Triple play


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox spent decades trying to beat each other, no holds barred. On this day, however, they were a mutual admiration society.

And why not? They were going to the Hall of Fame together.

With a combined eight World Series titles and more than 7,500 wins, the managerial trio made it to Cooperstown in results announced Monday. Each was unanimously selected when the 16 voters on the expansion era committee met a day earlier.

“They’re not the easiest guys to manage against, that’s for sure. But it was fun. It was always a battle,” Cox said Monday at the winter meetings. “And I consider them enemies on the field, but friends off the field.”

All three exceeded the magic benchmark of 2,000 wins — only Connie Mack and John McGraw have won more.

“Managing against them, you certainly learned things,” said Torre, now an executive vice president for Major League Baseball. “I am honored to go into the Hall with these two guys.”

Induction ceremonies will be held July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Candidates needed 12 votes for election. No one else on the 12-person ballot that included former players’ union head Marvin Miller and late New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner got more than six votes.

Torre became the fifth manager to win four World Series championships, leading the Yankees to titles in 1996 and from 1998-00 — beating Cox’s Braves twice. After making only one trip to the playoffs in 14 seasons with the New York Mets, St. Louis and Atlanta, Torre guided the Yankees to the postseason in all 12 of his years in New York with a cool, patient demeanor. His popularity rankled Steinbrenner.

“George Steinbrenner changed my life giving me that opportunity at the end of ‘95,” said Torre, the seventh Yankees manager to be elected to the Hall. “He just wanted to win. He felt he owed it to the city. Maybe, the fact I was a New Yorker, it really struck a nerve with me.”

Torre finished his career by leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to two NL West titles in three seasons, retiring after 2010 with a record of 2,326-1,997. He’s the only manager to have more than 2,000 hits as a player — he was the 1971 NL MVP — and 2,000 wins in the dugout.

“Joe taught a lot of us about how to win the right way and lose the right way,” La Russa said.

The savvy La Russa won World Series titles with Oakland in 1989 and with St. Louis in 2006 and ‘11, retiring days after beating the Texas Rangers in a seven-game thriller. Of the nine managers with three or more World Series titles, the other seven all have been inducted.

La Russa finished with the third-most wins by a manager in a career that began with the Chicago White Sox in 1979 and ended with a record of 2,728-2,365.

“I miss the winning and losing,” La Russa said. “Someday I’ll be with a team, I think. I’d like to be part of the competition again.”

Cox’s managerial career began in 1978 with Atlanta, but he was fired after four seasons — only one above .500. A four-year run in Toronto ended in 1985 with an AL East title, and Ted Turner lured him back to the Braves as their GM. Cox returned to the dugout in 1990, and following one losing season he went on one of the most successful regular-season runs by any skipper, leading the Braves to 14 straight division titles and a World Series championship in 1995.

He retired in 2010 fourth behind La Russa in career wins with a record of 2,504-2,001. Cigar-chomping and fiercely loyal to his players, Cox was ejected a major league record 159 times.

Two of his pitchers during the remarkable stretch during the ’90s, 300-game winners Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, head the newcomers on this year’s players’ ballot. Results of voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is scheduled for Jan. 8.

“I just hope Glav and Mad Dog can be on the stage with me,” Cox said. “That would be the final finishing touch, going in with those two.”

Miller, the pioneering head of the players’ association from 1966-81, was rejected for admission to the Hall for the sixth time he appeared on a committee ballot. He fell one vote short of induction in 2010 and received no more than six votes this year.

“Words cannot adequately describe the level of disappointment and disbelief I felt when learning that once again the Hall of Fame has chosen to ignore Marvin Miller and his unparalleled contributions to the growth and prosperity of Major League Baseball,” players’ association head Tony Clark said in a statement. “Over the past 50 years, no individual has come close to matching Marvin’s impact on the sport.”

This year’s committee included Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tom Lasorda, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; Blue Jays President Paul Beeston; retired club executive Andy MacPhail; Philadelphia President Dave Montgomery; White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau; Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle; BBWAA Secretary-Treasurer Jack O’Connell; and retired Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jim Reeves.

This year’s ballot, chosen by a BBWAA-appointed historical overview committee, covers baseball’s expansion era. Players, managers, umpires, executives whose most significant impact was from 1973 and later were considered as part of a three-year cycle. The golden era (1947-72) will be voted on in 2014 and the pre-integration era (1871-1946) will be judged in 2015.

Halladay retires

That dang Rally Squirrel still haunts Roy Halladay.

Citing a desire to avoid surgery for an ailing back and wanting to spend more time with his family, the two-time Cy Young Award winner retired Monday after 16 seasons in the major leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.

Halladay signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Blue Jays, where he spent the first 12 years of his career. The 36-year-old right-hander choked up and held back tears while making the announcement at a news conference at the winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

“As a baseball player, you realize that’s something you can’t do the rest of your life,” Halladay said. “I really don’t have any regrets. You realize there’s other things for you to accomplish in life.”

Halladay pitched a perfect game and also a postseason no-hitter. But never made it to the World Series and leaves without the ring he badly wanted.

The Phillies had already won three straight division championships, the 2008 World Series and 2009 NL championship by the time Halladay arrived in a blockbuster trade the same day Philadelphia sent ace Cliff Lee to Seattle in a separate deal.

The Phillies had the best record in the majors in Halladay’s first two seasons, but lost to San Francisco in the 2010 NLCS and St. Louis Cardinals in the 2011 NL division series. In his final postseason performance, Halladay lost to Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals 1-0 in the decisive Game 5 of that 2011 matchup.

Down 2-1 in the series, the Cardinals won two straight to upset the Phillies after a squirrel scampered across home plate as Skip Schumaker batted against Roy Oswalt.

“I think the one thing I took away from that is you can have the best team on paper, you can have the guys who want it the most,” Halladay said. “But when the squirrel runs across home plate while your team is trying to pitch, there is nothing you can do about that. So you really start to realize there are a lot of things out of your control. It takes more than nine guys. It takes nine guys, and it takes the 25 on the roster. It takes the coaches, the staff, and it takes a lot of luck.”

Halladay played for the Phillies from 2010-13, finishing with two injury-plagued seasons. He won an NL Cy Young Award in 2010, throwing a perfect game that season and a no-hitter in his first postseason appearance.

Halladay was 203-105 with a 3.38 ERA in 416 career games, including 390 starts. He had 67 complete games and 20 shutouts. His resume includes three 20-win seasons, eight All-Star games, and three other top-3 finishes for the Cy Young Award.

Halladay was a six-time All-Star, won the 2003 AL Cy Young Award and went 148-76 with a 3.43 ERA in 12 seasons with the Blue Jays. He was traded to the Phillies after the 2009 season, and was 40-16 with a 2.40 ERA in his first two years in Philadelphia. But back and shoulder issues limited Halladay in 2012-13. He was 15-13 with a 5.15 ERA in 38 starts.

Winter meetings start quietly

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — After all the trades and signings last week, baseball’s annual winter meetings opened with relative quiet.

David Price still was being dangled on the trade market by the Tampa Bay Rays. Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz could be signed for a large pile of cash.

“Maybe there’s a little bit of calm after the storm, and the next storm is a few days away,” Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Monday. “We’ll see. Something will happen while everyone’s here, but maybe it’s a little lower volume than some other years just because so much has already happened.”

Opening day of the four-day session was notable mostly for the election of retired managers Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox to the Hall of Fame by the expansion era committee. The other big news was the retirement of two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay after 16 seasons at age 36.

Two years from free agency, Price is the most high-profile player mentioned in trade talks this week. The 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner had a salary of $10,112,500 this year, nearly one-sixth the payroll of the attendance-challenged Rays.

“This is how we have to operate within our little world,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “So if it were to happen, it’s one of those that’s almost the word ‘devastating’ in a sense, but we have to recover from those kind of moments, if it does actually occur.”

Price would join James Shields, Matt Garza, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton among players who left the Rays, whose average home attendance of 18,646 was the lowest in the major leagues.

By wire sources