Billy Martin, Hall of Famer

by Ross Friedman

Whenever I suggest to people that Billy Martin belongs in the Hall of Fame the first reaction I always get is "are you serious?" Yes, I am serious, and I even have the numbers to show why.

Billy Martin was one of the great winners in baseball history. One may ask why he got fired then, time and time again. The answer to that is simple. He was Billy Martin. Martin was controversial. He was a drunk. Put simply, he was crazy. And yet through all that he kept getting managerial offers, because he was a winner.

Don’t let the fact that Martin wasn’t the greatest person make you think he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame. Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, and Leo Durocher weren’t the nicest either. If being a nice person was a requirement for the Hall of Fame, Ty Cobb wouldn’t have been allowed within 100 miles of Cooperstown. So let’s look at Billy Martin’s record instead.

Not only am I going to compare Martin to the other Hall of Fame managers, but to the who of Hall of Fame players as well. I’m going to do this by using the statistic of how many games better a team was in the first year they had Martin versus the year before they had him. In other words, how many wins did Martin add to his team.

I did this for the other Hall of Fame managers as well as 10 current and future Hall of Fame players that switched teams in the prime of their careers. The list of players includes Babe Ruth, Rogers Horsby, Jimmy Foxx, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Steve Carlton, Roger Clemens, and Pedro Martinez.

First let’s look at Billy’s statistics and how many wins he added to the teams he managed.

As you can see, Billy Martin always created a drastic improvement in his teams. Teams that Martin took over averaged getting better by over 18 games. The worst he did was making his team 12 games better than they were before him. Those are astonishing numbers. To better illustrate this, let’s look at the same thing for the Hall of Fame managers.

As you can see, only once, Bill McKechnie in 1937, did any of the Hall of Fame managers make their teams better than the 18 games that Billy Martin AVERAGED. The average Hall of Fame manager made their teams 7.4 games better, compared to 18.1 for Martin. This is an extremely fair comparison as the kinds of teams they took over are almost identical to those that Martin took over. The Hall of Fame managers averaged taking over 5th place teams 22 games out of first place. In their first year they averaged getting their teams to 3rd place, 12 games out of first. This is a big part of why they are Hall of Fame managers.

The teams Billy Martin took over averaged being 5th place teams, 24 games out of first. This is extremely close to the Hall of Fame managers. The year Billy Martin took the helm, the teams averaged being a second place team, just 3 games out of first place, much better than what the Hall of Fame managers produced.

One argument against Martin is that he only won one championship as a manger. However, that is the same number that Leo Durocher and Earl Weaver won, and one more than either Al Lopez or Wilbert Robinson. Plus, Billy Martin’s .553 career winning percentage is better than 9 of the 15 Hall of Fame managers.

He compares unbelievably to the Hall of Fame managers. That should be enough. However, in case that’s not enough to convince you, let’s look at how he compares to some of the greatest players ever.

Here is the list of players mentioned above and how they helped in their first season with their new teams. How many wins did they add?

As you can see by their statistics, these players had marvelous seasons with their new teams. Many of them were MVP and Cy Young seasons. Frank Robinson won the triple crown, and both Steve Carlton and Roger Clemens won the pitching version of that distinction.

Yet as great as these players are, and as great of years as they had with their new teams, they didn’t add nearly what Martin did. These 10 players averaged helping their new team by less than 5 games in their first season with them. Billy Martin helped his teams by 18 games.

Billy Martin was a crazy, self-destructive person. He was so self -destructive that it led to his death in a drunk driving accident. But what Billy Martin could do with a team on the field, is get them to win. Winning was everything to him and he was one of the best ever at it. So good in fact, that he deserves election into the Hall of Fame.

Send Ross your opinions, comments or verbal abuse at ross@JBaseball.

© 2000 JBaseball

"How can you not be romantic about baseball?" - Moneyball.