There’s not a lot of ways to get into the Hall of Fame.
You can be voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, a finicky quorum of irritated baseball observers who spend a large part of the calendar year complaining and contradicting each other. As a potential inductee, getting them to let you in as a fringe candidate is like trying to win a baseball game as the baseball while each player plays under their own individual set of rules.
You can do something cool once as an MLB player and send in the piece of equipment you used while doing it. Did you know Eric Bruntlett’s glove is in the Hall of Fame? Eric Bruntlett is not—this can’t be specified enough, even though it doesn’t have to be—but his glove is, because it was the one he used to complete his unassisted triple play against the Mets. It’s a shame the Hall didn’t ask for Jeff Francoeur’s disgusted facial expression to include as part of that exhibit, as well.
You can also buy a ticket and go through the main entrance, or try and sneak through a window, but those BBWAA writers see themselves as guardians of the museum’s legacy, or something, and can often be found patrolling the halls wearing helmets and carrying spears, taking their role quite literally.
I’m a huge advocate for cronyism, myself; a method of Hall of Fame induction in which a gang of pals gets entry into Cooperstown by voting each other in because they just want to hang out every summer. But they don’t let them do that anymore.
There are also four ballot committees, I’ve learned recently, dedicated to four different time periods of baseball’s history: Early Baseball, Golden Days, Modern Baseball, and Today’s Game. These ballots allow entry through Cooperstown’s sealed doors for umpires, managers, owners, and players who have been out of the game for at least 15 years without having to present your case to the BBWAA (Though the writers do appoint the members of each committee; they just can’t be uninvolved), with the Today’s Game committee focusing on the “indelible contributions” of its nominees from 1988 to the present day. All of the names on the Today’s Game ballot, which includes Orel Hershisher, Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, and Lee Smith, were selected for the Today’s Game committee to vote on by the Historical Overview committee—doesn’t Cooperstown sound fun? Take your kid up to see a committee meeting or administrative appointment today!!
It is on the Today’s Game ballot that, this year, we find former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s name. He’s on there with a litany of baseball monsters, in addition to those names I’ve already listed, from George Steinbrenner, a screaming baby millionaire who was once banned from the game, to Joe Carter, but we’ve come to terms with him, haven’t we? The last man inducted into Cooperstown this way was John Schuerholz, the Braves GM who built the team that terrorized the National League in the nineties. Thanks, John.
In any case, Manuel’s contributions are certainly what we in Philadelphia would call “indelible” after refusing to look up its definition and using it incorrectly for weeks. He brought us the first sports championship the city had seen in 25 years. Done. Beloved for life. Not like Doug Pederson, who I think has already been set on fire. Manuel led the Phillies to five straight playoff appearances in a golden age of Phillies baseball that tricked people into thinking that’s what it was like all the time around here.
But the Today’s Game committee will look at more than just candidate’s contributions to Phillies baseball, for some reason, so they’re probably looking at Manuel’s 1,000-826 record in MLB through 12 years of managing when they vote on December 9 at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas. Honestly, they should let him in for having exactly 1,000 wins alone. He also coached, and got some productive years out of, players like Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton, Roberto Alomar, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Eddie Murray. By inserting his hitting knowledge into his players’ brains, he made them some of the most potent offensive forces in their respective leagues, with both teams he managed—the Indians (2000-02, with six years prior as the hitting coach) and Phillies (2005-13)—winning multiple pennants while he served as a coach or manager. If they’re putting him in as a manager, that means they’re ignoring the fact that he played in Japan and so terrified the people that they called him “The Red Devil,” the most perfect baseball fact in the history of the game.
Manuel’s on the ballot because everyone knows this, and if he gets into the Hall of Fame, it’ll be because of his work and his reputation. MLB Network did a brief bit on the Today’s Game ballot that was comprised mostly of Eric Byrnes with a tiny ponytail screaming about Will Clark, but rest assured, Manuel is respected among his peers. His entry is based on his perceived impact on the game from 1988 to the present by the voters, and while we are of course biased on that impact, having had a front row seat for some of it, it should be clear to everyone that Manuel helped craft a series of generational hitters.
Regardless of the results, the Today’s Game ballot, as well as the Modern Game ballot, are only voted on twice every five-year period. Why is this? Well, we can assume it has some sort of connection to the movements of celestial bodies, or when all the voters have a free weekend at the same time. This is a limited window, people, and Manuel deserves to climb through it. I understand the “small Hall” argument, but I don’t agree with it. Charlie Manuel helped make baseball cooler, certainly made an impact on me as a spectator, and I never would have considered the Hall of Fame an option until an avenue such as this presented itself. I say, get ‘im in there.