Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Billy Martin

Claim to fame: The fiery manager of the Bronx Zoo New York Yankees in the 1970s, Martin also did well in stops at Minnesota, Detroit, Texas, and Oakland. He thrived wherever he went, having just three losing seasons in 19 years and going 1,253-1,013 overall. Despite this, he is remembered perhaps as much for his off-field antics, his many firings at the hands of George Steinbrenner (they even once did a commercial making light of it), and his alcohol-related death in 1989 at 61.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Martin is on this year’s Veterans Committee ballot, along with Steinbrenner and two of their best pitchers in those years, Ron Guidry and Tommy John. The committee will announce its voting results at the annual winter meetings in Orlando, Florida on December 6.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? My short answer is yes. Martin did well in too many stops, and his record should speak louder than his questionable character (on a side note, was it really terribly worse than many men already enshrined?) The same should be said of Dick Allen, Dave Parker, and Albert Belle, in my book. But then, controversial figures generally have a hard time getting into Cooperstown. I’d vote for all four of these men, but I don’t know how many other people would.

Traditionally, the committee, in its various forms over the years and the Hall of Fame in general prefers establishment-friendly candidates. It’s why I figured Whitey Herzog would get voted in last year after he, Martin, Danny Murtaugh, and Gene Mauch appeared on the ballot. It’s the same reason I think Steve Garvey will get in this year. When in doubt, Hall of Fame voting is generally conservative, particularly with the Veterans Committee in recent years, and I suppose arguments could be made for or against this.

All this being said, if Martin were to get into the Hall of Fame, he’d have a spot in one of its most exclusive wings. This summer, Herzog became just the 20th person enshrined as a manager. Men like Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Casey Stengel are there. Al Dark, Bill Rigney, Charlie Grimm and many others are not. There are so many solid managers not in Cooperstown that a few months back I suggested there be a hybrid wing for skippers who also played.

Technically, Martin could qualify for this too since he played 11 years in the majors, making the American League All Star team in 1956 and serving as one of Mickey Mantle’s running partners on the Yankees of the Stengel-glory-years 1950s. Still, I think Martin’s managerial credentials should be sufficient to earn him a plaque.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Al OliverAlbert BelleBert BlylevenCecil TravisChipper JonesDan QuisenberryDave ParkerDon Mattingly, Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerJack MorrisJoe CarterJohn SmoltzKeith HernandezLarry WalkerMaury WillsMel HarderPete Browning, Rafael Palmeiro, Rocky Colavito, Ron Guidry, Steve GarveyThurman MunsonTim Raines, Will Clark