Alan Trammell – Caught Between Eras

Last time, we briefly reviewed what the Modern Era Committee was in connection to the Hall of Fame and talked about the Modern Committee electing shortstop Alan Trammell and starting pitcher Jack Morris to the Hall of Fame (HoF). In this article, we’ll go over a brief breakdown of Trammell’s career, ask ourselves why he wasn’t voted in by the BBWAA, and why he deserves HoF recognition.

The Numbers: Breakdown of Alan Trammell’s Career

A native of southern California, Alan Trammell was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 2nd round of the 1976 MLB Draft, straight out of high school. He only needed to wait a year in minors (primarily playing in Montgomery for the Tigers AA team) before making his debut with the Tigers on September 9, 1977 at Fenway Park (it was the second part of a double-header). Interestingly, another future long-time Tiger made his debut in the same game: Lou Whitaker. It was the start of something spectacular as both infielders stayed with the Tigers into the mid 1990s. With Trammell at shortstop and Whitaker at second base, the Tigers had one of the most recognized double-play combinations in baseball history.

Trammell2

In his first full big-league season in 1978, Trammell didn’t dazzle with the bat. He batted .268 with only 2 home runs along with an OPS of .675, well below league average. However his solid defensive abilities granted him fourth place in the Rookie of the Year voting. But the Tigers didn’t come away empty handed here as Whitaker himself won the Rookie of the Year award. Two rookie Tigers in the top 4 of Rookie voting. This was the start of something magical.

Statistic Reference

  •  OBP = On-Base-Percentage. This statistic measures a hitter’s ability get on base, i.e., not record an out. Historically, OBP below .300 is considered extremely poor whereas OBP over .400 is considered extremely good.
  • SLG = Slugging Percentage. This statistic takes into account a hitter’s power which incorporates singles, doubles, triples, home runs. Historically SLG below .400 is considered poor whereas SLG over .500 is considered great.
  • OPS = “On-Base-Plus-Slugging” is the combination of SLG and OBP. Namely OPS=SLG+OBP.
  • It is a basic statitsic which gives a quick “eyeball” test on a hitter’s total productivity. Historically, OPS below .700 is poor whereas OPS above .900 is great. 

Trammell’s first prominent offensive season came in 1980 where he hit .300 with 7 home runs and .779 OPS. These accomplishments were enough to grant him his first  of six All Star elections and first of his four gold glove awards. For the majority of the decade, Trammell not only would continue putting up good batting averages (hit .300 or greater five times) but his power numbers started to develop.

1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990
HRs 2 9 14 14 13 21 28 15 5 14
2Bs 15 34 31 34 21 33 34 24 20 37

Everything culminated in 1987 where Trammell had by far is best season. In 1987 he batted .343 with 28 home runs, 34 doubles, 205 hits, 21 stolen bases, and a .953 OPS. He ended up coming in 2nd place in the MVP voting that year behind George Bell in Toronto and his 47 home runs.  He would continue to have great offensive years in 1988, 1990, and 1993.

Alan Trammell finished his career in 1996 with the following statistical lines.

Hits Doubles Home Runs RBIs BA OBP SLG OPS
2365 412 185 1003 .285 .352 .415 .767

The Wait: Trammell and the “Tim Raines” Argument

I’ll admit upfront that most of this argument is a paraphrase of Joe Posnanski’s article on the candidacy of Alan Trammell. Click here to see the original article.

Before talking about Trammell, let’s talk about Tim Raines.

Who was Tim Raines and Why Does He Matter?

Raines was a left fielder in the 1980s/1990s who primarily played for the Montreal Expos and Chicago White Sox. For most of the 1980s, Raines was the epitome of what a team desires in a leadoff hitter. He was able to get on base (by hitting or walking) and he could steal bases (he was fast). Between 1981-1986, Raines would steal 70+ bases a year and ended up with over 800 lifetime stolen bases (5th all time). With over 2600 hits, lifetime batting average of .294, over 800 career stolen bases, Raines should have made the Hall of Fame rather quickly. However, this did not happen. When Raines first got on the ballot in 2008, he only received 24% of the vote. This figure would slowly rise over the years but it didn’t get above 50% until 2013 (his fifth year on the ballot). Finally, Raines received more than the 75% of the vote (the minimum to be elected by the BBWAA) this past year in his final year of eligibility.

Why did it take so long for Raines to make it? A common argument for why it took so long is that Raines suffered from playing at the same time as Rickey Henderson, a player who did everything Raines did, but only better.

  • Raines is 5th all time in steals with 800+ steals.  Henderson is 1st all time with 1400+ steals.
  • Raines has 2600+ career hits. Henderson has 3000+ career hits.
  • Raines has 1300+ career walks. Henderson has 2100+ career walks.

This is like comparing a smart student with good grades to a once-in-a-generation prodigy. It is a comparison that is unfair and should not happen. You kept hearing quotes like “Oh you were good, but Rickey was better” or “Raines is a poor man’s version of Henderson.” By using such comparison’s, one would naturally look down on what Raines accomplished and feel it is inferior to Henderson, a Hall of Fame player. This natural bias to compare Raines and Henderson hurt Raines during his career and once he got onto the Hall of Fame ballot (for the recond, Henderson was a first-ballot Hall of Famer).

So what does this have to do with Alan Trammell. In my opinion (along with writers like Joe Posnanski), one reason is that Trammell suffered from the fact there were several “first ballot” type shortstops playing at the same time as Trammell. Trammell by no means is a first-ball type of player but that’s ok. Most of the Hall of Fame consists of non-first ball Hall of Famers. But there is this semi-bias in play because Trammell wasn’t measuring up to these other Hall of Famers which by no means should diminish what he was doing on the ballfield.

Why Shortstop Was Fast Becoming a New Position

When Trammell made his debut with the Tigers in 1977, the position of  shortstop  was widely regarded as a “light-hitting” position where defense was emphasized. By light-hitting, I mean players who could hit (at least) a respectable batting average but not for power. For example, here some of the best power-hitting shortstops between the end of the Dead Ball Era (1920) and Trammell’s debut in 1977. These players are sorted by home runs and the table includes their SLG and OPS (all players played at least 40% of their games at shortstop).

Shortstop (1920-1977) Home Runs Slugging Percentage (SLG) On Base Plus Slugging (OPS)
Ernie Banks 512 .500 .830
Vern Stephens 247 .460 .815
Rico Petrocelli 210 .420 .752
Joe Cronin 170 .468 .857
Jim Fregosi 151 .399 .736
Travis Jackson 135 .433 .770
Eddie Joost 134 .366 .727
Al Dark 126 .411 .744
Pee Wee Reese 126 .377 .743
Leo Cardenas 118 .367 .679

(Remark: While Ernie Banks is regarded as a shortstop, he played less than 50% of his games at shortstop)

For comparison, here is the corresponding list of power-hitting first basemen between 1920 and 1977.

First Base (1920-1977) Home Runs Slugging Percentage (SLG) On Base Plus Slugging (OPS)
Jimmie Foxx 534 .609 1.038
Ernie Banks 512 .500 .830
Willie McCovey 493 .529 .911
Lou Gehrig 493 .632 1.080
Orlando Cepeda 379 .499 .849
Norm Cash 377 .488 .862
Gil Hodges 370 .487 .846
Johnny Mize 359 .562 .959
Dick Allen 351 .534 .912
Boog Powell 339 .462 .822

It should be clear. Shortstop overall was a position regarded with limited offensive production. There was a much greater value placed in having good defensive shortstops and this was deemed important enough that relatively weak offensive numbers were acceptable.

By a quick examination, Trammell’s offensive numbers fall in the middle of this pack of shortstops. While not all of the shortstops listed are Hall of Famers, this still shows that Trammell was a good offensive shortstop when compared with the post-dead ball era up to this point.

Offensively Trammell had both contact, power, and speed (finished career with 236 stolen bases). However, why was he overlooked? Why didn’t these numbers impress a lot of people at the time? Because a “shortstop revolution”  was occurring. By the time Trammell began “hitting” his stride in the majors, two other young shortstops in the American League were changing perceptions on offensive shortstops: Robin Yount (of the Milwaukee Brewers) and Cal Ripken Jr. (of the Baltimore Orioles).

While Yount came up in 1974, his offensive game didn’t develop much until 1980 where he batted .293 with 23 home runs and 49 doubles (led the league). In 1982, Yount fully established himself has a great hitter where he hit .331, 29 home runs and 46 doubles (enough to earn him the MVP award).  He would play a few more seasons at short before switching to center field and ended up having a (first ballot) Hall of Fame career. What’s important about this is while this was going on, Trammell began to hit his stride as a hitter. But his notable offensive statistics were largely overlooked compared to what Yount was doing.

But this was quickly followed by the emergence of Cal Ripken. Originally a third basemen, Ripekn was switched to shortstop by Orioles manager Earl Weaver in the 1981-1982 seasons. This puzzled a lot of people primarily because Ripken was considered “too big” for shortstop. Shortstops were regarded as quick defensive players who needed to be small to cover lots of range. Ripken was 6′ 4″ and close to 200 lbs. The worry was that Ripken’s size would hinder his performance at such an agile position. To much of everyone’s surprise, Ripken held his own (eventually won two Gold Glove awards in 1992 and 1993). The reason this is worth mentioning is Ripken already had the abilities to be a great hitter. In his first full season at shortstop (1983), Ripken hit .318 with 27 home runs and 47 doubles which garnered him an MVP award. For the rest of the decade, Ripken would average 25 home runs and 32 doubles per season. And in addition to being able to hit, Ripken could play a good shortstop which shattered the idea that shortstops had to be small, agile players. Much like Yount, Ripken entered the Hall of Fame as a first ballot player. So between Robin Yount and Cal Ripken Jr, their performances in1980-1983 not only established a new standard for what an offensive minded shortstop can do, but also eclipsed Trammell’s own maturation into a MLB caliber hitter.

But what about defense? That thing that baseball fans were always pointing to saying a shortstop needs to excel at? As stated earlier, Trammell won four Gold Glove awards in the 1980s suggesting his defensive was well regarded. He also teamed up with Detroit Tigers second baesman Lou Whitaker in the 1980s to form one of the best double-play duos of all time.

Unfortunately for Trammell, just like what happened to the offensive game, another player was redefining what a shortstop could do defensively. I am talking about the Wizard of Oz: Ozzie Smith. Playing primarily with the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League, Smith won an astounding 13 consecutive Gold Glove awards between 1980 and 1992 and his acrobatic feats at the position have regarded as one of (if the THE) best defensive shortstops of all time. And Ozzie was, you guessed it, another first-ballot Hall of Famer. So to summarize, Trammell was a good offensive shortstop and a good defensive shortstop. Problem was, there were first-ballot shortstops who were overshadowing Trammell during his whole playing period.

Steroid Era and New New Wave of Shortstop

In addition to the overshadowing of Trammell at shortstop during his playing days., it didn’t get any better following retirement in 1996. When Trammell retired, he moved up to 6th place in most home runs by a shortstop since 1920. Again, these players played at least 40% of their games at shortstop.

Shortstop (1920-1996) Home Runs Slugging Percentage (SLG) On Base Plus Slugging (OPS)
Ernie Banks 512 .500 .830
Cal Ripken 353 .454 .798
Robin Yount 251 .430 .772
Vern Stephens 247 .460 .815
Rico Petrocelli 210 .420 .752
Alan Trammell 185 .415 .767
Joe Cronin 170 .468 .857
Roy Smalley 163 .395 .740
Jim Fregosi 151 .398 .736
Barry Larkin 135 .451 .820

By the end of the 2004 however, less than ten years after retiring, Trammell would fall to 11th on this list.

Shortstop (1920-2004) Home Runs Slugging Percentage (SLG) On Base Plus Slugging (OPS)
Ernie Banks 512 .500 .830
Cal Ripken 431 .447 .788
Alex Rodriguez 381 .574 .955
Robin Yount 251 .430 .772
Vern Stephens 247 .460 .815
Jose Valentin 226 .452 .773
Rico Petrocelli 210 .420 .752
Barry Larkin 198 .444 .815
Jay Bell 195 .416 .759
Miguel Tejada 190 .472 .807

For as Trammell was retiring, two forces (one new and the other gaining momentum) were on the scene which would overwhelm Trammell’s numbers.

  1. Right when Trammell was retiring, a new wave of shortstops led by Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra were hitting the majors.  Fans in the 1990s remember these players as they were seen as the new definition of a shorstop. They could hit for contact/power, they could run, they could play defense. It seemed like they could do it all. So once again, the line for what shortstops could do was redrawn and it’s easy to loose a player like Trammell in the fold.
  2. Even though it’s roots are in the late 1980s, the steroid era was gaining it’s hold on baseball. The number of home runs skyrocketed across baseabll along with almost every other offensive category. With the sheer amount of new impressive stat lines emerging, Trammell’s lines look even more dismissive in this context.

In case you are curious, if you look at the same table today (top 10 shortstops in home runs 1920-2017), Trammell falls to 21st place. Shortstops who have surpassed Trammell since include Hanley Ramirez, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, Nomar Garicaparra, Troy Tulowitzki, Jhonny Peralta, Juan Uribe, J.J. Hardy, Rich Aurilia, and Michael Young.

The Resurgence: Why A New Interest in Trammell?

The baseball writers didn’t pay much attention to Trammell’s case when he first appeared on the ballot in 2002, receiving only 15.7% of the vote. This can be partially explained because Ozzie Smith made his debut on the ballot that year. Thus voters had the mindset “Trammell was good but he was no Ozzie” so they naturally didn’t want to vote for him. Yet in subsequent years, he still hovered around the 10-20% mark until 2010 when he got 22.4% of vote. Two years later, it got as high as 37% but that was as high as it was going to go for the next several years. That’s because 2013 marked the first serious group of steroid suspected/known players on the ballot (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa) which created a log jam on the ballots. Trammell’s numbers would drop for the next several years getting as low as 21% in 2014. With only two years left on the ballot, his candidacy started to regain momentum and he finished in 2016 with 41%, his final year on the ballot.

Why did his candidacy gain momentum near the end? I believe the context of his career started to become more clear to the writers. His numbers may not seem impressive but that is with repsect to the context of our time when shortstop has a juggernaunt of talent. For his time period, Trammell’s numbers were more than adequate. For example, let’s compare Trammell’s numbers to a Hall of Fame shortstop whose career overlapped Trammell’s.

Hits 2Bs HRs RBIs BA OBP SLG OPS
Trammell 2365 412 185 1003 .285 .352 .415 .767
Player B 2340 441 198 960 .295 .371 .444 .815

In addition, Player B has 3 Gold Glove awards at shortstop compared to Trammell and Player B got voted into the Hall of Fame on his 3rd ballot. Figured it out yet? Player B is Barry Larkin. While Larkin’s numbers are better, it’s not by much.

Finally, another reason Trammell’s candidacy gained momentum was advanced sabermetric stats showed that Trammell’s value was undervalued during his career. In particular, the advanced statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) looks favorably on Trammell.

Aside. The idea of WAR is it tells you the “number of wins a player is worth”. Higher the number, the more valuable the player. Typically, a season WAR of 3 or more is all star level and WAR of 5 or more is MVP level. It’s also defined in as neutral a context as possible meaning it’s now possible to compare players of different eras using this number.

Disclaimer/Motivation. WAR is a pretty polarizing statistic.  Some fans love it for it’s a single number which summarizes a player’s total value (offense and defense). Others dislike it for it difficult to explain and not everyone know’s what stats go into it, i.e., “it’s some mumbo jumbo”. However, one thing you cannot deny is that it passes a sniff test of sorts. Namely, great players in baseball history have high WAR values and not-so-great players in history have low WAR values. For example, Babe Ruth’s WAR (as calculated on baseball-reference.com) in 1927 (the year he hit 60 home runs) is 12.4 whereas  Mark Reynolds WAR in 2011 is 0.6.

What WAR is good at is giving us a tool to re-evaluate middle-tier players. For example, suppose you recall a baseball player, let’s call im Player A ,who played several years back. You don’t remember him being a great player but you don’t remember him being bad. Perhaps he was the sort of did a little bit of everything. He could hit with decent contact, decent power, maybe could draw a walk, played good defense. But he never was great in one category. What would happen if you plug his career numbers into WAR and it spits out a number higher than what you were anticpating. Would it make you re-evalulate his career? Maybe there was something you overlooked. Maybe his value was that he did everything above-average which collectively meant he was just as valuable as the one guy who could hit home runs but nothing else. WAR is not an end-all statistic. It’s  useful in “ballparking” what a player brought to the field, some of which may be overlooked by other statistics or even the eye-test. From it’s calculation, us fans can decipher what it means and if there is something we overlooked regarding a player’s abilities.

This is especially true when it comes to players like Alan Trammell. Guys who did a little bit of everything relative to their era (and position). According to baseball-reference.com, Trammell’s career WAR value (based on total offensive and defensive contributions relative to his era) is 70.4.  Ok but without some context, we have no idea what this means or even if this is a “good” career WAR. Recall the list of top home run hitting shortstops between 1920-1996? Let’s look at the table again but this time, we’ll include their career WAR as well (up to 1996 at least).

Shortstop (1920-1996) Home Runs Slugging Percentage (SLG) On Base Plus Slugging (OPS) Wins Above Replacement (WAR)
Ernie Banks 512 .500 .830 67.4
Cal Ripken 353 .454 .798 88.4
Robin Yount 251 .430 .772 77.0
Vern Stephens 247 .460 .815 45.5
Rico Petrocelli 210 .420 .752 39.1
Alan Trammell 185 .415 .767 70.4
Joe Cronin 170 .468 .857 66.4
Roy Smalley 163 .395 .740 27.8
Jim Fregosi 151 .398 .736 48.7
Barry Larkin 135 .451 .820 51.6

(italics = not final career WAR)

Does this say Trammell was better than, say Ernie Banks? No of course not. What this says is that Trammell’s career net-contributions (in all aspects) should be comparable/in same general discussion as Ernie Bank’s career net-contributions. You may think this is a rediculous claim since Ernie Banks is an all-time great player but remember, he was only that all-time great player in the first half of his career (1954-1962) and was just “good” for the remainder of his career (at first base which isn’t as difficult a position as shortstop). So if you take the time to think about it, it’s not as rediculous as it sounds to compare Banks and Trammell, two totally different types of players.

But the main point is you should see Trammell’s career WAR (at the time he retired) is not only similar to Banks but also to Cronin and Yount, all three of which are Hall of Famers. You can argue whether or not that makes Trammell a Hall of Famer but it should at least mean there is some merit to discussing Trammell as a Hall of Famer.

Before leaving you tonight, let’s do one more exercise. Recall the comparsion of Alan Trammell to that of Barry Larkin where we saw their career statistics have a lot of similarities. Let’s look at it again, but this time include both of their career WAR’s.

Hits 2Bs HRs RBIs BA OBP SLG OPS WAR
Trammell 2365 412 185 1003 .285 .352 .415 .767 70.4
Larkin 2340 441 198 960 .295 .371 .444 .815 70.2

As you can see, not only are their one-the-field statistics very similiar, but so are their WAR scores. With this table in mind, it becomes hard not to see Trammell as a Hall of Famer and thankfully for us, we no longer have to worry about that.

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Reflections on Modern Committee Vote for 2018 Baseball Hall of Fame. Part I: Background

Earlier this evening, the Modern Baseball Era committee voted in two former baseball players (shortstop Alan Trammell and starting pitcher Jack Morris) into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. These two players, overlooked when on the BBWAA writers ballot, were among six other players/former executives that the committee looked at for consideration in the Hall of Fame.

First thing I want to say to the two of them is congratulations! The Baseball Hall of Fame consists over 319 people, including 220 former MLB players. Since 1871, an estimated 15,000 people have played in the Majors which gives approximately 1-2% of players belong to Baseball’s Hall of Fame. This is a highly prestigious honor and something you shouldn’t take lightly.  The committee feels that there is justifiable reason to add these players to the Hall of Fame meaning they feel belong in the 2% of top players in MLB history. Nonetheless, let’s take a step back and examine why this committee was needed, why these players deserve (or don’t deserve) to be in the Hall, and possible future implications. In a (maybe) unconventional manner, I’ll briefly summarize my feelings on Trammell and Morris being elected to the Hall of Fame.

Summary.  Both Alan Trammell’s election and Jack Morris’ election open up doors on types of players who could be voted into the Hall of Fame. While I think Trammell’s election is justifiable and long overdue, it may allow players who don’t have a lot of offensive milestones but regarded as good defenders (ex. Scott Rolen) to get further consideration. With regards to Jack Morris, his election was somewhat forseeable given the recent “politics” of Hall of Fame voting. However, Jack Morris’ lacking in some more advanced sabermetric statistics have me wondering if his election may lower the bar for what writers consider “borderline” candidates (ex. Andy Pettitte).

This article is meant as a introduction/background to the “Modern Era” committee and the ballot that was presented to the committee. We will go over Alan Trammell and Jack Morris in more depth in future articles.

Morris,Trammell

Jack Morris (left) and Alan Trammell (right) were the faces of the Detroit Tigers through most of the 1980s. Does that make them Hall of Famers?

The Purpose of the “Modern Era Committee” 

(information taken from  Wikipedia, MLB website, and Hall of Fame website)

Traditionally, most players in the Hall of Fame were voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) which consists of baseball journalists who write for daily newspapers (ex. Washington Post), magazines (ex. Sports Illustrated), and qualifying websites.  When the Hall of Fame was formulated in 1936, the Hall turned to the BBWAA to elect players simply because they were attending the games (in order to write about them) and were the most knowledgeable on the caliber of the players. In the first ever vote on the greatest names in baseball, the BBWAA voted in Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth, and Honus Wagner.

A notable fact about all five players listed above is they all primarily played in the 20th century. The writers were allowed to vote for 19th century players (like Cap Anson, Buck Ewing, Cy Young, etc.) but none of them were selected. The Hall faced criticism for the lack of 19th century great ballplayers elected to the Hall and this pressure mounted as the opening the physical museum in 1939 approached. As a result, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Landis formed an “Old-Timers” Committee (separate from the BBWAA) to select worthy players from the 19th century and put them into the Hall of Fame.

Over time, other committees (most famously the “Veterans” Committee) were formed with a similar task in mind: elect older-generation ballplayers into the Hall of Fame who were overlooked by the BBWAA.  By overlooked, we mean players which didn’t receive enough votes yet deserve more consideration (for whatever reasons) or were never on the ballot (ex. Negro league players). Today, there are four main committees which look at different periods in baseball history to find Hall of Fame players.

  • “Today’s Game Committee” (1988 – present)
  • “Modern Era Committee” (1970-1987)
  • “Golden Days Committee” (1950-1969)
  • “Early Baseball Committee” (1871-1949)

The committees alternate years in which they consider candidacy of players.  The Today’s Game and Modern Era Committee meet twice every five years, Golden Days Committee every five years, and the Early Baseball Committee every ten years. This year happens to be the Modern Era Committee’s turn (the voting base consists of eight Hall of Fame players/managers/executives as well as an additional five baseball executives, two BBWAA writers, and one baseball historian).

What’s Important to Remember. The Committee’s goal is to vote for players no longer considered by the BBWAA for the Hall of Fame. They considered different eras of players each election and this year they considered players whose most notable contributions to baseball occurred between 1970 and 1987.

The 2017 Modern Era Ballot

This year, the ballot the committe considered included seven former MLB players and one former executive. Below is a list of the people with some notable accomplishments/facts (more will be said about Jack Morris and Alan Trammell).

  • Tommy John (left handed starting pitcher, 1963-1989)
    • Primarily played for Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees
    • 288 Career Wins
    • First player to go under (now named) Tommy John surgery which revolutionized treatment of pitching injuries.
  • Don Mattingly (first baseman, 1982-1995)
    • Played entire career with New York Yankees
    • One of best hitters between 1984-1989
    • MVP winner in 1985
  • Marvin Miller
    • Elected chief of MLB PLayers Association Union in 1966
    • Helped establish the Free-Agency process for players
  • Jack Morris (right handed starting pitcher, 1977-1994)
    • Primarily played for Detroit Tigers
    • 254 Career Wins
    • Pitched 10 shutout innings in game 7 of 1991 World Series (as Minnesota Twin)
  • Dale Murphy (center fielder, 1976-1993)
    • Primarily played for Atlanta Braves
    • 398 lifetime career home runs
    • 2-Time MVP winner in 1982 and 1983
  • Dave Parker (right fielder, 1973-1991)
    • Primarily played for Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds
    • 2712 career hits and 339 career home runs
    • MVP winner in 1978
  • Ted Simmons (catcher, 1968-1988)
    • Primarily played for St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers
    • 2472 lifetime hits
    • 248 lifetime career home runs
  • Luis Tiant (right handed starting pitcher, 1964-1982)
    •  Primarily played for Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox
    • 229 career wins
    • 2416 career strikeouts
  • Alan Trammell (shortstop, 1977-1996)
    • Played entire career with Detroit Tigers
    • 2365 career hits
    • 4-time gold glove winner (best shortstop defender) and 3-time silver slugger (best offensive shortstop player)

All players/executives listed above have valid points of consideration for the Hall of Fame. We have MVP winners, Gold Glove winners, and multiple World Series winners among the list of accomplishments. In the end, the committee felt that the accomplishments of Morris and Trammell were most deserving for Hall of Fame recognition. One question which we should ask ourselves is “Why is it now that they are being recognized?” To understand that, we need to see what prevented them from being elected in the first place.

The next few articles will focus exclusively on Alan Trammell and Jack Morris on their playing years, why they were not already elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA, and what changed in people’s percenptions (if any).

 

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Tracy Stallard

Stallard

Tracy Stallard passed away the other day. He was one of a series of young pitchers that the Red Sox brought up during the late-early 60s. I saw him pitch a number of times for the Sox and later the Mets. This brief essay, taken from Six Decades of Baseball tell of the final time I saw him pitch.

Two Pitchers

Between 1964 when Shea Stadium opened and 1973 when I moved to Maryland, I went to about five games a year at “the Big Shea.” For many of these games, I have only the scantiest memories. However there are two games from 1966 which, for whatever reasons, I remember quite clearly. On June 14, 1966 the Mets lost a day game to the Cardinals 9-2. Exactly one month later the Mets played a night game which they lost 4-2, this time to the Dodgers.

Both of the winning pitchers had excellent outings. While the “June pitcher’s” career had not been especially distinguished it had been memorable. For two seasons he had been a regular starting pitcher for the Mets, losing 17 and 20 games respectively. Before that he worked for my Red Sox where he immortalized himself by being the pitcher who gave up Roger Maris’ 61st homerun. His name was Tracy Stallard and he was now pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals. This win was the last of his big league career.

The “July pitcher” also had enjoyed a memorable career. That night against the Mets he seemed unhittable. That was not unusual for this pitcher. It happened with great regularity. His name was Sandy Koufax. Although I saw quite a bit of the Dodgers after the Mets came into existence, this was the only time I ever saw a Sandy Koufax game. I am glad I had the opportunity. He was the dominant pitcher of the 1960s and it was a real treat to see him work.

Both Tracy Stallard and Sandy Koufax would end their careers at the conclusion of the season. For Koufax it was a voluntary retirement due to the ever increasing pain of arthritis in his shoulder. For Stallard, I suspect the career ending was more a case of not being able to find a team to employ him. Because of the proximity of the games that I saw them in as well as the timing of their departures from baseball, these two pitchers have become very much linked in my mind. I suspect that I am the only fan who can make that statement.


 

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But isn’t it over?

IVotes

Not quite. It seems like there is always some election activity in Fairfax County. And so it was that on Monday evening an “All hands on deck” was issued to the rovers to show up at the county warehouse on Thursday (i.e. tomorrow) to start preparations for the recount for the race for House of Delegates in Virginia’s 40th district. On election night it was reported that the Democrat had won a narrow victory but that was reversed in the canvass that followed. Right now the Republican is ahead by 106 votes.

I’m not exactly sure what we will doing when we arrive at the warehouse tomorrow but I’ll hazard a guess. There are 16 precincts (out of 243) in Fairfax County that are in the 40th district. In the days after the election, county trucks returned all the precinct carts and scanners to the warehouse where they have been stored under lock and key but in no particular order. My guess is that we will have to unscramble the assemblage of equipment to find those 16 carts/scanners for the 40th. I suspect we will then reinsert memory sticks and retest the scanners. That will probably be the extent of the rover involvement and others will take it from there but I stress that this is only a guess. We shall see.

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Dick Gernert

Gernert

Another one of my boyhood baseball heroes has passed on. Dick Gernert was part of the Red Sox “youth movement” of 1952. He played in the first Red Sox game I ever saw (July 2, 1952) at Yankee Stadium and had a key hit in the Sox 5-4 victory over the Yankees. Dick was big and slow. He played first base (and sometimes left field) and hit for power. In the field he was sure handed but not especially mobile. All during the 1950s the Sox would give the first base job to other more-heralded players- Harry Agganis, Norm Zauchin, Mickey Vernon, Pete Runnels, Vic Wertz – but somehow Gernert always was the guy they kept coming back to. He was finally traded to the Cubs for Dave Hillman and Jim Marshall in the first ever inter-league trade (honest, November 21, 1959. You can look that up.)

The image that I retain of Dick Gernert comes from a Labor Day doubleheader against the Yankees in 1958. In the first game of the twin bill, Gernert had a triple to deep left centerfield that was a key part of the Sox 4-2 win over the Yanks. Pitching for the Sox was a young left handed pitcher named Ted Bowsfield who had been called up from the minor leagues a few weeks earlier. Bowsfield’s career never amounted to much but on that day he was in command. I remember that the last out of the game was a ground out and Gernert at first made the final put out. Dick then trotted over to Ted Bowsfield and flipped him the game ball. At the time I thought it was a nice gesture. Baseball Reference says that Ted Bowsfield is 82 years old now. I wonder if he still has the ball.

Dick Gernert was never a star but he was part of the team I grew up with and everything I’ve read about him says he was a class act. I’m sorry for his passing.

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McLean Holiday Bazaar

Mcleanholdidasy bazaar

The McLean Holiday Bazaar will take place this Saturday, December 9, at McLean High School from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It’s always a fun event with lots of interesting vendors, great food, and lively people. I’ll be there, hawking my books, especially November Third and The Gatekeepers of Democracy. The perfect stocking stuffers for anyone curious about what it takes to run a good election.

CoverFinalLG-NovemberThirdlighterCoverFinalLG-GatekeepersOfDemocracy (002)A Voter's Journeysixdecadesofbaseballfrontcover

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A closer look

Rolen

Mark has made a strong case to consider whether Scott Rolen should be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame. I admit that my immediate reaction was “Good player, not great. Career too short. Let’s move on.”

In the face of Mark’s challenge I decided to give it the old “Ken Keltner Test.” This was created by Bill James back in the days when he was writing baseball books to give a picture over whether someone should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s named after Ken Keltner, who played third base for Cleveland in the 1940s and who some people at the time were pushing for Hall of Fame inclusion. It consist of fifteen questions which should give us an idea if a player is Hall of Fame calibur or not.

THE KELTNER LIST: Questions

  1. Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best
    player in baseball?
    Admittedly the toughest test of all 15 questions. I think it’s fair to say that no one ever considered Scott Rolen the best player in baseball.,
  2. Was he the best player on his team? Possibly in in his rookie year (1997) with the Phillies (it’s either him or Curt Schilling). After that he was eclipsed by Bobby Abreu (Phillies), Albert Pujols (Cards), Roy Halladay (Jays) and Joey Votto (Reds). To be fair he actually comes fairly close to Pujols in a couple of those St. Louis seasons and that’s saying something.
  3. Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position? In the late ‘90s he was eclipsed by Chipper Jones and in the mid-2000s it was A-Rod. In between, for two or three seasons, he probably was the best in the NL and possibly the majors.
  4. Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races? Clearly yes with the Cards (‘02, ’04, ’06) and to a lesser extent with the Cincinnati (’10)
  5. Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime? He did not age especially well but he did have a couple of good season with the Reds. His Toronto years as well as his last to two seasons with Cincinnati were not very productive.
  6. Is he the very best baseball player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame? Another tough test. Once you get past the steroid guys and Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, you have Edgar Martinez, Vladimir Guerrero, Curt Schilling, and Mike Mussina, all of whom have their champions.
  7. Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame? According to Baseball Reference the most similar players to Rolen are Paul O’Neill, Shawn Green, Matt Holliday, Bobby Bonilla, Reggie Smith, Aramis Ramirez, Ron Santo, Fred Lynn, Ken Boyer, and Ellis Burks. Only Santo is in the Hall (although people occasionally make noises about Boyer).
  8. Do the player’s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards? 2,077 hits. 281/364/490. His career totals are a bit short but the .490 slugging percentage does catch your eye.
  9. Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his
    statistics?
    Eight Gold Gloves.
  10. Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame? Forgetting Chipper Jones who will be elected in a month or so, the question becomes whether you consider Edgar Martinez a third baseman or a DH. If he is a DH then Rolen might be considered the best third baseman eligible for the Hall.
  11. How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close? Once he came in 4th place (2004, behind Bonds, Beltre, Pujols); He came in 14th in 2010; a couple of finishes in the 20’s during his Phillies’ seasons. I think it’s fair to say that he was never seriously considered to be an MVP.
  12. How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who played in
    this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
    He played in five All- Star games. There are lots of players who were in five All Star games and not in the Hall. His 2004 season was truly All Star quality. After that he had a number of “very good” seasons and whether he got in an All Star game or not depended on whether someone else was having a great season (Chipper, Matt Williams, Ken Caminiti).
  13. If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant? Very subjective question but I don’t think Scott Rolen was the person who could carry his team.
  14. What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new
    equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
    Can’t think of anything.
  15. Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines,
    instructs us to consider?
    He was ejected just three times in his career. I haven’t seen anything that suggests he was not a good baseball citizen.

Conclusion: I was surprised how well he stacks up on the Keltner test. His strong defense is certainly a factor. His career is still a bit short and there were not enough truly outstanding seasons to put me over the edge for now but I’m willing to listen to additional arguments.

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