We waited last night for word to come down from the Hall of Fame’s contemporary era selection committee. Would former Rays manager and Bay Area native Lou Piniella finally earn his spot in Cooperstown? Three years ago, he fell one vote short of being elected. Surely, he could sway one vote.
And when the results came in, it turns out that only one manager will take his place in Cooperstown next summer: Jim Leyland.
Piniella, needing 12 votes for election, again fell one short.
And that’s a travesty.
I’m not insinuating that Leyland is unworth of election to the Hall of Fame, far from it. But as former Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones put it so succinctly:
Nothing against Jim Leyland, but if Leyland is in the Hall of Fame, Lou Piniella should DEFINITELY be in the Hall. https://t.co/pzyK1s6iOf
— Tom Jones (@TomWJones) December 4, 2023
Leyland finished his career with 1,735 wins, 18th most all-time, while Piniella ended with 1,835 victories, ending one spot ahead of Leyland. Both were known for being firey competitors, each winning a World Series (Piniella taking the 1990 World Series as skipper of the Reds, Leyland winning the 1997 World Series as manager of the Marlins), and earning Manager of the Year accolades three times each. Of the 17 managers with more wins than Piniella, three of them were active in 2023 (Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, and Bruce Bochy), and 13 of the remaining 14 are in the Hall of Fame (only Gene Mauch remains out of Cooperstown).
According to Marc Topkin’s article in the Tampa Bay Times, the 80-year-old handled the rejection with class and dignity.
“I would like to thank the baseball Hall of Fame for considering me for this prestigious honor,” he said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times and New York Daily News. “Although I did not get inducted this year, I am very proud of my 40-plus years of MLB service and have accomplished more than I could ever have dreamed of. For those whom did not know, I have been battling cancer for the past few years and recently received some positive news.
“Although I did not make the Hall of Fame, I am so grateful to God for everything He has blessed me with, and I will be celebrating with my family and friends. Thank you again for considering me and God bless.”
When this committee gets its next chance to vote in 2026, Baker and Francona will be eligible, as will Bochy if he decides to retire in the next couple of years, so the task of Piniella getting in only seems to get more difficult.