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Alan Trammell Vs. Barry Larkin: Similar Careers, Different Outcomes

Alan Trammell & Barry Larkin

Alan Trammell & Barry Larkin. Photo on the right – Cincinnati.com.

The 1984 Detroit Tigers could be regarded as the team of the 1980’s. To put it in perspective, there were only 4 teams that won 100 games and went to the World Series in the decade of the 1980’s. The ’84 Tigers, the ’85 St. Louis Cardinals, the ’86 New York Mets and the ’88 Oakland Athletics. Of those four teams only two won the World Series: the ’84 Tigers and the ’86 Mets. So you could flip a coin and choose between the two as to which was better. Even the ’86 Mets were one out from elimination before their great comeback in Game 6 of the World Series.

The ’84 Tigers were never even close to elimination and led the league from Opening Day to the end of the season; only a select few teams in history to have accomplished that feat. So what’s my point? My point is that despite the dominance of one of the greatest teams of the 1980’s, they do not have one player represented in the Hall of Fame. That is important to note, because every World Series winning team from 1903 to 1984 (except the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers) has at least one player elected in the Hall of Fame. The 1981 season was a strike shortened season with a convoluted playoff bracket that didn’t even include the Cincinnati Reds whose record of 66-42 was the best in baseball that year; but because they finished 2nd in the first half and 2nd in the second half of that season, they were not included in the playoffs. So, no one is going to say the 1981 Dodgers were the team of the ‘80’s when they were not even the best team in the National League that year.

It shows great character that Alan Trammell has remained humble throughout his years on the Hall of Fame ballot, saying that he is comfortable with the 1984 Tigers being remembered as a great team without the individual accolades. I believe that eventually one player from this team will have a plaque in Cooperstown. Since Alan Trammell is still on the ballot, and will have one more year to gain momentum for election, let’s examine his candidacy a little closer.

Unlike Jack Morris, Alan Trammell is viewed somewhat favorably by the Sabermetrics community. The voters are now starting to look at other statistics (other than the benchmark stats like hits, home runs and batting avg.), but Trammell got very little support on his early ballots. His defense combined with a clutch bat, are not something that can be seen on the back of a baseball card. Trammell started to gain some momentum in 2012, when he received 36.8% of the vote. Unfortunately the ballot is so log-jammed with PED users that Trammell is still getting over-looked, and his vote totals have actually gone down the last two years. This is why some BBWAA writers believe that the maximum number of players that they are allowed to vote for should be expanded from 10 to 12; so that the scenario of leaving someone off the ballot that deserves to be on the ballot is avoided.

Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press cast a “strategic ballot” that left off Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez, but included Alan Trammell and Larry Walker. Even though I believe Johnson and Martinez are easily the best in this new class, I like Mike’s strategy as it will help Trammell get more vote totals. When a player only has a couple years left for eligibility there needs to be a groundswell of support like there was with Bert Blyleven and Jim Rice. Unfortunately, Trammell faces stiffer competition than Blyleven and Rice did a few years ago.

Recently, the MLB Network held a Roundtable discussion for the Hall of Fame class of 2015, and Tom Verducci was trying to argue against the case for Alan Trammell; saying that Trammell only had 7 seasons of OPS+ over 100. Well, first that’s not true. I just looked at Trammell’s stats and he had 9 seasons of OPS+ over 100. Eight of them were full seasons. Then, Verducci said Jim Fregosi had more seasons of OPS+ over 100 than Trammell, saying a vote for Trammell would be like a vote for Fregosi. Well, that’s ridiculous. Trammell had dominant seasons, unlike Fregosi. Trammell should have been named the AL MVP in 1987. George Bell won it that year, even though the Tigers beat out the Blue Jays for the AL East division crown down the stretch. Trammell had an 18-game hitting streak from September 11th to September 29th, while being named 1987’s September AL Player of the Month. So if the vote were to take place today, who would be named the AL MVP? George Bell or Alan Trammell?

With an MVP award, does Alan Trammell get in the Hall of Fame? I think he would be closer than he is now, as he would compare favorably to another Hall of Famer; Barry Larkin.

The Tigers started the 1984 season with a record of 35-5. Guess who was voted the 1984 April AL Player of the Month? Yes, Alan Trammell. It seems that when he played great, the Tigers were great. Isn’t that the true mark of what a Hall of Famer should be? The captain of the ship. Much like Gary Carter was the captain of the ship for the 1986 Mets. Being a leader should carry some weight in these Hall of Fame discussions.

I’m well aware that Trammell did not reach certain statistical benchmarks. Also, he was a part of some pretty bad Tigers teams in the late ’80s and early ‘90s; which made him a forgotten man when he retired in 1996. He didn’t go out with a bang like Derek Jeter did. It was much more subdued, which is why the voters never really took to him when he first showed up on the ballot in 2002. He was a part-time player during his last 3 years in the big leagues, but I’m not arguing that he should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. I’m saying that if Larkin’s injuries did not keep him out of the Hall of Fame, then Trammell’s injuries shouldn’t be his downfall either. Larkin only had to wait 3 years for Hall of Fame induction, why should Trammell have to wait for the Veteran’s Committee?

I’m not going to regurgitate a bunch of statistics, but if you believe in the Jaffe WAR Score system (JAWS), then Trammell seems to stand the test of time. Trammell is ranked 11th all-time in JAWS at the Shortstop position. Larkin is 13th. Derek Jeter is 12th. Does that mean Trammell was better than Larkin and Jeter? I don’t know, probably not. But if you argue that stats should keep one guy out of the Hall of Fame, then what if stats show that another guy was better than we thought. It took time for writers to come around to the idea of Bert Blyleven, but unfortunately Trammell’s case seems to be too muddled. There was a great comment in Jen Rainwater’s article from Takver. Takver said,

“His lifetime WAR stats put him as the 11th best shortstop of all time, so you are saying that only 10 shortstops, in the 120+ year history of baseball, deserve to be in the Hall? That equals less than 1 player per position per decade, which we’ve already surpassed with 240 players, of which 25 are SS!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe recently shared his Hall of Fame ballot before the results are revealed this afternoon. He included Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, and Alan Trammell. Now, Dan Shaughnessy is not a Big Hall guy. He is not voting for a lot of borderline players. So why would he vote for a player like Trammell, who is considered borderline? Shaughnessy says,

“Trammell is going to be off the ballot soon, and won’t make the Hall with the BBWAA, but there’s lots of value in a shortstop who hit .300 seven times, won four Gold Gloves, and should have been MVP (he lost to George Bell) in 1987.”

I’m not exactly a big Hall guy either. I’m just looking for my Hall of Fame to have consistency among all players. If Larkin was still on the ballot, then I would have less of a problem with Trammell being snubbed. Since Trammell and Larkin’s careers overlap, meaning they played in the same era, then I believe Trammell deserves more consideration. His induction into Cooperstown will not open the flood gates for other borderline Hall of Famers to get in. There is not one active player who is close to him on the JAWS rating system. Jimmy Rollins (with his career .267 batting average) is currently 31st, and Troy Tulowitzki is 34th. If he passes Trammell, then he deserves to get in.

Unfortunately, Trammell will most likely have to wait for the Veteran’s Committee for a chance to be inducted. Even then, there will be a lot of borderline candidates sharing votes, making it hard for him to get in. But maybe that is the fate of the 1984 Tigers team. They weren’t a collection of star studded Hall of Famers, but rather a team built on playing together unselfishly. A team built on chemistry; with their captain, Alan Trammell, leading the way.

This article first appeared on Baseball Hot Corner via the link below:
Alan Trammell And Barry Larkin: The Hall Of Consistency

@BobbyUtahBarnes. @hardballcore.

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