LAS VEGAS — George Steinbrenner, so accustomed to winning during his time in baseball, is now 0-for-4 in his final competition.
The winter meetings opened Sunday with invitations to two new Hall of Fame members: Outfielder/designated hitter Harold Baines and closer Lee Smith, both of whom reached the 75 percent threshold in the 16-member Today’s Game Committee. The duo will join those voted in by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, a group extremely likely to include former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, on stage next summer in Cooperstown.
The Boss, whose undeniable impact on the game has been mitigated by his problems with authority, didn’t come close in this his fourth time on a Hall ballot. The Hall announced that Steinbrenner received fewer than five votes, a disappointing outcome given that the committee featured perceived Steinbrenner champions such as Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Joe Torre — the latter of whom, of course, gained induction thanks to Steinbrenner’s hiring him to manage the Yankees in 1996 — White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and former Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston.
A Steinbrenner favorite, former Yankees outfielder, manager and general manager Lou Piniella, received far more encouraging news: With 11 votes, he fell just one vote short of election, boding well for his future chances.
Smith, who pitched very briefly (eight games) for the Yankees in 1993, went a perfect 16-for-16 in votes by the committee, which focused on those whose contributions came primarily from 1988 through the current era. When he retired after the 1997 season, the right-hander stood as the all-time saves leader, with 478; he now ranks third, behind Rivera (652) and Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman (601). He finished in the top five of his league’s Cy Young Award voting three times (second in 1991 and fourth in 1992, both while with the Cardinals, and fifth in 1994 while with the Orioles).
Baines received 12 votes, just enough to gain Hall entry. In 22 seasons for five teams, he compiled 2,866 hits and 1,628 RBIs, the latter ranking him 34th all time.
Six other candidates — players Albert Belle, Joe Carter, Will Clark and Orel Hershiser and managers Davey Johnson and Charlie Manuel — joined Steinbrenner in receiving fewer than five votes.
The committee also featured Hall of Fame members Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz and Ozzie Smith; Tigers general manager Al Avila; Phillies president Andy MacPhail; historian Steve Hirdt; and media members Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith. The committee met on Sunday here and talked through all 10 candidates before voting.
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