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Five Braves Going Into the Hall of Fame

January 11, 2014

Hugh Atkins

Hugh Atkins

The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony this summer will have a decidedly Atlanta Braves flavor.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Five of the six inductees in this year’s class have an Atlanta connection. Bobby Cox, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux obviously paved their road to the Hall of Fame wearing a Braves uniform. Joe Torre played the first nine years of his career with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves and managed the team from 1982-1984. Tony LaRussa played nine games with the Braves back in 1971. Frank Thomas is the only new member of the Hall of Fame without a connection to the Braves.

Torre As a Brave

Joe Torre came up to the Milwaukee Braves for two late-seasons at-bats in 1960 and then played eight full seasons with the team. In 1966 the Braves moved to Atlanta and Torre was one of their first big stars; he hit 36 home runs, drove in 101 runs and batted .315. Torre hit 142 of his 252 career homers and batted .294 with the Braves. They traded Torre to the St. Louis Cardinals for Orlando Cepeda after the 1968 season.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Torre took over as manager of the Braves in 1982 after the Braves fired Bobby Cox. Torre’s tenure as manager began with a 13-game winning streak at the beginning of the 1982 season. The Braves won the National League Western Division title that year, but the Cardinals swept them in the National League Championship Series. The Braves finished second in 1983 and third in 1984 and Torre’s days as the manager in Atlanta came to an end. In his three years at the helm of the Braves they were 257-229 (.529).

Torre’s Road the Hall of Fame       

Torre was a better than decent big league player. He hit .297 over his 18 seasons. He was the National League Most Valuable Player in 1971 when he won the batting title with a .363 average and led the league with 137 runs batted in. Torre was an excellent defensive catcher, a decent first baseman, and he made himself into a competent third baseman. He hit better than .300 five times, drove in at least 100 runs five times and played on nine National All-Star teams. While a decent case could be made that Torre should be in the Hall of Fame as a player, it was his success as a manager that sent him to Cooperstown. More specifically it was Torre’s success as manager of the New York Yankees that punched his ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Before Torre managed his three seasons for the Braves, he managed the New York Mets from 1977 – 1981. The Mets were 286 – 420 (.405) under Torre, which makes me wonder why Ted Turner ever fired Cox and hired Torre in the first place. After Torre’s three seasons with the Braves, he was out of the dugout for five full seasons before he took over as manager of the Cardinals late in the 1990 season. The Cardinals went 351 – 354 (.498) under Torre before he was fired 47 games into the 1995 season.

Torre took over as manager of the Yankees in 1996 and had an incredible 12-year run. The Bronx Bombers finished in first place in 10 of those seasons, including nine years in a row from 1998-2006. The Yankees won four World Series titles with Torre at the helm. They went 1,173 – 767 (.605) with Torre as their manager.

Torre moved across the country to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers for three seasons from 2008 – 2010. The Dodgers finished first in Torre’s first two seasons and slipped to fourth place in his final season as a manager. With Torre as manager the Dodgers went 259 – 227 (.533).

Torre’s cumulative record as a big league manager makes him a bona fide Hall of Famer. But his years with the Yankees are what really got him there. As manager of the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, and Dodgers, Torre’s winning percentage is .484. Like Miller Huggins, Joe McCarthy, and Casey Stengel, Torre was blessed with an incredible amount of baseball talent in his time in the Yankee dugout–so much talent, in fact, that Ernest T. Bass likely could have managed their teams to a few pennants.

As a Braves fan I’m glad Joe Torre is going into the Hall of Fame. But it’s hard for me to believe that he would have ever made it had he not landed on his feet in Gotham City after the Cardinals gave him the pink slip in 1995.

The PED Effect

Every year after the Hall of Fame voting is announced, the debate begins about who should have gotten in but didn’t. This year Craig Biggio fell two votes short of getting in, but with his 3,060 hits, he eventually will get there. But for some other players on the ballot, the vote totals this year demonstrate that the Baseball Writers Association of America still takes a dim view of anyone they suspect may have used performance enhancing drugs.

Sammy Sosa saw a 42% drop in support, from 12.5% to 7.2%; Mark McGwire dropped 35%, from 16.9% to 11%; Roger Clemens dropped 6%, from 37.6% to 35.4% and Barry Bonds dropped 4%, from 36.2% to 34.7%. Rafael Palmeiro saw his support cut in half–from 8.8% to 4.4%–which means he failed to garner the required 5% necessary to remain on future ballots. If this trend continues, Sosa and McGwire may be done after next year.

Palmeiro is one of only four players to amass over 500 (569) home runs and 3,000 (3,020) hits; Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray are the other three. But Palmeiro now will have to wait to see whether the Veterans Committee will be more forgiving of him for testing positive for steroids in 2005. The finger-wagging denial of steroids use to the congressional committee will make it difficult for that to happen. But who knows? By 2026 they may come around.

While Palmeiro likely will never get into the Hall of Fame, the $89,295,996 (baseball-reference.com) he made during his career should help cushion the blow well into his twilight years. And in the words of Prince Hamlet, “Ay, there’s the rub.” Until Major League Baseball comes up with a financial disincentive for players to cheat it will be difficult to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs.

In the meantime it’s a good year for three fine managers, two superb pitchers, and one powerful slugger: Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas are going into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Dale permalink
    January 11, 2014 7:43 am

    Saturday mornings feel good again. So happy you’re posting again.

    Like

  2. January 11, 2014 10:42 am

    Thanks for reading and for the feedback. My New Year’s resolution is still alive.

    Like

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