Mary and I spent a enjoyable evening at the National Cathedral listening to the Folger Consort’s performance of music composed Hildegard von Bingen (aka St. Hildegard) who was a medieval mystic, poet, playwright, composer, natural historian and just about everything else.

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I have been invited address the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut (ROVAC) at their spring conference in April. I’ll be talking about my experiences as an election officer and how I came to write The Gatekeepers of Democracy and November Third. I’ll update as I learn more.


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A Bit of Free Publicity

November Third is one of the books featured in the “Books” section of the winter issue of “Ed.,” a quarterly magazine put out by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.




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Winter SABR Meeting


Tomorrow is the winter meeting of the Washington area chapter of SABR (Society for American Baseball Research). There are a number of exciting items on the agenda but the one I am most looking forward to is a presentation on Al Schacht.

After a relatively brief stint as a pitcher in the 1920s, Al Schacht commenced a career as a baseball clown/comedian. Eventually he became known as the “Clown Prince of Baseball.” He entertained at ballparks all over the country as well as overseas. I had the opportunity of seeing Al Schacht “umpire” a number of Old Timers’ games at Yankee Stadium during the late 1950s and early 1960s. I remember one occasion when he pulled a shotgun on Dizzy Dean when the pitcher started to complain about a ball/strike call. And Al Schacht would never let Joe DiMaggio take a walk in these games. He would insist that Joe stay at bat until he hit the ball.

This never-before-seen photo of Al Schacht was taken by me in 1960. He is at the ticket window at Yankee Stadium. My recollection is that he was trying make sure that some tickets for his friends had been allocated.

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Jack Morris – The Value of Determination

EDIT (1/1/2018): My description of ERA+ below is not completely accurate. A better description of ERA+ is that it tells you “how much better/worse the league was than pitcher A.” What I described below: “how much better/worse pitcher A was than the league” is usually referred to as ERA-. While they use similar numbers in their formulas, they tell slightly different narrative. Nonetheless, they both (roughly) represent the same outcome as far as I am concerned so just keep this fact in mind when reading.


Previously we discussed Alan Trammell and why it took the Modern Era Committee to vote him into the Baseball Hall of Fame and potential reasons the BBWAA writers may have overlooked his candidacy. In this post, we will perform a similar breakdown of the other player voted in by the Modern Era Committee: pitcher Jack Morris.

The Numbers: Breakdown of Jack Morris’ Career

Born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, right handed pitcher Jack Morris was selected in the 5th round of the 1976 amateur player’s draft by the Detroit Tigers (same year Trammell was drafted by Tigers). Similar to Trammell, Morris didn’t spend too much time in the minors. He immediately started with the Tigers AA team in Montgomery and spent the first half of the 1977 season with their AAA farm team in Evansville. Detroit called up Morris in July of that year (replacing Mark Fidrych who was placed on the disabled list)  and made is debut on July 26 (pitched four innings in relief facing the Chicago White Sox).


Morris would make the first start of his MLB career five days later (July 31) in Arlington, Texas against the Rangers. It almost ended early for Morris struggled in the first inning. Here is the outline of the half-inning as stated on Retrosheet.


  • Hargrove walked;
  • Campaneris walked [Hargrove to second];
  • Washington singled to center [Hargrove scored, Campaneris out at third (center to first to third), Washington to second];
  • Washington stole third;
  • Morris threw a wild pitch [Washington scored];
  • Horton struck out;
  • Harrah flied out to left

Not the best start to a major league career. Morris started the inning off with a walk-walk-single-wild pitch which resulted in two quick runs for the Rangers. This would be enough to rattle any rookie pitcher in his first MLB start. However, Morris didn’t cave; he held tough and didn’t allow any more runs in the inning. Morris went back out in the 2nd inning and, emboldened by the finish of the previous inning, retired the side. Morris would end up pitching an additional seven strong innings before being pulled in the 10th inning. Here is a quick breakdown of his pitching line comparing the 1st inning and 2nd-9th innings.

Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
1st 1 2 2 1
2nd-9th 3 0 3 10

Putting the two lines together, Morris ended up with the following stat line in his first MLB start.

Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
9 4 2 5 11

Aside: The Texas pitcher whom Morris was facing against was Bert Blyleven, a Hall of Fame pitcher, who also threw 9 innings of 2 run ball.

As we look more at Morris’ career, a common theme will appear, which is well-represented in his first big league start, that Morris was a “bulldog” type of pitcher: someone who would pitch with everything he had, hang tough when not pitching with his best stuff, and find a way to record outs.

Early on in his career, Morris struggled with the control of his pitches. He started the rest of month August in 1977 were in 32.2 innings, he gave up 17 walks while striking out 14 batters. Arm problems resulted in the Tigers shutting him down in September.  The following season, Morris was again belittled by arm trouble which resulted in him banished to the bullpen the whole season. Again, pitching command was an issue where   in 106.0 innings pitched, he gave up 49 walks while striking out 48 batters. Things were so bad for Morris that he didn’t even make it out of spring training 1979 with the Tigers and was sent to the Tigers AAA affiliate in Evansville. But Morris’ “bulldog” persona didn’t waiver. Determined to get back to the Tigers, Morris showed considerable command improvement in Evansville where he gave up 18 walks in 34 innings. Evansville manager Jim Leyland remarked that “[Morris] won’t be here in a month”  which held true as Morris was recalled to Detroit in May of that year, and this time for good. Tigers immediately played Morris in the starting rotation and with his newfound confidence, Morris put together a breakout season and established himself as the ace pitcher of the Tigers.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Games Started Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
17 7 3.28 133 27 197.2 179 76 59 113

Statistic Reference

ERA+ = “Adjusted” ERA. It compares a player’s ERA (earned run average) to the league average and tells you how much greater/less it is compared to the average. An ERA+ of 100 is league average. For example, 110 is 10% above league average, and 90 is 10% less than league average. It’s purpose is to give a “neutral” context on how much a pitcher’s run prevention was compared to the league he was playing in. That way, it is a more fitting statistic to compare pitchers across different eras than ERA itself.

Morris would anchor the Tigers pitching staff for the next eleven seasons, being a pivotal piece in their 1984 World Series championship team. The best way to describe Morris in his twelve consecutive seasons (1979-1990) as the Tigers ace is durable. In his eleven seasons as a starter for the Tigers, Morris averaged 33 starts, 13 complete games, 241 innings, and 16 wins a season.

Despite striking out 11 batters in his first big league start, Morris wasn’t known as a strikeout pitcher for the first part of his career. He mostly relied on fastball, slider, and changeup but he wasn’t satisfied with his slider. Teammate Milt Wilcox suggested that Morris use a split-finger fastball (sometimes called a splitter), a pitch that looks like an ordinary fastball but then drops as it comes to home plate. This pitch results in a lot of swing-and-misses which helps a pitcher raise his strikeout total.

Morris began working on his splitter near the end of the 1982 season and had it on full display in 1983. With a splitter in his arsenal of pitches, Morris indeed saw his strikeout total jump from 135 in 266.1 innings pitched (1982) to 232 in 293.2 innings pitched (1983) to lead the league in strikeouts. He would go on to throw 200+ strikeout seasons two more times in the decade.

After the 1990 season, Morris signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins (his hometown team) and put up a solid regular season.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Games Started Innings Hits Runs Walks Strikeouts
18 12 3.43 125 35 246.2 226 107 92 163

The Twins would win the American League West Division and defeat the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship game to go to the World Series. Facing the Atlanta Braves, the series went to seven games where the Twins called on Morris to start game 7 (played in Minnesota). Facing Braves ace pitcher John Smoltz, Morris would pitch in one of the greatest playoff games of all time. Morris held tough throwing 9 shutout innings but with the game tied 0-0 after 9 innings, Morris was determined to go out for the 10th inning. He would throw one more shutout inning which is all the Twins offense needed as they produced the one run of the game in bottom of the 10th inning, giving the Twins a World Series championship. Putting it all together, Morris pitched 10 shutout innings while giving up 7 hits, 2 walks, and 8 strikeouts.

Morris would bounce between the Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians the next three seasons before retiring in the spring of 1995 (after a failed spring training stint with the Cincinnati Reds). Morris finished with the following career stat lines.

Wins Losses ERA ERA+ Innings Walks Strikeouts
254 186 3.90 105 3824.0 1390 2478

The Wait:  Bad Luck and  Sabermetrics

Morris first appeared on the BBWAA Hall of Fame ballot in 2000 and the timing couldn’t have been better. Morris was the only new starting pitcher on the ballot with a chance and the holdover starting pitchers either didn’t have a chance (Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Jim  Kaat, Luis Tiant) or weren’t fully appreciated until later ballots (Bert Blyleven). With a perceived  lack of competing starting pitching, Morris receiver 22.2% of the vote (a respectable first-year vote total). Advocates of Morris hoped this base of support would grow over time. It took several years (until 2005) but this vote total did in fact slowly increase over time, peaking in 2013 with 67.7%.

2000: BBWAA (22.2%)
2001: BBWAA (19.6%)
2002: BBWAA (20.6%)
2003: BBWAA (22.8%)
2004: BBWAA (26.3%)
2005: BBWAA (33.3%)
2006: BBWAA (41.2%)
2007: BBWAA (37.1%)
2008: BBWAA (42.9%)
2009: BBWAA (44.0%)
2010: BBWAA (52.3%)
2011: BBWAA (53.5%)
2012: BBWAA (66.7%)
2013: BBWAA (67.7%)

That was the highest it got as in 2014, his last year on the ballot, he received 61.5% of the vote.

Aside: One speculated reason for the rise in Morris’ numbers is a backlash towards sabermetrics. Jay Jaffe explains that sabermetrics (study of baseball in an analystic mindset) helped propel Bert Blyleven to the Hall of Fame which revolved on a Moneyball style approach. Not every baseball fan agreed with this and wanted to re-emphasize old-school statistics and intangibles when describing hall of Fame players. To them, Jack Morris was the perfect player who molded his career on this philosophy.

When looking at Morris’ vote totals over the years, a big question is “why did it stall near the end?” He got so close to the 75% threshold needed to be elected but couldn’t get over that hump. In fact, it is  remarkable he didn’t get elected in 2013-2014 when viewed with the following historical statistic. In the history of the Hall of Fame, all except one player who has received at least 50% of the BBWAA vote eventually made it to Cooperstown (the lone exception is Gil Hodges). As Morris passed the 50% threshold in 2010, fans of Morris claimed it was only a matter of time before he got elected. In addition,  Morris getting 66.7% of the vote in 2012 would normally be enough momentum to get him over the 75% vote threshold in the next election or two (such momentum was witnessed in Red Sox outfielder Jim Rice a few years earlier). But what stopped Jack Morris?

Was it Bad Luck?

Advocates for Morris claim his failure to get elected in 2013-2014 was sheer dumb luck. Indeed, Morris was unlucky for the newcomers on the 2013 ballot included great players with steroid whispers/accusations (Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa) along with great players with questionable character (Curt Schilling). The addition of such players changed the dynamic of the election completely (about integrity of the game) and took a lot of focus away from Morris. Not only did Morris’ vote total stay stagnant (only went up a percentage point) but NO ONE was elected that year.

Craig Biggio — 68.2% (HoF)
Jack Morris — 67.7% (HoF)
Jeff Bagwell — 59.6% (HoF)
Mike Piazza — 57.8% (HoF)
Tim Raines — 52.2% (HoF)
Lee Smith — 47.8%
Curt Schilling — 38.8%
Roger Clemens —  37.6%
Barry Bonds — 36.2%
Edgar Martinez — 35.9%
Alan Trammell — 33.6% (HoF)

(HoF) – since has been voted into the Hall of Fame by BBWAA or Committee

With no one elected, all the controversial players remained on the ballot in 2014. Combine that with the addition of first-ballot Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas, it’s not surprising Morris got lost in the crowded ballot and his vote total stalled out.

…Or Bad Statistics?

However you might say “But wait! Something like ‘luck’ shouldn’t play that much of a factor. You can’t explain everything away by luck…something else must have happened which prevented Morris’ total to rise.” Well there is another factor Morris’ advocates accuse of happening: people (most notably sabermetricians/internet bloggers) out to intentionally hurt Morris’ candidacy. Here is what Dave St. Peter, current president of the Twins, said following the departure of Morris from the BBWAA ballot in 2014.

“It sure seemed as though there was a focus by some to dispel Jack’s Hall of Fame worthiness, so to speak. It’s ironic that a lot of the sabermetricians who tried to help Bert Blyleven’s [candidacy] worked against Jack’s.”

Comments such as these point to an angry base of baseball fans,  who not only didn’t think Morris was a Hall of Famer, but vehemently attacked people for consider Morris as a Hall of Famer and were determined see Morris fall shy of the 75% vote threshold. I wish I could say this is false. That baseball fans who didn’t see Morris as a Hall of Famer just said “Nope, not a Hall of Famer”, left it at that and didn’t get upset at people voting for Morris. But I can’t say that. I can’t say that people didn’t get upset for considering / not considering Morris’ candidacy. I can’t say that people didn’t go out of their way to attack supporters of Morris.

What I can say is this, there was a loud presence of baseball fans on the internet (like me) who were adamant of Morris not being included purely on statistical means. In other words, a significant portion of the baseball community said Jack Morris’ career statistics are not one a Hall of Famer would have. Writers such as Joe Posnanski, Jay Jaffe, and David Schoenfield among others have written many articles concerning why they don’t feel Morris is a Hall of Famer and such articles revolve in the weakness of Morris’ career stats. You can find lots of different articles written on his statistical weaknesses, but I’ll summarize some of them here.

Stat Case 1: Weak Run-Prevention

The first argument doesn’t use any advanced statistics or mathematics. Just a simple formula. The most basic formula/statistic that measures a pitcher’s performance is ERA (earned run average), computed by dividing the number of innings pitched by the number of (earned) runs the pitcher allowed. In short, ERA tells you how well a pitcher prevented runs being scored against his team. So the lower an ERA is, the better. As stated earlier, Morris has a career ERA of 3.90. How does this compare with all other Hall of Fame pitchers? In turns out, that it doesn’t compare. No pitcher in the Hall of Fame has a greater ERA than Jack Morris (the closest is Red Ruffing with an ERA of 3.80).

Rk pitcher seasons ERA
1st Jack Morris 1977-1994 3.90
2nd Red Ruffing 1924-1947 3.80
3rd Ted Lyons 19238-1946 3.67
4th Jesse Haines 1918-1937 3.64
5th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 3.60
6th Waite Hoyt 1918-1938 3.59

Some Morris advocates claim it is only this high due to high ERAs Morris posted in his final two seasons (6.19 in 1993 and 5.60 in 1994). So what happens if we remove those seasons and recompute his ERA? It drops by almost twenty points down to 3.73…but now only Red Ruffing’s ERA is still greater. If one were to be more extreme and say, only consider his period until 1988, his career ERA would be 3.59 (tied for sixth worst of all time) but you get the idea. Even if we remove Morris’ most extreme seasons, his overall career run-prevention case is still high.

Coming to Morris’ defense, it is not fair to compare his ERA to, say Juan Marichal’s ERA. Both players played in vastly different eras where ERA in the 1960s was generally much lower than it was in the 1980s. So comparing ERA straight up isn’t the best comparison. This is where ERA+ comes into play. The advantage of ERA+ is it’s “normalized” in that it isn’t season context. An ERA+ of 110 means that the pitcher was 10% better than his fellow pitchers. It means the same thing in 1968 as it does in 1998. So how does Morris’s ERA+ compare with other Hall of Fame pitchers? Morris has the third WORST ERA+ (of 105) of all time, only in front of Rube Marquart (103) and Catfish Hunter (104).

Rk pitcher seasons ERA+
1st Rube Marquart 1908-1925 103
2nd Catfish Hunter 1965-1979 104
3rd Jack Morris 1977-1994 105
4th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 106
5th Early Wynn 1939-1963 107
5th Pud Galvin 1875-1892 107

With a career ERA+ of 105, Morris’ run prevention game was only slightly better than the average pitcher of his time period. And you can do a similar game as before where if you remove the two seasons at the end of his career, his ERA+ jumps up to 109 (tied for 9th worst of all time). and if you remove everything beyond 1988, ERA+ jumps again to 113, tied for 15th lowest of all time. Put together, this gives the image of a pitcher who, even when compared to people in his time period, wasn’t the greatest at preventing runs from scoring.

It’s worth mentioning that Morris’ advocates further insisted it was this high because Morris “pitched to the score” meaning he didn’t max out all the time and only got tough when he had to. For example, if his team is winning by more than 5 runs, he may decide to go a little easy out on the mound (thus allow 2-3 runs to score) if it means he gets to stay in the game till the end. This argument goes away from the statistic side of things so the only thing I’ll mention is writer Joe Sheehan has an article doubting this claim. He studied Morris Win-Loss record along with his ERA using Retrosheet. Upon close examination, he didn’t find “[any] pattern in when Jack Morris allowed runs. If he pitched to the score — and I don’t doubt that he changed his approach — the practice didn’t show up in his performance record.”

Stat Case 2: Low WAR

Another common argument made against Jack Morris is his low WAR (Wins Above Replacement) score compared to other Hall of Fame pitchers. I mentioned the value of WAR in the Trammell article but remember that I never claim it is an “end-all” statistic. It is meant as an attempt to measure a player’s total contributions on the field and summarize it all in one tidy number. It is inaccurate to say

“Player A is greater than Player B just because Player A has higher WAR than Player B.”

The following page from FanGraphs describes how WAR should be used

“Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of sabermetrics is the way in which WAR is used. Given the nature of the calculation and potential measurement errors, WAR should be used as a guide for separating groups of players and not as a precise estimate. For example, a player that has been worth 6.4 WAR and a player that has been worth 6.1 WAR over the course of a season cannot be distinguished from one another using WAR. It is simply too close for this particular tool to tell them apart. WAR can tell you that these two players are likely about equal in value, but you need to dig deeper to separate them.”

WAR is a tool to separate out different levels of players. In a particular season, WAR difference that are less than, say 1, don’t hold as much weight in direct comparison as a WAR difference of, say 4. This can be extended to comparing career WARs over someone’s entire career. It is easier to distinguish players with “large” career WAR differences than ones with “small” career WAR differences.

With this in mind, let’s see how Jack Morris stacks up to other Hall of Fame starting pitchers in career WAR (I am using baseball-reference version of WAR). I am not considering ALL Hall of Fame pitchers since relievers mess up this analysis in addition to players who split time between pitching and hitting (ex. Babe Ruth and John Ward). Therefore I am only considering players who were PRIMARILY starting pitchers (who started at least 30% of their games), pitched at least 1500 innings, and I am going all the way back to 1871.

Note: The reason why the % of games started is this low is I want to keep Dennis Eckersley who had a split-career between being a starter and reliever.

According to baseball-reference, Jack Morris has a career WAR of 43.8. When you rank Hall of Fame pitchers (using the criteria described) above, Morris is 57th out of 64 Hall of Fame starting pitchers. Below are some pitchers with comparable with Morris’ WAR along with some well-known Hall of Fame pitchers for comparison.

Rk pitcher seasons career WAR
1st Cy Young 1890-1911 170.3
2nd Walter Johnson 1907-1927 152.3
5th Lefty Grove 1925-1941 109.9
8th Randy Johnson 1988-2009 104.3
16th Pedro Martinez 1992-2009 86.0
22nd Fergie Jenkins 1965-1983 82.8
23rd Bob Gibson 1959-1975 81.9
34th Bob Feller 1936-1956 65.5
40th Juan Marichal 1960-1975 61.9
49th Whitey Ford 1950-1967 53.9
55th Herb Pennock 1912-1934 44.1
56th Chief Bender 1903-1917, 1925 44.0
57th Jack Morris 1977-1994 43.8
58th Lefty Gomez 1930-1943 43.1
59th Dizzy Dean 1930-1941, 1947 42.7
60th Jack Chesbro 1899-1909 41.2
61st Bob Lemon 1946-1958 37.5
62nd Catfish Hunter 1965-1979 36.6
63rd Jesse Haines 1918-1937 35.7
64th (last) Rube Marquard 1908-1925 34.2

Out of the 64 pitchers listed above, the mean WAR is 72.1 with a standard deviation of 26.5. This means Morris is greater than one-standard deviation of the average WAR of a Hall of Fame pitcher. Even if you don’t believe in WAR, you have to admit that the company Morris has been keeping with these past several tables (Herb Pennock, Catfish Hunter, Rube Marquard) isn’t that inspiring a list.

Now those skeptical of WAR may look at this list and explaim “AH HA! This shows why WAR is flawed!! Bob Lemon/Dizzy Dean was a much better pitcher than Jack Morris yet this says the two pitchers are comparable! Impossible!” I completely agree with you here, to a point. In their primes, Dean and Lemon were MUCH better pitchers than Morris. However, WAR is an accumulation statistic; the more time you play, the more it usually builds up. While Morris had a long healthy career (pitched over 3800 innings), Lemon and Dean’s careers were much shorter (Dean only threw 1800 innings due to injuries and Lemon 2800 innings from missing several years to serving in WW2). So perhaps this is why WAR claims they are comparable, in that Morris’ long, very good career is comparable to Lemon/Dean’s short excellent careers.

But if this still isn’t a satisfying answer, let’s tailer the table to address these concerns. So instead of comparing Morris to all Hall of Fame starting pitchers, why not compare him to pitchers of a similar type; workhorses who threw for many years. For instance, let’s instead focus on Hall of Fame pitchers who threw 3000+ innings. In that list, Morris ranks 50 of 53 eligble pitchers. Now we are getting somewhere. Even when comparing Hall of Fame pitchers with a huge workload under their belt, Morris still ranks near the bottom. And finally, were we to restrict ourselves to pitchers with 3800+ innings (Morris threw 3824.0), he is DEAD LAST, 42 of 42. So no matter how you stack it, WAR says Morris’ career value (for a pitcher with a lot of innings thrown), is very poor compared to fellow Hall of Fame pitchers.

Stat Case 3: The Comparsion Game

This case isn’t so much an argument. Rather, it is a comparison of careers, usually from the standpoint you want to compare someone to another player where an opinion has already been established. Below is comparison of Morris to other pitchers not in the Hall of Fame with similar statistics (sorted by ERA+).


seasons Wins ERA ERA+ Innings Walks Strikeouts WAR
Jamie Moyer 1986 – 2012 269 4.25 103 4074.0 1155 2441 50.2
Jack Morris 1977 – 1994 254 3.90 105 3824.0 1390 2478 43.8
Dennis Martinez 1976 – 1998 245 3.70 106 3999.2 1165 2149 49.5
Bartolo Colon 1997 – present 240 4.04 107 3315.1 923 2454 47.5
David Wells 1987 – 2007 239 4.13 108 3439.0 719 2201 53.5
Luis Tiant 1964 – 1982 229 3.30 114 3486.1 1280 2416 66.1
Andy Pettitte 1995 – 2013 256 3.85 117 3316.0 1031 2448 60.9

Perhaps no comparison above is as similar to Morris as Dennis Martinez. Both pitchers within 10 wins of each other, almost identicial ERA+ and Wins, and similar WAR totals. Comparisons however only take you so far and these career stats don’t take into account the different career narratives each player has. Morris established himself after the 1979 season and held the role of ace pitcher for nearly 10 years. Martinez was the 2nd best pitcher on the Orioles in the first third of his career (behind either Jim Palmer or Mike Flanagan) who struggled in the midpoint of his career. Morris helped secure two World Series championships (1984 and 1991) whereas Martinez was on the 1979 Orioles which lost the World Series and the year the Orioles did win it (in 1983), Martinez had a dreadful year and didn’t make the World Series roster. In  addition, Martinez’s best seasons arguably didn’t come until his mid-late 30s, by which time he was playing in Montreal (and out of the public eye).

The bottom line is Jack Morris compares heavily with a lot of either “Hall of Very Good” pitchers or borderline Hall of Famers.

The Resurgence: Time Heals All Wounds…Maybe

Despite getting desparately close to the 75% vote threshold, Morris felt some relief after not getting elected on his final ballot in 2014.

“I’ve very glad it’s over,” Morris, 58, told mlb.com after learning that he was named on only 61.1 percent of ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in his final year on the ballot, well short of the 75 percent plurality required for enshrinement. “Fifteen years of being critiqued ought to be enough for anybody.”

All of the negative articles on his candidacy took a toll on the man and he wanted some closure (one way or another). But the debate wasn’t done by a longshot since it was immediately speculated he would appear on the Modern Era committee ballot in 2017. Perhaps all Morris needed was some time. Time for people to move on to debate other Hall of Fame candidates (Tim Raines, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina etc). Time for people to stop being so committed to keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. A lot of writers (such as Joe Posnanski) cited at the time that they took no joy in writing such (negative) articles on Jack Morris. Here is what Posnanski had to say about Morris in 2013.

In the middle of writing this longish post on Jack Morris — the 48,384th one I’ve done — I stopped for a moment to ask myself the obvious question: What’s this obsession with Jack Morris anyway? It’s not like I’m opposed to Morris going in the Hall of Fame. I’m not. Frankly, at this point, I WANT him to get elected into the Hall. He does not deserve to have his career so publicly argued about and to come achingly close to election time after time. No, I won’t vote for Morris because he falls below my Hall of Fame line, but I’d be happy if he was elected.

I think some of the heated debate resulted from people digging in on opinions and refusing to yield ground, more out of principle than anything. Once the debate was able to move away from Morris, such positions by fans perhaps were able to dissipate. The next time Morris came up in conversation, people didn’t want to have the same debate all over again. They wanted to move on. Perhaps some of the people standing in Morris’ way relinquished their position and allowed Morris to get in.

Or perhaps it’s because a large portion of the Modern Era committee is made up of Hall of Fame players (George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Don Sutton, Dave Winfield and Robin Yount) along with former Manager Bobby Cox, all of whom whitnessed or faced Jack Morris in real life. Most players stay away from the numbers when looking at potential Hall of Fame players and recall what it was like when they faced him. With Morris, one general idea rang true with a lot of former big league players: tough. He was gutsy, wanted to win, and did whatever it took to win a game. Intangibles such as these, along with the fact Morris was the winningest pitcher of the 1980s, probably propelled most of the Hall of Fame players on the committe to vote for him.

Do I think Morris’ election in the Hall is justified? Maybe. While I don’t believe he is a Hall of Famer, there is some relief in that this debate is over for now and Morris, a man whose career was picked apart piece-by-piece, for fifteen years, no longer has to worry about that. The bulldog of a pitcher held tough and in end got what he wanted, a place in the Hall of Fame.

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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.


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.

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.

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.


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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