When I think of the name Billy Martin, I think of this clip from Seinfeld. Billy Martin was a larger-than-life fiery manager.
Why he belongs:
Few managers ever achieve iconic status. Think of an iconic manager. Off the top of my head…
Those are all big names. If I ask the casual baseball fan if they’ve ever heard of Billy Martin, chances are, they say yes. Billy Martin managed 5 teams. He made the playoffs with all but one of them (And that was the Texas Rangers). Even with the Rangers, he finished in second place, a team that had best finished in 4th. He made an MVP out of Jeff Burroughs, Harmon Killebrew, Thurman Munson & Don Mattingly, a Cy Young winner out of Sparky Lyle & Ron Guidry, a Rolaids Relief Award for Goose Gossage and a Rookie of the Year for Mike Hargrove. Look at the A’s team he had in the early 80’s. The guy won with that team and aside from Rickey Henderson, there were not a lot of recognizable names. His teams’ average finish was 2.3 place, good enough to be tied for 34 on the all-time list. What’s even more impressive is that out of the managers above him, only two managed more seasons than him (Joe McCarthy & Earl Weaver). He also finished 240 games above .500, good enough for 20 on the all-time list. Only 4 people higher than him are not in the Hall-of-Fame: Tony LaRussa (still active), Joe Torre (ineligible), Bobby Cox (ineligible) & Davey Johnson (another one I think the Hall owes us an explanation for).
Why he doesn’t belong…
This section hurts, but it is necessary.
Quite frankly, I don’t consider him Hall-worthy. Billy Martin is an iconic figure. But what is he iconic for? Getting sued by the Cubs for breaking a pitcher’s cheek bone? Fighting his pitcher in a Detroit alley? Flipping off the camera for his 1972 baseball card? Telling his pitchers to hit batters and then talking about it to the press? Feuding with his owner and star player? Fighting with a marshmallow salesman in Minneapolis? He made Ty Cobb look like Mother Teresa at times. (I’m kidding; there was no contest. Cobb was an awful human being.)
So the argument is that the Hall of Fame is purely on their on-field accomplishments. Well, let’s look at his numbers. He had 1253 wins in his career. While that sounds impressive, that only puts him at #34 on the all-time list. To put this in perspective, Bruce Bochy has 21 more wins. So if Billy Martin makes the Hall-of-Fame, so does Bruce Bochy. Matter of fact, so do Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland & Gene Mauch. He has a World Series. So do 68 other managers in history. Does that make Pat Moran worthy of the Hall? (Moran was the manager of the ’19 Reds, who were on the losing end of the Black Sox scandal.) 2 pennants make him eligible? Sweet! Wash [Ron Washington] is halfway there.
I just don’t think that Martin has the numbers.