New voting rules could help ex-Rays manager Lou Piniella get Hall pass

ST. PETERSBURG — A seemingly minor change to Hall of Fame-era committee voting procedures could be a big boost to the chances of two former Rays managers making it to Cooperstown.

Under new rules released on Friday, managers, umpires and executives will now be considered separately when voting once every three years rather than being on the same ballots as retired players.

That should be short-term good news for Tampa native Lou Piniella and, after retiring, Joe Maddon. (And, who knows, maybe Kevin Cash, too.)

“That should improve my chances,” Piniella said Friday night. “It makes things a little easier, and probably a little fairer.”

Piniella, who spent 2003-05 with the Rays during a 23-year managerial career, was on the Today’s Game Era Committee ballot in 2018. He got one vote short of the 12 needed and was openly disappointed.

Two of the 10 candidates were elected, both former players: Lee Smith and Harold Baines.

The previous format had four era committees divided by periods (1871-1949, 1950-69, 1970-87, 1988-2016), with former players, managers, referees and executives grouped on a 10-person ballot .

The new format will have three committees: one for all applicants before 1980 and separate groups to consider players and non-players from 1980 onwards.

This is particularly important – and a likely driver of change – because of the number of high-profile players who have fallen off the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot without being elected for various reasons (such as PED connections), and the fate of which now rests with the committee.

This group could include newcomers Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Sammy Sosa, and others such as Tampa’s Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro, Kenny Lofton, Mark McGwire, Orel Hershiser, Will Clark, Dale Murphy and more. .

With so many players, there wouldn’t be many opportunities for retired managers – such as Piniella, Jim Leyland and Bruce Bochy – or referees and executives to get elected. Given that the committee vote is their only route to Cooperstown, the separate election should make a huge difference.

An oversight committee will establish ballots for eight people and 16-member committees will vote for no more than three nominees, with 12 votes needed for approval. The three groups will take turns voting each year, with the Baseball/Contemporary Players group being the first in December. The Contemporary non-gaming group will follow in December 2023 and the Classic (pre-1980) group in December 2024.

Piniella, noting that at 26 he was one of the oldest players to win American League Rookie of the Year (with the Royals in 1969), notes that he will be 80 in time of the committee’s vote. He wonders how many people were elected at old age.

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He hopes his resume will do well enough against a field of candidates that could also include longtime Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in the executive category. Piniella led the Reds to the 1990 World Series title and took six other teams to the playoffs, compiling a 1,835-1,713 (.517) record with the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, Rays and Cubs . Before becoming a coach, he played 18 seasons in the majors.

Maddon, for comparison, won a World Series with the 2016 Cubs, lost one with the 2008 Rays and took six other teams to the playoffs, compiling a record 1,363-1,192 (.533) (up to Thursday) with the Rays, Cubs and Angels.

“We’ll see what happens,” Piniella said. “I’m not going to count my eggs yet.”

More Sweet Lou

Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) hits a home run in the first inning of Friday's game against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field.
Rays shortstop Wander Franco (5) hits a home run in the first inning of Friday’s game against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Piniella, who still lives in Tampa, said he regularly watches the Rays play this season on television. “I like what I see,” he said. “They have good young players and they will improve as the season progresses.” He, unsurprisingly, was impressed by Wander Franco: “Oh my God, he’s excellent. He can swing the bat, play defense, he’s a versatile guy. He is very talented, no doubt. Of Cash, another Tampa native, Piniella says, “He does a hell of a job there. And he handles the media well too.

rumble rays

Among the scenarios considered when Wednesday’s game in Chicago was likely to get wet, the Cubs were scheduled to face the Rays on Thursday morning, followed by their regular game against the Pirates that night. … Former WTSP-TV news anchor Ryan Bass joins the Bally Sports Sun team as a backup reporter when Tricia Whitaker is away or hosts before/after the game. … The Rays won’t have the smallest crowds at the majors this season; the A’s reported tickets sold against Baltimore were 3,748 Tuesday, 2,703 Wednesday, 4,429 Thursday. … Reaching the majors has been rewarding for 2017 10th-round pick Phoenix Sanders in many ways, including financially: With a $700,000 big league minimum wage, he earns around $4,070 a day, that’s more than half of the $7,500 bonus he got to sign. … Dan Kiermaier is definitely the family gardener; younger brother Kevin abandons the garden of his Tampa home and has artificial turf installed. … Previous hires of Patrick Abts (formerly with the Lightning) as senior manager, marketing and Jason Wallace (NBA Memphis Grizzlies) as senior manager, baseball communications have been announced. …Triple-A Durham added a 1998 Devil Rays style black alternate jersey and cap. … Former Japanese player Ray Aki Iwamura’s record hitting streak in his first nine league games was tied on Monday by the Cubs’ Seiya Suzuki, who knocked out Shane McClanahan before going without a hit on Tuesday . …A round-up of Franco’s best soundbites from the April 15 game in which he was mic’d was posted on YouTube.

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