Gene Michael, RIP: The big Stick

Paul O'Neill (far left) and Gene Michael (next to O'Neill) with, from left, head trainer Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada, when O'Neill---for whom Michael dealt to begin building the Yankees' 1996-2000 dynasty---was presented his Monument Park plaque.

Paul O’Neill (far left) and Gene Michael (next to O’Neill) with, from left, head trainer Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, and Jorge Posada, when O’Neill—for whom Michael dealt to begin building the Yankees’ 1996-2000 dynasty—was presented his Monument Park plaque.

You could say the Yankees’ fabled Core Five dynasty wouldn’t have happened if Gene Michael—the Yankee general manager who was inadvertently allowed to build it, and who died of a heart attack 7 September at 79—hadn’t had something in common with Phil Rizzuto, other than being Yankee shortstops a couple of generations apart.

So what’s in a retired number? In theory, greatness; in fact, in some places . . .

Bernie Williams accepts the retirement of his uniform number Sunday.

Bernie Williams accepts the retirement of his uniform number Sunday.

This is nothing against Bernie Williams, the former Yankee center fielder whose number 51 was retired at Yankee Stadium Sunday night, before the game against the Rangers. The man played with class, carried himself with class, and set a major league record for postseason RBIs, among other things. Any time there was a touch of insanity around any Yankee season during his career, Williams seemed often enough the most dignified and accessible Yankee.

In 2011, when he entered the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time (even though he wouldn’t make his retirement official until this year), I wrote thus:

The Hall of Fame Non-Election: Who Wuz Robbed?

He wuz robbed . . .

He wuz robbed . . .

Second thoughts are not first disasters. There’s nothing wrong with thinking twice, which one gathers many wish the Baseball Writers Association of America had done with this year’s Hall of Fame non-election. If a large enough group of the 500+ voting writers elected to send a message about actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances, they have done so.

They had a Hall election and nobody’s coming

Was it nobody's fault, really, that Biggio doesn't make it on the first try?

Was it nobody’s fault, really, that Biggio doesn’t make it on the first try?

I had the feeling it might turn out this way. Not since Bill Clinton looked his second presidential election campaign in the eye have the Baseball Writers Association of America ended up electing nobody to the Hall of Fame. And I’m not sure which, among factors gaining serious discussion as the voting commenced and, at last, the results came in, may prove the most controversial of them all:

The Hall of Fame Ballot: Freshman Class

Concerning this year’s Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, it’s probably one of the weaker freshman ballots of recent times. Only one of the candidates shakes out as anywhere near even a borderline Hall of Famer, and he may not be that likely to cross the border just yet, if at all. Let’s look at this year’s ballot in earnest, beginning with the new kids on the block . . .

He never messed with Mr. In-Between, alas . . .