why I feel the voters missed out on voting in some very deserving candidates.  I certainly encourage you to read those articles, however, I don't want to distract from the inductees this season who are clear Hall of Fame players.

Without further delay, here is your Hall of Fame Class of 2014:

Bobby Cox
Bobby Cox the player spent the majority of his team in the minors bouncing from minor league team to minor league team and organization to organization.  Drafted as a minor leaguer in 1959 by the Dodgers.  He went from the Dodgers to the Cubs to the Braves to the Yankees.  If the organizations were not enough, the stops throughout the minors were even greater:  Reno, Panama City, Salem, Great Falls, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Austin, Tacoma, Richmond, Syracuse and Fort Lauderdale.  In all that time he spent one and a half seasons in the majors.

By 1978 Cox was back in the majors but not as a player, as a manager.  He was hired by the struggling Braves organization to turn around the bottom dweller.  With the Reds and Dodgers at the top of the division, the Braves were rebuilding around a young group led by Dale Murphy, Ken Oberkfell, Bruce Benedict and Glenn Hubbard.  His first tenure in Atlanta lasted four seasons.  It was not a success.  Cox was replaced at the end of the 1981 season by Joe Torre.

Cox moved on to take over another struggling organization, the Toronto Blue Jays.  Toronto had only been in the league since 1977 and struggled to compete with the Red Sox, Tigers, Orioles and Yankees.  Even the Brewers were improving ahead of the expansion Jays.  Although the talent was blossoming with Alfredo Griffin, Ernie Whitt, Lloyd Moseby and Jesse Barfield in place the Blue Jays still finished in 6th place.  They slowly improved moving up to 4th in 1983 and 2nd in 1984, even putting a scare into the nearly unbeatable Tigers.  1985 was the Blue Jays year.  They ended the year in the top AL East perch, ahead of one of the most talented teams not to make the playoffs in the Yankees.  They got ahead to a three games to one lead in the ALCS.  It was the first year the series went to the best of seven format.  The Blue Jays then became the first team to lose an ALCS when leading 3-1.  The tough loss was Cox's last game as manager in Toronto.  The tough loss would also become the theme of his career.

Cox was named Manager of the Year, left Toronto and was hired on as the General Manager of the Braves.  As General Manager Bobby Cox was responsible for the acquisition of Kent Merker, Mike Stanton, Keith Mitchell, Brian Hunter, Lonnie Smith, Mark Wohlers, Ryan Klesko, Glavine, Avery, Greg Olson, Gant, Justice, Smoltz and Chipper Jones.  The team that was in place when Cox took over as General Manager was much less talented as the Braves were struggling at the bottom of the division.  Cox knew the team had talent in the pipeline and he also felt that manager Russ Nixon was not the man to lead them.  In 1989, with the Braves in last place, Cox replaced Nixon in the dugout.  Everyone could see that the Braves had talent, but they were thought to be a few years away.  The 1990 team finished in last and the slow climb to the top was just beginning.  Cox, however, turned things around quickly.  He knew this talent better than anyone and in 1991 he took the Braves to the playoffs for the first time since 1982.  They came within an eyelash of winning it all and Cox was named Manager of the Year for the second time.  The Braves would not miss the playoffs again until 2006.  During this successful run (1991-2006) the Braves would reach the World Series five times and won the World Series in 1995.  During the run of success he faced off against his Hall of Fame Classmate managers four times (twice against LaRussa's Cardinals and twice against Torre's Yankees).  When he retired after the 2010 season, his 29th season as manager, Cox had 2504 career managerial wins, four Manager of the Year Awards, a World Series title and the record for the most career ejections as a manager.  The 2504 wins places him fourth on the all time list behind Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony LaRussa.

Tom Glavine
On June 4, 1984 in the second round of the major league draft, Tom Glavine was drafted by the Atlanta Braves.  He was a young, skinny kid out of Massachusetts, he had a ton of potential but every kid being drafted had a ton of potential.  The important thing was not how much potential you had but what you did with the potential you had.  Tom Glavine did more than anyone could have possibly imagined.  He made his major league debut on August 17, 1987 and started against the defending NL West champions Houston Astros.  It did not end well.  In 3 2/3 innings he gave up 19 hits, walked 5 and allowed six runs.  The rest of the year would not be spectacular as he finished 2-4. 1988 would be worse as his record was 7-17.  But the Braves were building a team and Glavine was learning to pitch in the big leagues.  By 1991 he had everything figured out.  Glavine won 20 games for the first time as the Braves went from worst to first.  Glavine would go on to win 15 or more games 10 times.  In five of those years he won 20 or more,  As the Braves rotation changed all star after all star behind him, Glavine remained the ace.  Glavine helped a talented group lead the Braves to the playoffs every year from 1991-2002.  At the end of the 2002 season, Glavine became a free agent and signed with the division rival New York Mets.  All he did in New York was help lead the team to the 2006 NLCS with a 15-8 record.  Glavine retired in 2008.  When all was said and done Glavine finished with a 305-203 record, a 3.54 ERA, 2 Cy Young Awards (and four more finishes in the top 3 in voting) and ten All Star Appearances.  You can add to that 14  post season wins, a World Series Title and the 1995 World Series MVP.  Tom Glavine was without a doubt a first ballot Hall of Fame player.

Tony LaRussa
Tony LaRussa is one of the many talented players to come out of the Tampa, FL area.  Growing up in the large shadow of Al Lopez, the original Tampa area star, LaRussa was signed by the Kansas City Athletics in June of 1962.  LaRussa would play parts of six years with in the majors with the Athletics, Braves and Cubs.  His final career batting average was .199.  After retiring as a player LaRussa went back to school, graduated from Florida State University and passed the bar exam but continued coaching in the minor leagues.  Midway through the 1979 season LaRussa was hired to replace Don Kessinger as manager of the struggling Chicago White Sox franchise.  The team had not reached the post season since Al Lopez led the team to the 1959 World Series.  It seemed like a slow climb but the White Sox finally made the post season in 1983, although they were ousted in the ALCS by the eventual World Champion Orioles.  LaRussa would remain on as manager with the White Sox through mid 1986.  Unhappy with the direction the team was taking LaRussa walked away and was replaced by Doug Rader for a few games before Jim Fregosi officially took over.  He was not out of work long as he was very quickly hired by the Oakland A's.  Taking over a team that was 31-52 he led the team to a 45-34 record the rest of the year.  LaRussa went into the 1987 season with some strong young talent.  Jose Canseco had won the Rookie of the Year award in 1986.  The team also had young talent like McGwire, Walt Weiss, Tony Phillips, Stan Javier, Terry Steinbach and Mike Gallegos.  The core of the team was there.  Now they needed something to bring it all together.  The 1988 team took over the league and LaRussa was the genius behind it all.  The A's would go on to win the AL West four of the next five years and would reach the World Series three straight years, winning the 1989 World Series.  As the talent moved on and the reality of the new free agent system took it's toll, the A's struggled to compete with the other teams in the division.  LaRussa finished the 1995 season in Oakland and said goodbye.

He moved on to St.Louis where the Cardinals were rebuilding.  The team was transitioning from the end of the Whitey Herzog era and had a few failed seasons under Joe Torre.  LaRussa immediately got the team headed in the right direction.  The team advanced to the NLCS and jumped out to a 3 games to 2 lead over Bobby Cox and the Braves but failed to advance.  Cox would go on to lose to Joe Torre and the Yankees.  Just as he had done in Oakland, LaRussa would constantly have his team in a playoff fight.  LaRussa would spend 16 years in St. Louis.  His teams would reach the post season eight times.  This included three World Series appearances (2004, 2006 and 2011) and two World Series wins.  Adding the appearance with the White Sox, and the four in Oakland, this gave LaRussa 13 post season berths in a 33 year managerial career, Six world series appearances and three World Series titles.  He is third on the all time wins list. won four manager of the year awards and eight other times finished in the top three in voting.

Greg Maddux
In 1984  the Cubs made the NLCS for the first time, though it was with a collection of mostly over the hill stars.  They really needed to rebuild around Ryne Sandberg and Bob Dernier.  As part of that rebuilding process they made a shrewd move in the 1984 draft when they drafted a young Greg Maddux in the second round.  He made his debut in 1986 and finished with a record of 2-4.  His second year in the league was no better than Glavine's second year.  Maddux finished at 6-14.  1988 was the start of the greatness.  He went 18-8 and made the All Star Team for the first time.  1989 was even better at 19-12 and he finished third in Cy Young voting.  Over the next three years he continued to excel and gain the reputation alternately as "Mad Dog" for his fierceness on the mound and "the Professor" for his studious approach of charting every pitch to every batter.  1992 was his final year with the Cubs.  He went 20-11, made his second All Star appearance and won his first Cy Young Award.

During the offseason Maddux moved on to Atlanta, joining Avery, Glavine and Smoltz on what was already considered the best rotation in the game.  Maddux would continue to gain a reputation for his control, his dedication and his dominance.  He again won the Cy Young in 1993, 1994 and 1995 as the Braves continued to dominate the National League.  Maddux would remain with the Braves until 2003.  During his years there he would win three Cy Young awards (finishing in the top 5 an additional four times), appear in seven All Star Games and 9 Gold Gloves (added to the three he had already on in Chicago.  He won a total of 194 games in Atlanta in 11 years there.

 After the 2003 season Maddux was again a free agent and he decided to return to his roots where the Cubs appeared to be building a strong young team.  The Professor was beginning to show his age slightly (although he won 16 games) and the Cubs were not quite as good as originally believed.  Injuries took a major toll on the Cubs and midway through the 2006 season Maddux was traded to the Dodgers in the middle of a playoff run.  He helped the Dodgers with a 6-3 record but was not able to get them past the first round.  He spent 2007 with the Padres and finished the year at 14-11 as the Padres collapsed down the stretch and finished just out of the playoffs.  He started 2008 with the Padres but as the Dodgers made another run to the playoffs Maddux ended his career in blue.  The Dodgers could not overcome the Phillies and Maddux walked away after the year with the reputation of one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game.

Maddux finished his career with four Cy Young Awards, 355 wins, 8 All Star appearances, 18 Gold Gloves, 11 career playoff wins and one World Series title.

Frank Thomas
Last summer I was having a conversation with a good friend and fellow baseball fan when the name of Frank Thomas came up.  The friend said he felt that Thomas was one of the most disappointing franchise players in history.  While it is certainly true that Thomas did not lead the White Sox to the World Series he certainly can't be called disappointing.

Thomas was drafted in 1989 with the 7th overall pick and joined a franchise with one post season appearance in the previous thirty years.  The team had gone through rebuilding after rebuilding and finally had the player that would lead them to the post season.  Thomas made an immediate impact on the organization.  The White Sox went almost over night from a bottom of the league, after thought to an annual playoff contender.  Thomas was the unquestioned leader of the group.  In 1991, his first full year in the league, he began a streak of greatness that produced 8 straight years over 100 RBI, 6 straight years over 20 Home Runs (all but two of those above 30) and seven straight years above .300.  To be honest, Thomas was a bit of a throw back.  In an era where it became accepted for players like McGwire, Canseco, and Prince Fielder to strike out 100-150 times a year and hit .250 or so, as long as they drove the ball over the fence, Thomas was the opposite.  In the prime years of his career, as he was challenging for the triple crown each year, his strike outs were below 100 (with the exception of his first full year with 112 years).  Ironically, for a man who was nicknamed the Big Hurt, he never led the league in Home Runs or RBI.  He did, however, win a batting title in 1997.  Thomas made five All Star Games during these years, won two consecutive MVP's and became the face of the White Sox organization.

It was 2001 when injuries started to truly take their toll.  Frank's father passed away early in the season and a few days later he learned that he needed season ending surgery to repair a torn bicep.  It would happen at the worst of times.  As Thomas continued to fight back to regain his place at the top of the league, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and seemingly everyone in the league was getting stronger.  Thomas would continue to put up impressive numbers but his injuries crept up with his age.  As the White Sox picked up Paul Konerko, Thomas's playing time diminished.  Sadly, as the White Sox pushed to their first World Series win since 1917, Thomas sat by and watched.

He moved on to the Athletics for the 2006 season and was a big reason for the A's reaching the ALCS.  He hit .270 with 39 Home Runs (impressive in the cavernous Oakland Coliseum) and drove in 114 runs and finished fourth in MVP voting.  He played 2007 in Toronto on what was expected to be a playoff contender.  Thomas certainly had a good season with 26 Home Runs, 95 RBI and a .277 average.  The rest of the talent did not contribute as hoped and the Jays fell flat.  He returned to start the 2008 season with the Jays but after just 16 games Thomas was released. He resigned with the A's and finished his year out with 55 games in Oakland.

When all was said and done Thomas finished his career with two MVP awards (four other top five finishes), 495 doubles, 521 Home Runs, 1704 RBI and a .301 average.  What was more, in an era when players were routinely suspected of steroid use with little or no proof, there was never a question that Thomas had played the right way.

Joe Torre
As a player Joe Torre was a 9 time All Star, an MVP and a very respected Catcher with the Braves, Cardinals and Mets.  He played in over 2000 career games but never played on a team that reached the playoffs.  With 2342 hits, 252 career Home Runs and 1185 RBI Torre's playing career got him some consideration for the Hall but he fell far short of induction.

Torre played his final games in 1977 with the Mets.  45 games into the season he became the player manager for the Mets.  The Mets were in between the Seaver era and the Strawberry-Gooden era and the team was suffering.  At no point did the team finish higher than 4th.  At the end of the 1981 season Torre left the Mets.

There was another National League team that needed a manager as Bobby Cox had moved on from the Braves to the Blue Jays.  Torre stepped in for Atlanta and led the Braves to their first playoff appearance since 1969.  It was an encouraging start but it didn't last.  The Braves fell to second place in his second year and third in his third year. He had no more chances to guide the Braves.

Near the end of the 1990 season he got one more chance at the helm.  This time it was in St.Louis and he replaced the legendary Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.  He took over a Cardinals team in transition.  The core of the Cardinals team (Pendleton, Tudor, Cox, Coleman, Lonnie Smith, Milt Thompson) were gone.  In their place were young talent like Pagnozzi, Zeile, Gilkey and Whitten.  The pitching was not quite good enough and the Cardinals struggled.  The team was accused of under achieving with a string of second and third place finishes and part way through the 1995 season Torre was let go and labeled as a failure.  He was replaced in St.Louis with Tony LaRussa

Meanwhile, in New York, George Steinbrenner had grown upset with manager Buck Showalter.  Despite leading the Yankees to their first post season appearance since 1981, Steinbrenner constantly questioned Showalter's decisions.  When Torre became available, Steinbrenner demanded that the Yankees get him.  The Yankees baseball people told Steinbrenner that Torre was not the right man for the job.  Torre, they said, had failed with the talented Cardinals and the fact that LaRussa took them to the NLCS in their first year was proof that Torre wouldn't work.  Steinbrenner wanted him anyway.  In his first year in New York Torre took the Yankees to the World Series and faced Bobby Cox's Braves, who had beaten LaRussa's (formerly Torre's) Cardinals in the NLCS).  The Braves jumped out to a 2 games to 0 lead but the Yankees battled back and won the World Series, their first since 1978.  It was the start an unimaginably successful stretch for the Yankees.  They won the World Series again in 1998, 1999 and 2000 and came within an extra innings loss of winning the 2001 World Series.  The Yankees, under Torre's leadership, became the dominant team in baseball.  They were once again the powerhouse of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Munson and Jackson.  The team made the playoffs every year under Torre's leadership until 2007.  Unfortunately for Torre, despite the poor performance of the high priced free agents, Torre took the blame.  He was unceremoniously fired by Steinbrenner following the 2007 season.

Just as happened after he left St.Louis, he was not unemployed long.  The Dodgers quickly hired Torre to lead the team.  In his first year with the team, he led the Dodgers to the NLCS.  It was the first time the Dodgers had won a playoff series since Kirk Gibson's dramatic 1988 Home Run.  They fought tooth and nail (and very nearly hand to hand) with the Phillies who won a dramatic, tight, tense series.  With the help of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers became a serious contender.  2009 saw Ramirez suspended for PED's but with the emergence of Ethier, Kemp and Russell Martin, the Dodgers again advanced to the NLCS. Again they fought the Phillies and it looked like they were set to take control of the series when Jimmy Rollins broke the heart of Dodger fans with an RBI triple to tip the series back in the Phillies direction.  The 2010 season was a disaster for the Dodgers as Johnathon Broxton struggled in the bull pen, Russell Martin injured himself and Matt Kemp fought with Torre and the coaching staff.  While this was going on the ownership group was tearing itself apart in divorce court.  At the end of the year Torre walked away.  He currently works for the Commissioner's office.  Torre retired with 2326 regular season wins, six World Series appearances and four World Series victories.

Connie Mack, John McGraw, Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre make up the top five winningest managers of all time.  Who rounds out the top 10?

Answer to Last Week's Question:
Cy Young first pitched in the Major Leagues in 1890.  The World Series as we know it would not start until 1903.  In 1892 the Cleveland Spiders took on the Boston Beaneaters in the National League Championship Series.  Cy Young appeared in this championship series but his Cleveland Spiders lost 5-0 with 1 tie game.  When the American League opened for business in 1901 Cy Young signed with the new Boston franchise and when they took on Pittsburgh in the 1903 World Series, the first ever, Young and Bill Dinneeen were the aces of the Boston staff.  Young went 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in  four appearances.  Boston beat Pittsburgh in the first ever World Series


  1. I enjoyed the profiles. I found it interesting that Cox and LaRussa did not have good major league careers (like I think most managers do not have great playing careers.) Torre had a very good major league career.
    Interesting how these 3 managers careers intersected. Torre followed Cox.
    LaRussa followed Torre. Torre followed Cox. LaRussa replaced Torre.

    Had no idea Maddux bounced from one team to another at the end of his career.
    I have mixed thoughts on Frank Thomas. I look at his stats and say he should be in the HOF. While he was playing I never thought he was HOF material. Unlike now when I think of Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout you think these guys are HOF caliber players.

    Good trivia question. My guess is Sparky Anderson, Walter Alston, Tom LaSorda, Casey Stengle and Al Lopez.


  2. It was good to read more about the people that got inducted this year.


Have questions about something in this or a former post? Have a suggestion for a future post? Want more information on a specific team, player, season or game? I welcome the feedback, so feel free to leave a comment in the box or email me at baseballeras (at) gmail (dot) com.