MLB: Different eras to come together at Hall of Fame induction

By Jerry Beach, The Sports Xchange  |  July 27, 2017 at 11:40 PM
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There will be plenty of reminders, even some imperfect ones, of baseball's ability to connect different eras on Sunday afternoon, when a quintet of men -- former players Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez and executives John Schuerholz and Bud Selig -- will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in front of tens of thousands of fans at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Schuerholz and Selig, who were elected as "Today's Game" candidates by the Eras Committee (the rebranded Veterans Committee) last December, began working in the game in the 1960s. Schuerholz started in the front office of his hometown Baltimore Orioles, and Selig was a minority investor of the Milwaukee Braves.

Among the executives Schuerholz trained under was Lou Gorman, who, as the general manager of the Boston Red Sox in 1989, drafted Bagwell, a New England native whose favorite player was Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.

Bagwell's dreams of following in Yastrzemski's footsteps and becoming a lifelong member of the Red Sox ended Aug 30, 1990, when, with the Red Sox in the thick of the AL East race, Gorman traded him to the Houston Astros in exchange for Larry Andersen.

Bagwell and longtime teammate Craig Biggio ended up becoming one-franchise icons in Houston and joining Yastrzemski on the list of 26 Hall of Famers who played at least 2,000 games with one team.

"It takes both sides for that to happen," said Bagwell, who earned enshrinement in his seventh year on the ballot. "In today's game, it's tough to play your entire career with one team, but we managed to do that."

Bagwell retired after the 2005 season, in which the Astros reached the World Series for the first and only time. Among the teams Houston beat in the playoffs were the Atlanta Braves, who, with Schuerholz as general manager, had just won their 14th straight division title -- an American pro sports record that seems untouchable.

"It's remarkable," Schuerholz said. "And it's made more remarkable by the comments and the observations of people all throughout the game, from ownership to high-ranking executives to manager and coaches and players, even, saying, 'You can't do that.'"

Those four words would likely be uttered today about the possibility of anyone matching Raines' most notable feat -- his 808 stolen bases, which rank fourth all-time and are exactly 300 more than active leader Ichiro Suzuki.

Yet despite being one of baseball's most productive leadoff hitters, Raines was dwarfed by his peer, first-ballot Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, and was in danger of falling off the ballot before younger, sabermetric-savvy voters pointed out how he was a Moneyball-type player before the term was invented.

Raines, who gained induction in his 10th and final year of eligibility, ranks 48th all-time in times reached base and 38th in walks. Of the 41 Hall-eligible players ahead of him in the former category, 35 are enshrined. Of the 31 Hall-eligible players ahead of Raines in the latter category, 24 are in Cooperstown.

"We wouldn't look at stats that much, but since all these new stats are coming out, I was kind of amazed at the things that I was able to do," Raines said.

Raines will be the third and possibly final Hall of Famer to wear a Montreal Expos hat on his plaque. The Expos were 152 games over .500 from 1979 through 1996 but were eventually doomed by absentee ownership, a miserable stadium situation and the 1994 strike, which cost Montreal -- a baseball-best 74-40 when players hit the picket lines in August -- its most legitimate chance at a World Series.

The strike, and the Expos' move to Washington following the 2004 season -- the first relocation in baseball since Selig bought the Seattle Pilots and moved them to Milwaukee, where they were renamed the Brewers, in 1970 -- remain two of the darkest moments in Selig's 22-year reign as commissioner.

"Look, 1994 was painful for everybody -- I understood how good Montreal was," Selig said. "I'm very hopeful someday Montreal gets a team."

Rodriguez enters the Hall as the all-time leader in games caught (2,427). He spent parts of 13 seasons in Texas, and he will be the second Hall of Famer to wear a Rangers hat on his plaque. The first was Nolan Ryan, who was on the mound for Rodriguez's second major league start on June 21, 1991.

Rodriguez, who was elected in his first year of eligibility, ended his career in 2011 with Washington. He won 13 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards.

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