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Alan Trammell: Baseball's Forgotten Star
2007-01-10 14:09
by Scott Long
Notes:
Scott Long is now blogging at NSFWsports.com.
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

While most of 2007's Hall of Fame discussion has been about Mark McGwire's failure to get enough of votes, there are other deserving candidates who have once again been left by the side of the road. I generally am a supporter of baseball writers, not slamming them on the level that the average blogger does. I realize that they have to be in the locker room with the team they cover on a daily basis, so it's not as easy as sitting in your bedroom ripping away like most of us bloggers do or worse, what Jay Mariotti does. When it comes to the Hall of Fame ballot I can't defend a lot of them, though, as they seem to have little understanding of the game.

Many in the sabermetrical community have mentioned how players like Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven, and Goose Gossage have been cheated out of their rightful place in Cooperstown. I would agree, but Alan Trammell seems to get little discussion even though he is as worthy, if not more.

What position generally is considered the most important one on the field? Many would answer the shortstop position. Despite being one of the Top 10 non-active shortstops to ever play the game, Alan Trammell received a paltry 13.4% of the votes. There are 23 total shortstops in the Hall, but somehow Trammell is left off of most ballots.

Let me go over some of his qualifications.

Won the 1984 World Series MVP on one of baseball most dominant single season teams.
Was a 6-time All-star at a time when the league had other shortstops like Robin Yount, Cal Ripken, and Tony Fernandez.
Won 4 Gold Glove awards.
Finished 2nd as AL MVP in 1987 to George Bell, an award I think he or Wade Boggs should have won.

I'm sure his dismal record as manager of the Detroit Tigers has hurt him, but his merits as a player should override it. As part of the greatest career double play duo in baseball history with Lou Whitaker, Trammell's exclusion is pathetic. Here are the 7 players that I think belong in the Hall that aren't in. I have listed them in order of how I would vote for them.

1. Pete Rose
2. Mark McGwire
3. Joe Jackson
4. Ron Santo
5. Alan Trammell
6. Bert Blyleven
7. Goose Gossage

Comments
2007-01-10 15:06:35
1.   Icaros
Yes, I've been saying the same thing for awhile now. Trammell's career OPS+ is 110 to Ripken's 112, and that's over the course of a similar 20-year career.

I think Whitaker should be in as well, and I'm not even a Tigers fan.

2007-01-10 18:31:23
2.   El Lay Dave
I agree Trammell deserves much more consideration than he gets, although I think some of the qualifications you list are not that compelling (e.g. WS MVP). He was a high-quality defensive SS with very good offensive numbers.

If you think Trammell should be in, then you must think Barry Larkin should be a lock, right? MVP, 3 Gold Gloves, 10-time AS, more extra-base hits of each kind in less ABs than Trammell.

2007-01-10 18:56:35
3.   jgpyke
Who's next, BJ Surhoff?
2007-01-10 18:58:53
4.   El Lay Dave
... using your type of qualification list. I prefer citing Larkin's 116 OPS+, with only 6 game appearances away from SS (excluding PH-only appearances).
2007-01-10 19:02:46
5.   Scott Long
EL LAY DAVE,
Larkin is a lock. He is a couple spots above Trammell on the Top 10 list, though they aren't as far part as I'm guessing the HOF votiing will show.

JGPYKE,
I realize that BJ has some similar comps, but then so does Larkin to Trammell. I'm talking shortstops here. I'm talking one of the top 10 at his position. If you think I'm overrating Trammell, I suggest you check out The New Bill James Historical Abstract. Trammell is listed 9th all-time on the shortstops list.

This kind of rating makes me put him ahead of even Blyleven, though both definitely belong in. You need to look past just pure stats and put his career in context of the position he played.

2007-01-10 19:10:26
6.   Scott Long
Oh and by the way, I could have cited Trammell's +110 OPS, but I wanted to show his other outstanding accomplishments that are the kind that SABR-ignorant baseball writers shouldn't even be able to ignore.

I think Trammell's biggest sin was playing during a time which was the greatest period for shortstops in baseball history. Yount, Ripken, Ozzie Smith, Larkin, Tony Fernandez, etc. Trammell's achievements seem to have been lost in the shuffle.

It's interesting that even with park effects and time periods factored in, the past 25 years have produced most of the best shortstops in baseball history. No position has seen such a large evolution in recent times.

2007-01-10 19:34:16
7.   StolenMonkey86
It always struck me as excessive not to put Joe Jackson in the hall of fame. After all, he had a lifetime ban, and now he's dead.
2007-01-10 19:47:58
8.   das411
Can we put Trammell and Whittaker on one HOF plaque then?

7 - Just you wait until people start asking this Q after Pete Rose dies!

2007-01-10 19:50:23
9.   jgpyke
Scott, your second paragraph in post 6 hit it on the head for me. To me, HoF is about being not just a really good player but the best player at your position in your era (or arguably the best or so close to the best that there is legitimate discussion). Trammell was simply not the best in his era.

[Same for Big Mac, IMO. Even without the cloud over his head, I still say he's not a HoFer. He was very good but he wasn't great. IMO. I know he has a lot of jock sniffers here, so I am sure there will be some upset folks at my saying this.]

2007-01-10 19:54:14
10.   jgpyke
A good example of what I'm saying is Santo. In his era, it was he in the NL and Brooks Robinson in the AL. No one else is even in the conversation.

If you are asked to name the great 3B of the last 50 years, Santo comes up. Say the same about SS, and I betcha that very, very few people would even think of Alan Trammell.

2007-01-10 20:04:15
11.   Scott Long
Ok, I guess we need to keep Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente out of the hall of fame, because Hank Aaron was a better NL right fielder during the majority of their careers. I've heard this sentiment before and I just can't get on board with it.

Better keep Dan Marino, Joe Montana, and Jim Kelly out of the football hall of fame, because John Elway ranks slightly above them.

Mark McGwire has incredible secondary stats. I realize that some of this is because of the time he played, but the man currently sits 13th all-time in career OPS. Hold him out for a year or two, but I'm not a moralist enough to keep him out of Cooperstown. Check back in the archives to see my thoughts on this topic, if you want more detail.

2007-01-10 20:10:47
12.   Scott Long
In regards to Santo, there were other third baseman who rank just behind him like Ken Boyer, Darrell Evans, and Craig Nettles who played during all or part of Santo's career. Boyer was better than him during a couple of those years. Santo deserves to be in more than Trammell, but that doesn't takeaway from either one of them.
2007-01-10 20:30:09
13.   jgpyke
Scott, post 11 is a bit hyperbolic. Look at what I said: "arguably the best or so close to the best that there is legitimate discussion." I think that Montana, Marino, etc., can be legitimately discussed as better than Elway. Then again, Canton isn't exactly exclusive, so it's apples to oranges. But Frank Robinson and Roberto Clemente are definitely in the discussion. I don't see them being left out.

Trammell, on the other hand, would be left out by a LOT of people. He's just not in the conversation. Do you really think that Trammell is in, say, the top 3 SS of the past 25 years?

As for Santo, I just used him as an example of someone who dominated his era. Did Trammell "dominate"?

2007-01-10 21:08:42
14.   Scott Long
You're right on the hyperbolic claim, but I just don't believe in that standard. I don't grade on a curve, as I think if you happen to be in class with exceptional competitors, you shouldn't be punished.
Just check out the list of shortstops in the hall of fame. More than half of them can't compete with Trammell. If you are one of the Top 10 of all-time at your position when you retire, after more than a century of the game, you are in according to my book.
2007-01-11 06:11:01
15.   chris in illinois
First, 13, "Then again, Canton isn't exactly exclusive, so it's apples to oranges..."...umm neither is Cooperstown----Phil Phreakin' Rizzuto???

Second, Scott I'd agree with most of your list except Rose and maybe Jackson. Baseball was almost destroyed by gambling and rightly or wrongly set up gambling on baseball as the most grevious sin a ballplayer can commit----Pete Rose knew this, but Pete has never given much thought to the outside world beyond the extent of his own nose. Jackson I'm unsure about primarily becasue I truly don't know all the facts (and I'm not taking a Sayles movie's word for it.)

Maybe my stance on McGwire is a clear double standard in light of my opinion of Pete, but McGwire is so obviously a HOF'er it stuns me that some people try to construct elaborate, fantastic arguements against him. There is one reason to exclude McGwire: his suspected ped usage. I don't think that's a great reason to shut the door on him, but if that is what some people believe, fair enough.

But to try to say his on the field results don't merit inclusion anyway, well that's beyond ridiculous. What the hell is the goal of a hitter anyway?? It seems obvious, but millions of fans don't quite get it apparently.

A batter's goal is to put runs on the board. It would also seem that by now in 2007 that the two best ways of doing this (getting on base combined with a high slugging percentage) would be well know even to the most die-hard baseball luddite.

Put simply, few players put as many runs on the board as McGwire did while using as few outs.

As far as being the 'best player' at your position during your career, I think the issue has been hashed out pretty well above, but I'd just like to point out that it's a tad harder to dominate a 26 or 28 or 30 team league than it was a 16 team league like what existed for most of baseball history (especially when you had a few teams like the A's, Phillies, Senators and Browns essentially not try for decades at a time).

Other pretty good third-basemen who played during the bulk of Santo's career: Eddie Mathews, Richie Allen, Joe Torre, hell, Jim Ray Hart from 64-68 was barely a notch below Santo. That being said, Santo should be in the Hall.

2007-01-11 07:31:47
16.   ToyCannon
Never understood how Sweet Lou and Trammel were swept under the carpet by the HOF voter. Better candidates then Rice by far even if I don't think either actually belongs in the HOF it amazes me who does get votes and who doesn't.
2007-01-11 07:52:57
17.   jgpyke
So does Canseco belong in the HoF? Because he and Mac are basically the same. Mac had more HRs, but Canseco had 200 SB and more doubles. They drove in the same number of runs and crossed the plate the same number of times.

Or do we overvalue the HR just because it's neato to watch?

(Don't let Mac's goatee chafe your thighs when you answer.)

2007-01-11 08:05:46
18.   chris in illinois
Canseco? Well, no. He's close (IMO) and a better candidate than Rice or Murphy.

There is a big problem in comparing Canseco to McGwire, but I'm guessing that in your haste to include a hummer joke, you overlooked the 700+ outs that Jose made compared to Mark.

I know that this is news to some fans out there, but making an out is the worst thing you can do as a hitter. Jose made many, many more outs (remember? Worst thing you can do as a hitter.) than McGwire. Basically the difference between the two is a 'missing' season where McGwire went 0 for 731.

Maybe I'm stupid, but that's significant.

2007-01-11 09:18:25
19.   stevegoz
Chris says "Then again, Canton isn't exactly exclusive, so it's apples to oranges..."...umm neither is Cooperstown----Phil Phreakin' Rizzuto???

Not sure that the exception proves the rule. Scooter is just a case of East Coast bias or something.

I prefer football's take on things to baseball's -- why be so phreakin' restrictive with your HOF?

Canton is like a big crazy party at induction time, while Cooperstown takes on a funereal, solemn, even claustrophobic aspect as these few great men gather to commiserate with one another and condemn the present. Which is somewhat ironic, in that baseball is the far more frivolous game, the post-touchdown antics of a few wide receivers and the odd Icky Shuffle excepted.

2007-01-11 09:51:01
20.   chris in illinois
I just used Rizzuto as an example, there are many many others who really are shaky inductees:

Riggs Stephenson
Bruce Sutter
Bill Mazeroski
Tony Perez
Nellie Fox
Rick Ferrell

There many others.

That being said, there should be more not less players in the Hall.

The Hall isn't (and shouldn't) be about the best 19 players ever. Something like 15-16 thousand players have played pro baseball expanding the Hall shouldn't be much of an issue.

2007-01-11 10:50:19
21.   stevegoz
I'm with you, Leather. I mean, Chris. Illinoize represent!

btw, am I the only one tired of hearing how pioneering closers like Gossage and Sutter "went out there for two or three innings at a time (unlike the wusses who close out games now)" whenever their candidacy is discussed by former big leaguers?

If you ever look at their career stats, the stinkin' numbers don't bear it out -- they all average out around 1-1/3 and 1-2/3 innings per appearance, just like today's closers!

2007-01-11 14:48:13
22.   Saburo
Riggs Stephenson is in the Hall of Fame?!

Not the one in Cooperstown, I assume.

2007-01-11 14:59:29
23.   chris in illinois
My apologies to the toaster community for my Stephenson error...I can only assume that the Riggs Stephenson booster society drugged my cocktail...that or I'm partially full of shit.

I'll let each individual decide.

2007-01-11 16:31:28
24.   blue22
21 - What are you talking about?

Hoffman - 821 G's, 885.1 IP (1.07 IP/G)
Wagner - 654 G's, 702 IP (1.07 IP/G)
Even Mo Rivera - 720 G's, 881 IP (1.22 IP / outing)

----------------------------------------

Gossage (excluding 1976 when he started) - 971 G's, 1585 IP (1.63 IP/G)
Sutter - 661 G's, 1042 IP (1.57 IP/G)

Those are pretty dramatic differences. Dennis Eckersley (the first modern closer) routinely had IP < G's pitched after moving to the pen for Oakland.

2007-01-11 16:32:28
25.   George Y
Sorry, can't vote for Trammell for the HOF. I heard he's a Dave Matthews fan.
2007-01-11 18:25:37
26.   Scott Long
George,
Let me offer up that your comment made me shoot chocolate milk out of my nose, just like I was in 5th grade lunchroom.
2007-01-11 18:31:28
27.   chris in illinois
25 Although funny, I'm glad my Maker's Mark didn't shoot out my nose (my wife probably would have enjoyed it though).
2007-01-11 19:31:25
28.   stevegoz
Sorry 24 -- when I ran the numbers for a bar bet a few years back, I concentrated on the stats of the Sutters and Goose's more than today's guys. (Basically, my point stands that these two weren't going out for two or three innings each time out.)

But the gist of it is that for every one-inning appearance, those two old skoolers made nearly two two-inning appearances.

I feel...mild shame.

Bring back the five-man bullpen!

2007-01-12 08:55:24
29.   blue22
29 - Sorry, probably didn't need to bombard you with those stats in such an obnoxious way. But the point is that those guys did in fact go much longer more often than today's pitchers.

Looking at their numbers, however, gave me much more of an appreciation for Gossage. Have a look at his yearly stats, and I think you'll see that his exclusion from the Hall for so long (no matter if he does end up getting in next year) is really a travesty.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/g/gossari01.shtml

2007-01-12 10:05:49
30.   George Y
Clearly it's better to party with Chris in Illinois than with Scott....
2007-01-12 11:10:14
31.   Scott Long
What I failed to mention is that I always put Jager in my chocalate milk. I call it my Meistertini. (Jagermesister and ovaltine)
2007-01-12 11:41:40
32.   George Y
That cinches it, all parties are at Chris's.
2007-01-15 04:54:13
33.   Schteeve
FireJoeMorgan has a little riff about why Trammell is on the "close but not quite" list.

Find it here. http://www.firejoemorgan.com/2007/01/happy-2007.html

Also if you google Allen Trammell Warp3 the first article that comes up, also addresses it.

From a career Warp3 perspective I think Trammell looks good. The average HOF SS has a career Warp3 of 112.3 and Trammell finished with 123.3.

I think the ASG/MVP and Gold Glove stuff is popularity contest drivel, that shouldn't be taken into account. But as you point out Scott, the BBWA does take nonsense like that into account.

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