The Hall of Fame will welcome a new class with the announcement of the BBWAA’s balloting this Wednesday. It is expected by many that this year’s class will feature only two player, second baseman Roberto Alomar, and pitcher Bert Blyleven. Both players narrowly missed election last year, but are expected to reach the 75 percent threshold this time around.
Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times penned a terrific column today in which he breaks down his predictions on this year’s balloting. It’s definitely worth the read. While Jaffe tells us the who of this class, he also explains what factors lead him to his predictions and further, to interest of Tigers fans, gives us this nugget:
In many ways the key for this election is what happens to Barry Larkin and Jack Morris. Whoever ends up on top will lead Hall of Fame discussion next year, in which a very weak crop of newbies emerges. That person will also be in the best position to enter Cooperstown in 2012. That’s really key because in 2013 and then again in 2014 an unprecedented deluge of strong candidates arrives. It will be a long, long time until any of the current backloggers gets in once that happens. Next year is Morris’ only chance for BBWAA election.
As a Tigers fan, I have felt strongly for some time now that Morris should be included among the all-time greats. I must admit, however, that I’m not optimistic that either Morris or Alan Trammell will ever reach the needed vote totals to be elected via the BBWAA vote. Morris has the best shot, obviously, but I think Larkin is the better candidate overall and I seriously doubt the BBWAA as a group will bump Morris’ totals high enough this year to make a legitimate push next year. I think he eventually gets in, but the honor will come via the Veteran’s Committee rather than the writers.
Even if Jaffe is correct and Morris and Larkin lead the ballot in 2012, I don’t think you’ll see more than one of them elected. If Larkin gets a higher percentage this year, I think Larkin will be a one-man class in 2012. If it’s Morris that ends up with more support, there a shot you could see both get in next year, but my gut says that Larkin is the only candidate who sees election next year, if any do.
Trammell, on the other hand, has always been the more Hall-of-Fame-worthy of the two Tigers on the ballot (apologies to Bobby Higginson here, but in all seriousness Higgy’s a one and done candidate), in my opinion. Trammell played 20 seasons as the shortstop for the Tigers. He amassed over 2300 hits, he won a World Series, complete with Series MVP honors in 1984 and he should have been the AL MVP in 1987. Trammell’s career is not much different from that of Larkin’s. Don’t think so? Go read this.
While Larkin played in the shadow of Ozzie Smith for the early part of his career, Trammell’s career was almost entirely played at the same time as Cal Ripken‘s. It’s darn difficult to be considered a Hall of Famer when you weren’t ever considered the best at your position during your career. But when the best just happens to be one of the best ever, Trammell shouldn’t be penalized for that. Larkin and Trammell have very similar statistics but because Smith retired (and passed the torch to Larkin) during Larkin’s prime, the former Red was considered the best shortstop in the National League for a portion of his career. Trammell wasn’t afforded the same luxury by Ripken, however.
The Hall of Very Good opined on Trammell’s case today as well. They feel that Trammell was in fact a very good player, but they don’t see Hall of Fame material there. It appears the voters agree with them, and I think Trammell will spend the next five years in roughly the same place as the last ten; on the outside looking in, hoping for a Veteran’s Committee bailout.
Of the shortstops already in the Hall, only eight have more hits than Trammell totaled. Only three hit more home runs and only eight drove in more runners. Trammell’s numbers are very much Hall worthy, but the perception is that he just wasn’t that good.
Perhaps one day Trammell will get the nod he deserves and go into Cooperstown. I hold out hope that he can be joined there by Lou Whitaker, whose one and done candidacy remains the biggest whiff in Hall of Fame history as far as I’m concerned.