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Case for Trammell in HOF


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From CBS Sports:

While pondering Larkin's Hall future, Trammell stays in mind - MLB - CBSSports.com Baseball

Today, I'm going to take you inside the deep, dark and tortured mind of a Hall of Famer voter.

Mine.

Barry Larkin hit .295 with 198 homers over 19 seasons. (Getty Images)

Each year, when the ballot comes due Dec. 31, among others, I check the box next to Alan Trammell's name. I'm in the minority on this, granted. Last year, he ranked 10th in the voting, at just 17.4 percent. A person needs 75 percent of the vote for election to the Hall; less than 5 percent and he's booted off the ballot for eternity.

As you can see, Trammell hasn't even rounded first base on this sucker yet. Right now, it appears as if he'll never even get past second. And that's OK, I suppose, because like so many other issues on the Hall of Fame ballot, there is no right (or wrong) answer.

I've always thought Trammell has been badly overlooked, flying under the American League's Cal Ripken-Robin Yount radar in the late 1970s and 1980s. And when Ozzie Smith sailed in with 91.7 percent of the vote several years ago, I thought that just exacerbated it.

Trammell's offensive numbers, across the board, clobber Ozzie's. And Trammell, a four-time Gold Glove winner, might not have been as flashy defensively as Smith, but he was outstanding in the field.

So here comes the deadline for the 2009 ballot, and among the first-timers this year is Barry Larkin, Cincinnati's latest offering to the all-time great shortstops.

Gut instinct initially told me no on Larkin. Often, for me at least, that's how it is in Hall voting. Aside from the obvious, slam-dunk choices -- Ripken, Rickey Henderson, Tony Gwynn -- I start from the premise that most guys are not Hall of Famers, then I see where the research leads me. I think it's important to begin there, because baseball's Hall of Fame is the most select of all, and if you're privileged enough to have a vote, I think it is paramount that you respect that history.

Where it gets messy, though, is when gut instinct begins to meet facts, and facts lead to comparisons, and comparisons lead you down a murky path that often makes you question where you began ... and where you're going.

As it is, I'm sitting here surrounded by notes scrawled throughout a reporter's notebook, a handful of research books, bookmarked links to several Internet sites ... and a Hall of Fame ballot awaiting the final permanent-ink check marks.

And as I'm looking at Larkin, I see Trammell.

The offensive numbers are remarkable, darn near a mirror image of each other.

Trammell: .285 lifetime batting average, .352 on-base percentage, .767 OPS, 185 homers and 1,003 RBI in 2,293 games over 20 seasons.

Larkin: .295 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, .815 OPS, 198 homers and 960 RBI in 2,180 games over 19 seasons.

Indeed, if you check out Trammell's statistical page on Baseball-Reference.com, under the category "Similar Batters", Larkin tops the list. And vice-versa, on Larkin's page, of course, Trammell is listed first under "Similar Batters."

Defensively, Trammell won four Gold Gloves, Larkin three.

Larkin won one NL MVP award, in 1995, and had one other top 10 finish.

Trammell should have won one AL MVP award, in 1987, but finished second to Toronto's George Bell in an outrageous case of MVP robbery. Aside from that, Trammell had two other top 10 finishes in MVP voting.

Larkin was named to 12 NL All-Star teams -- highly impressive in the Ozzie Smith era, yes, but they do choose more than one shortstop each year, you know. Trammell was named to six AL All-Star clubs.

I see all of this with Larkin, and I think: Hall of Famer.

Alan Trammell had career numbers comparable to Larkin's. (Getty Images)

But I see Trammell's paltry Hall vote total, and I think: Whoa, hold on here for just one minute.

So, now what?

As a voter, there are a couple of routes available.

Part of me thinks I should abstain from voting for Larkin for now, because he should be in line behind Trammell. And that I should wait and vote for Larkin after Trammell is elected (yeah, right, like that will ever happen, judging by the current situation).

Part of me thinks I should remain true to what I've always believed, which is, if a player is a Hall of Famer, he's a Hall of Famer, period. In 10 years of voting, I've never distinguished between the mythical "first ballot guy" and the rest. In other words, I don't not vote for someone until his second year on the ballot simply to keep him from being a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

In his excellent book The Stark Truth: The Most Overrated and Underrated Players in Baseball History, my buddy Jayson Stark makes the case for Larkin as the most underrated shortstop ever. As in, ever.

It's a compelling read, in which he notes that Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog once named Larkin as the man with whom he would start a team -- at a time when Ozzie Smith was actually Herzog's shortstop with the Cardinals.

Part of Stark's case for Larkin is based on the ever-stout research of Aaron Gleeman, who, writing for Hardball Times, pointed out Larkin out-performed his contemporaries at historical levels:

While Larkin's career batting average was .295, the average shortstop during his 19-year career batted .256.

Larkin's on-base percentage was .371, compared to the average shortstop's .317.

His slugging percentage was .444, compared to .361.

And finally, his OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was .815, as opposed to the average shortstop's .678. That's 20 percent higher. And the only two shortstops of the last 30 years whose OPS was that much higher than their contemporaries were Alex Rodriguez (31 percent) and Nomar Garciaparra (25 percent).

As I was saying, when gut instinct meets facts, and facts lead to comparisons. ...

One part of Larkin's game that was significantly better than Trammell's was speed: Larkin swiped 379 bags over his career, while Trammell stole 236 -- in 113 more games.

Each man led his team to one World Series win -- Larkin's Reds in 1990, Trammell's Tigers in 1984. Trammell was named World Series MVP that October. And in four fewer postseason games (13, compared to 17), Trammell out-homered Larkin (3-0), more than tripled his RBI total (11-3), and compiled a better OPS (.992-.862).

Each man played in "flyover country", which, I can't help but think, is one significant reason why Trammell is so overlooked. Look at his two-decade double-play partner, Lou Whitaker, who didn't even receive the requisite 5 percent of the vote to keep him on the Hall ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Again, you can argue whether or not Whitaker was a Hall of Fame-caliber player. But he shouldn't have slipped off the ballot, barely noticed, after one stinkin' year.

As for Larkin in his first year, I'm very eager to see how he fares. One, because I do believe he's unquestionably a Hall of Famer. Two, because if his vote total winds up being extraordinarily higher than Trammell's, then another injustice will have been born.

My Hall ballot remains blank. My mind continues to churn. The deadline now is in a matter of hours. I'll see you with my annual Hall of Fame column, detailing whom I voted for and why, right after the first of the year.

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I've seen Trammell get quite a bit of support in the media lately. I think his vote percentage will go up significantly this year. It's a crime that Whitaker is no longer on the ballot.

I guarantee you it doesn't. It wouldn't surprise me if it goes down even more.

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through the 28th, for those who publish their ballots on line: a small percentage.

% Leaderboard after 55 Full Ballots…

87.2 - Dawson

83.6 - Blyleven

83.6 - Alomar

60.0 - J. Morris

58.2 - Larkin

45.5 - Lee Smith

45.5 - Edgar

36.4 - T. Raines

32.7 - McGwire

25.5 - Trammell

16.4 - McGriff

12.7 - Parker

10.9 - Mattingly

10.9 - D. Murphy

10.9 - Baines

Top Partial Ballot Leaders… (82 Full/Partials)

58 - Dawson

54 - Blyleven

54 - Alomar

over the years, these numbers have always inflated vote totals for everyone. what it indicates to me is that dawson and alomar have the best shots. blyleven with an outside chance, and support growing for morris.

in the end, trammell will be lucky to get 15%.

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I don't think it's fair to put McGuire in any grouping of Major League ballplayers. He should remain persona non grata.
yeah McGwire's got his own set of issues.... right or wrong, they are there. His criteria is different from the others.

Honest questions:

Did McGwire break any MLB rules regarding steriods as a player?

Did Mark test positive for steriods at any point?

I think the answer to those questions are no. Look, I don't like the steriod era, or the fact seemingly lots of players took them, but MLB took a blind eye to it for 10 odd years. I don't understand why McGwire should be persona non grata or has his own set of issues relative to any number of players.

Honest questions:

Should Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and/or Roger Clemens be denied induction to the Hall of Fame?

Do you think the voters will keep out Rodriguez, Bonds, or Clemens?

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Honest questions:

Did McGwire break any MLB rules regarding steriods as a player?

Did Mark test positive for steriods at any point?

I think the answer to those questions are no. Look, I don't like the steriod era, or the fact seemingly lots of players took them, but MLB took a blind eye to it for 10 odd years. I don't understand why McGwire should be persona non grata or has his own set of issues relative to any number of players.

Honest questions:

Should Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and/or Roger Clemens be denied induction to the Hall of Fame?

Do you think the voters will keep out Rodriguez, Bonds, or Clemens?

If the book "Game of Shadows" is to be believed, I feel Bonds was in the Hall of Fame before he started taking PED's. I think Roger Clemens would fall into that category as well. Arod, I really don't know about. He was probably the best player in baseball prior to going to Texas where he claims to have started using PED's.

Mcgwire is a totally different area. He was was thought to be done as a player before St.Louis took a chance on him. He then came back much larger and started crushing the ball. It's a hard call. He and Sammy Sosa brought so much of the game back with their Maris chase that he deserves some form of consideration.

If I had a vote, I think I would not vote for Mcgwire at this time and let history and the debate play out a while longer.

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Honest questions:

Did McGwire break any MLB rules regarding steriods as a player?

Did Mark test positive for steriods at any point?

I think the answer to those questions are no. Look, I don't like the steriod era, or the fact seemingly lots of players took them, but MLB took a blind eye to it for 10 odd years. I don't understand why McGwire should be persona non grata or has his own set of issues relative to any number of players.

I think it's a given that Mark used PED's.

The bigger, immediate question is: Why in the world is Mark suddenly a major league coach? Will this open the door to other known drug users to be hired as coaches and eventually managers? Is LaRussa gonna hire Clemens, and say, Willie Aikins to his staff? The Cardinals are getting off the hook way too easy on this one, at least in these parts. (I've not been a regular reader of this site, so if this was discussed here, let me know.)

Will this bold move by the Cardinals allow the Tigers to finally promote Leon Durham to the majors after all these years? Or should we hire Barry Bonds as hitting coach?

Regarding Tram, his candidacy for the HOF is hurt (or certainly not helped) by his poor record as a manager and his failure to be rehired to another mgr posistion.

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The bigger, immediate question is: Why in the world is Mark suddenly a major league coach?

Because he is close to Holliday and they are hoping that McGwire's might sway him to signing with the Cardinals and also help him as a hitter.

Will this open the door to other known drug users to be hired as coaches and eventually managers?

I would be shocked if all the current managers and coaches were clean. Drug use has been rampant in baseball for a long time.

Regarding Tram, his candidacy for the HOF is hurt (or certainly not helped) by his poor record as a manager and his failure to be rehired to another mgr posistion.

I doubt his managerial career has hurt him. A good managerial career might have helped him but I doubt anyone outside of Detroit really cares about his time as manager of some awful teams.

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If the book "Game of Shadows" is to be believed, I feel Bonds was in the Hall of Fame before he started taking PED's. I think Roger Clemens would fall into that category as well. Arod, I really don't know about. He was probably the best player in baseball prior to going to Texas where he claims to have started using PED's.

Mcgwire is a totally different area. He was was thought to be done as a player before St.Louis took a chance on him. He then came back much larger and started crushing the ball. It's a hard call. He and Sammy Sosa brought so much of the game back with their Maris chase that he deserves some form of consideration.

If I had a vote, I think I would not vote for Mcgwire at this time and let history and the debate play out a while longer.

A) I dispute the claim that McGwire was about done as a player when he went to St. Louis. That simply isn't true. His last full year in Oakland, he OPSed 1.200. 1.200! Then his OPS was 1.000 when he was dealt to STL mid-season.

B) Mark's career was side-tracked in Oakland largely by nagging back injuries in Oakland, not lack of performance. I think there was plenty of evidence that Mark had the skill to excel, provided he wasn't sidetracked by injury.

C) So we know Bonds and ARod failed a drug test, but we will overlook that, because it has been suggested they didn't start until well into their career (and one of those cases, the claim is made by the player, who has a self-interest in making it appear that PEDs did not improve his performance much). We don't know when Mark started using PED's, or even if he did them. Don't get me wrong - I think Mark used them, but for all I know, it could have been at the end of his career when he already compiled HoF numbers, and by your rationale, should be in.

Edited by Mr. Bigglesworth
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I think it's a given that Mark used PED's.

I don't think it is to much to ask that we actually have evidence before we take it as a given someone used PEDs. That is my position.

The bigger, immediate question is: Why in the world is Mark suddenly a major league coach?

Because he was a highly effective hitter who might have something useful to teach major league hitters?

Will this open the door to other known drug users to be hired as coaches and eventually managers?

You mean like Bull Durham?

Is LaRussa gonna hire Clemens, and say, Willie Aikins to his staff?

If those guys can make the Cardinals better, why not?

Just because someone may have done something you find objectionable in the past doesn't mean they still do it, or that it would affect their job performance, or that they would advocate others to do as they did.

The Cardinals are getting off the hook way too easy on this one, at least in these parts. (I've not been a regular reader of this site, so if this was discussed here, let me know.)

You are welcome to your opinion. I frankly disagree with it, and I think it comes off as somewhat sanctimonious. But that is just my opinion.

Will this bold move by the Cardinals allow the Tigers to finally promote Leon Durham to the majors after all these years? Or should we hire Barry Bonds as hitting coach?

The Tigers should hire whomever provides the most net benefit to the team on the whole.

I don't think Bull Durham's drug history in the 80's has had any impact on why he is not a MLB coach today.

It is entirely possible his struggles with drugs and subsequent sobering / cleaning up might have made him more valuable to a team as a coach, because he might better understand the psycology behind substance abuse a little better due to his personal experience, and be better able to help players avoid the pitfalls of substance abuse, or better able to identify a problem and help players get the help they need, if necessary.

Regarding Tram, his candidacy for the HOF is hurt (or certainly not helped) by his poor record as a manager and his failure to be rehired to another mgr posistion.

I don't think Trammell's HoF candidacy has been influenced one bit by his managerial career.

Edited by Mr. Bigglesworth
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McGuire is the first KNOWN drug user to be hired as a coach. That's the point here.

When has McGwire ever tested positive for drugs or PEDs?

Is alcohol a drug? There have been plenty of known alcoholics that managed baseball teams. Some did so during the prohibition, when it was against the law.

It would not surprise me one bit if Billy Martin was into harder drugs than alcohol, as one example.

I think everyone here knows that "Drug use has been rampant in baseball for a long time".

So having or not having McGwire as a hitting coach influences that in any real or tangible way?

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It comes down to character. That's why known drug users have not been hired as coaches in the past.

I don't personally have a position on this and am not involved in the hiring process. You've stated your position and that's fine. You would hire the drug users. All I'm saying is that historically they've not been hired.

Edited by Chili Mac Davis
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