LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre all were unanimous selections to the Hall of Fame today, a trio of baseball’s greatest managers honored together with enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Cox, La Russa and Torre were voted in by the Hall’s Expansion Era Committee, a 16-person panel that includes Hall of Famers, baseball executives and historians. They were selected from a field of 12 candidates that included (among others) former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, former players’ union chief Marvin Miller and ex-players Steve Garvey and Tommy John.
There was little debate about the worthiness of Cox, La Russa and Torre, among the most successful managers in baseball history, and the fact each was a unanimous selection by the committee only underscores that.
Cox managed the Braves and Blue Jays for 29 total seasons, winning 15 division titles (including 14 straight first-place finishes in Atlanta), five NL pennants and the 1995 World Series. La Russa won 2,728 games (third-most in history) over 33 seasons with the White Sox, Athletics and Cardinals, six league championships and World Series titles in 1989, 2006 and 2011. Torre won four World Series titles with the Yankees (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000) to highlight a 29-year career in which he also managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals.
Cox, La Russa and Torre will be inducted in Cooperstown on July 27, along with any former players elected by the Baseball Writers Association next month. Once that happens, there will be only one manager in baseball history with a career record at least 300 games over .500 who isn’t in the Hall of Fame: Davey Johnson.
Johnson, of course, wrapped up his career this season with the Nationals. His final career numbers: a 1,372-1071 record over 17 seasons with the Mets, Reds, Orioles, Dodgers and Nats, a .562 winning percentage that ranks 21st all-time, six playoff appearances and the 1986 World Series title in New York.
Johnson’s first opportunity for Hall of Fame election would come in three years when the Expansion Era Committee next meets. How would his candidacy stack up? While there certainly are several factors in his favor, Johnson doesn’t quite stack up to the three managers elected on Monday. His career (17 seasons) didn’t last as long, he didn’t make as many postseason appearances and he spent 10 years away from the dugout.
It’s not an impossible thought, but Johnson probably is destined to go down as one of baseball’s best managers who didn’t make it to the Hall of Fame.