John Schuerholz isn’t in the Hall Fame. That must change

Feb. 20, 2012- LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL: Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz, left, talks with former manager Bobby Cox as they watch the first day of pitchers and catchers workouts at Champion Stadium in the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Monday morning in Lake Buena Vista, Fl., Feb. 20, 2012. Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com

Only one of these is offically a Hall of Famer, oddly enough. (Jason Getz/AJC)

At the winter meetings that begin Sunday outside Washington D.C., John Schuerholz will be considered for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame by what used to be known as the veterans committee. When John Coppolella, the incumbent Braves general manager and a Schuerholz hire, mentioned this over lunch the other day, this was my response: “How is he not already in the Hall of Fame?”

Confession: I have a Hall of Fame ballot, have for more than two decades. I know how that works. I’m not a member of the veterans committee. I have a vague understanding of that works. This year, it will choose from a list of former players who didn’t make through the BBWAA voting process, plus a manager, a commissioner and an owner and one GM.

This year’s ballot also includes: Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Mark McGwire, Bud Selig, George Steinbrenner, Davey Johnson and Lou Pinella. There has been much lobbying to enshrine Selig, whom I always considered a boob, and Steinbrenner, who was a blowhard. There’s nobody on that list who merits a Hall pass as much as Schuerholz.

In the history of baseball, who are the three best GMs? Branch Rickey, John Schuerholz and … “George Weiss,” offered Coppolella, naming the GM of the imperial Yankees. Two are in the Hall. The one who built championship teams in different leagues in the free-agent era, which made it much challenging than the reserve-clause days of Rickey and Weiss; the one whose Braves finished first over 14 consecutive seasons; the one whose name is on the trophy given to GMs by MLB for distinguished service … he’s not yet.

Of all the job descriptions considered for Hall calls, general manager gets the shortest shrift. There are only six in Cooperstown as we speak: Rickey, Weiss, Ed Barrow, Pat Gillick and Larry (father) and Lee (son) MacPhail. Weiss, Barrow and both MacPhails worked with the Yankees.

(When with the Yankees, the younger MacPhail suggested that Bobby Cox, whose playing days were winding down, consider becoming a minor-league manager in their chain. Gillick and Cox were the GM/manager tandem in Toronto when the Blue Jays got good.)

As we know, Cox was inducted into the Hall in 2016, not four full years after he managed his last game. (The veterans committee has no five-year moratorium.) That was utterly deserved. But you can’t have a Hall of Fame that includes Cox and not Schuerholz. That’s the best GM/combo of the past half-century. It’s among the best ever, rivaling the Yankee pairings of Weiss/Miller Huggins and Larry MacPhail/Casey Stengel and the Dodger duo of Buzzy Bavasi/Walter Alston. (All save Bavasi are in the Hall.)

The Braves wouldn’t have won those 14 division titles — and five National League pennants, and the 1995 World Series — without Cox taking what Schuerholz gave him and making it work. The Braves might never have won even one division crown had Stan Kasten not hired Schuerholz away from Kansas City. The new man (and his famous suspenders) put order to an organization that had become, to invoke a British team, shambolic.

Under Schuerholz’s management, the Braves went worst-to-first and then first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first-to-first. That had never happened before. It will never happen again. Along the way, Schuerholz signed the best free-agent pitcher ever (Maddux) and made the best deadline trade ever (McGriff-for-Nieves/Moore/Elliott). He’s a Hall of Famer if there ever was one. The Hall just needs to make it official.

Further reading: John Schuerholz: The man who changed a team – and a city.

Further still: A fascinating column from 2002 by Alan Schwarz regarding Schuerholz and the lack of GMs in the HOF.

Reader Comments 0

7 comments
CadillacRanch
CadillacRanch

Cox took what Schuerholz gave him???  Are you serious?  Cox was the architect of those teams.  Schuerholz came in after Bobby acquired the pitching talent that defined the entire era.  Sure, he added Greg Maddux to the roster, but every GM would have made that move had their ownership given them the resources to do so.  Also, don't forget that Schuerholz really wanted Barry Bonds instead of Maddux, but he screwed up the Bonds move and "settled" for Maddux.


Since the Braves one title in a strike shortened season, Schuerholz has presided over 21 years of mediocrity followed by futility.  The Braves never won a single World Series game in Turner Field (I know, I know, 14 divisional titles, but that ended 11 years ago.  Time to get over it.), and it has been 17 years since they actually played in a WS game.  That isn't a Hall of Fame credential...unless you're talking about the HOF of self-promoting gas bags.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

@CadillacRanch Schuerholz comes to town in 1991 and the Braves start winning. Just a coincidence, I'm sure. That season, Schuerholz brought in Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Rafael Belliard, Otis Nixon, Alejandro Pena, et al. Like I said in my first comment below, Schuerholz knew where the gaps in the lineup were, and he addressed those gaps. The 1990s Braves teams consisted of many fine JS acquisitions. And I think the idea that any team with money could have or would have reeled in Greg Maddux is bogus. He didn't end up with the Yankees, did he?

I concede though, that Schuerholz made one huge mistake during the divisional title run: He did not fire Bobby Cox after the 1997 NLCS loss to the Marlins, a team the Braves led in the Eastern Division by 9 games at season's end. That choke followed the World Series collapse against a vastly inferior Yankees team the season before. Cox squandered more pitching talent and more overall talent than any manager I've seen in my lifetime (which ain't short).

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

Schuerholz handed Bobby Cox his ticket to Cooperstown. How ironic that the man who rode on somebody else's shoulders got there first.

Wunderkind Cubs exec Theo Epstein, at age 42, is already a lock for the HOF.

BaseballBuff
BaseballBuff

You are absolutely, 100% correct on this one, MB. The Braves' rise in the 1990s was due to Schuerholz's genius. If not for him, I doubt there would have been one division title. There is a lot of talk about how Bobby Cox got this or that player for the Braves, but Schuerholz knew what was missing and how to fill the gaps. The post-season underperforming was not due to lack of talent, not at all, and was therefore not on John.


TruthReallyHurts
TruthReallyHurts

Nope. Schuerholz was always able to make deals from a position of strength because he was given so many great prospects. This was because Bobby Cox, then the GM, built the farm system up.

If you want to put a guy in the HOF because he took the keys to the best car in the field, won one major NASCAR event, and never crashed, fine. But that's not HOF worthy to me.

genonola
genonola

@Tim59 @TruthReallyHurts In addition to the '95 Braves, Schuerholz served as the architect of the '85 Royals, which won the World Series.  As Mark notes, not too many GMs have presided over WS winners in both leagues in the free agency era. Schuerholz is a worthy HOF GM. Full Disclosure: I'm not even a Braves fan.

Tim59
Tim59

@TruthReallyHurts 

Exactly! One World Series win and this guy belongs in the HOF? Not in my book.