By NICK LECO
July 23, 2008
The 1984 Detroit Tigers will go down as one of the great teams of all-time. That Tigers team was stacked with players who enjoyed excellent careers in the majors - guys like Lou Whitaker, Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell, Jack Morris, Darrell Evans and Lance Parrish. However, you’ll notice that there are no Hall of Famers among the 1984 Tigers stars I just mentioned; the only member of that team who currently has a plaque in Cooperstown is the manager, Sparky Anderson. We have already outlined Morris’ case for the Hall of Fame. This week National pastime takes a look at the player with perhaps the next best case for the induction on that memorable squad, Alan Trammell.
ALAN TRAMMELL -
At Bats: 8,288
Home Runs: 185
Stolen Bases: 236
Batting Average: .285
Team: Tigers (1977-1996)
During the 1980s, Trammell was considered one of the best shortstops in the major leagues, combining a potent bat with a reliable and steady glove. He and second baseman Whitaker formed one of the best double play combinations in the history of the sport, playing side by side for 19 seasons. They hold the record for most games played together, as well as the mark for most double plays turned.
Trammell was a six time All-Star (1980, 1984-85, 1987-88, 1990) and won four Gold Gloves (1980-81, 1983-84). He received in MVP votes in seven seasons and finished in the top 10 three times (1984, 1987, 1988). 1987 was by far Trammell’s best season, and he finished a controversial second to Toronto’s George Bell in the MVP race. Trammell finished his phenomenal 1987 season with a .343 batting average, 205 hits, 109 runs, 28 home runs, 105 RBI and 21 stolen bases. Many feel that Trammel should have been MVP because he was in the top 10 in most offensive categories, whereas Bell led only in the somewhat overvalued power areas of home runs and RBI. Trammell won the Comeback Player of the Year award in 1983 and three Silver Slugger awards (1987, 1988, 1990).
During the Tigers’ storied World Series run in 1984, Trammell was clearly at his best. In the ALCS, he batted .364 with a home run, a triple, three RBI and a .500 on-base percentage in Detroit’s three-game sweep of the Royals. In the World Series against the Padres he was even better, batting .450 with two home runs, six RBI and nine hits - a record for a five-game series. Naturally, Trammell was named MVP as the Tigers won their first World Series title since 1968.
Bill James, in his 2001 book “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,” rated Trammell as the ninth best shortstop ever. There are 21 shortstops currently in the Hall of Fame, and Trammell’s offensive numbers are either better than, or comparable to, 14 of them - including prominent Hall of Famers like Pee Wee Reese, Lou Boudreau, Ozzie Smith and Phil Rizzuto. Trammell’s numbers are most similar to those of Joe Cronin, a no-brainer Hall of Famer who was inducted in 1956. Here’s a look at their numbers:
AVG G AB R H HR RBI SB
Cronin .301 2124 7579 1233 2285 170 1424 87
Trammell .285 2293 8288 1231 2365 185 1003 236
Cronin went to seven All-Star games while Trammell went to six, and Cronin’s MVP season of 1930 was similar statistically to Trammell’s runner-up finish in 1987.
During his career, Trammell was overshadowed by his contemporaries at the shortstop position like Cal Ripken, Smith and, to a lesser extent, Robin Yount. While he enjoyed an excellent career, Trammell never got the accolades Ripken and Smith got. Fair or unfair, Trammell played during the same era as arguably the greatest shortstop of all-time (Ripken) and the greatest defensive shortstop of all-time (Smith).
The discrepancy in fanfare was never more evident than in 2002, when Trammell and Smith were both on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. While no one will ever doubt Smith’s defensive dominance, Trammell was clearly a better hitter than Smith by a longshot and held his own defensively with his four Gold Gloves. Nonetheless, Smith received an overwhelming 91.7 percent of the vote while Trammell received only 15.7 percent.
By today’s standards, Trammell’s offensive production from the shortstop position falls short in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters. Guys like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada and Derek Jeter have put up much better numbers than Trammell did, and this certainly hurts his appeal. Trammell also never dominated the league or was the best at his position for a long period of time, a prerequisite for measuring Hall of Fame greatness. With the exception of 1987, in which Trammell enjoyed his best season, Yount and then Ripken were considered the best shortstops in the league. When both offense and defense are taken into consideration, Trammell had maybe three seasons that could be considered great and all the rest were either good or average.
Lastly, Trammell wasn’t working with much talent during his three seasons (2003-05) as Tigers skipper, but the 186-300 record and .383 winning percentage his teams accumulated - and the perception among some in baseball that he was in over his head as a manager - certainly won’t help his Cooperstown chances.
Last year Trammell received only 18.2 percent of the vote for Cooperstown, and that was his best showing yet. It does not look like Trammell is going to get to the Hall of Fame unless the Veterans Committee votes him in sometime down the road. The good news is shortstops like Luis Aparacio, Rizzuto and Reese were all enshrined through the Veterans committee. I believe Trammell was a better player than those three, so Trammell deserves to get in as well. I do not think he will - or should - be voted in traditionally, but is worthy of selection through the Veterans Committee, just like the three aforementioned Hall of Fame shortstops.
Nick Leco’s Cooperstown Bound? column runs every Wednesday here on National Pastime.
Photo by Getty Images
Be sure to check out our previous Cooperstown Bound? columns: Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Omar Vizquel, Don Mattingly, Curt Schilling, Andre Dawson, Kenny Lofton, Fred McGriff.