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Did Lou Whitaker’s presence hurt Alan Trammell’s Hall of Fame case?

Jan 10, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

Alan Trammell

Larkin is in, Trammell is not, and likely won’t ever be.  This despite the fact that they were remarkably similar players.  Grant Brisbee takes that up over at SB Nation today and, after doing the standard statistical comparison, he adds a couple of new wrinkles to that now-familiar lament.  The first: Trammell suffered because Cal Ripken was a contemporary and thus keeps him out of the “best shortstop in his league” conversation.

The other one is something I hadn’t thought of before:

Another difference between Larkin and Trammell is that the latter had a sidekick who was also worthy of the Hall of Fame. For just under two decades, Lou Whitaker played along Trammell, making All-Star teams and hitting at a position where most teams shouldn’t have a hitter. The two rode around on tandem bikes and finished each other’s sentences, and there might have been a tendency to pretend that the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. If Trammell played a couple decades with Doug Flynn, maybe he would have stood out more.

Makes sense. And explains why Whitaker got less support than he should have too. Criminally less, given that he fell off the ballot in his first year of eligibility despite stacking up quite nicely with many Hall of Fame second basemen.

  1. Jeremiah Graves - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    I was basically just having this same conversation yesterday…Trammel and Sweet Lou both make the cut in my opinion. Granted, with the modern requirements being that you need to have been Babe Ruth with the bat, morally pure in every way and somehow clean of all indiscretions in life, the bar is set pretty f’n high.

    Note: If you don’t fit the above criteria, you’re also allowed *in* if Jon Heyman saw you play ball.

    • skids003 - Jan 11, 2012 at 10:42 AM

      Craig, it makes no sense. Anyone who would base their vote on this logic just proves the point that most of these so called expert writers doing the voting need their votes revoked. You would not vote for one because the other stood out? That’s like not voting for Lou Gehrig because he didn’t stand out playing alongside Babe Ruth!!!

  2. Kyle - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    It’s such a shame that these guys just can’t wrap their minds around how good Whitaker and Trammell were.

    • paperlions - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:51 PM

      If only there was a repository or two of historical baseball records that would allow people to go back and see how good players performed all the way back to the 1970s….but alas, there is not, requiring us to defer to those who sat in press boxes during those halcyon days for our knowledge of baseball lore, sideburns, and bell bottom jeans.

      • mox19380 - Jan 10, 2012 at 2:43 PM

        Aside from stats they compare players with both contemporary and similar players across time. It’s how I learned that Mickey Cochorane was probably the 2nd greatest catcher all-time

      • paperlions - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        Seriously? Someone should tell baseball writers about that place.

  3. nategearhart - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I’m not sure I buy it, because it means having it (or leaving it, I guess) both ways. Voters decided quite soundly (and wrongly!) that Whitaker was not good enough for the hall. I don’t know that they’d turn around and punish Trammell for having a “less-than-great” second baseman for a double-play partner.

    • philliesblow - Jan 10, 2012 at 12:16 PM

      Lou’s problem wasn’t that voters didn’t think he was HOF material, but that too many voters thought he wasn’t first ballot HOF material. They left him off their ballot figuring a large portion of the other voters would include him so they could vote for him further down the road. Only problem was that too many had the same thought so not enough voted to keep him on. Bet he would have got at least 15 – 20 % in year one otherwise.

  4. gogigantos - Jan 10, 2012 at 12:02 PM

    Between the ‘Stick and the Coliseum I saw a lot of ball in the 80’s. Trammel Whitaker were slicker than sweet and I always thought they would go in together. My eyes and what I saw clearly deceived me. Tragic I think. Or, just wrong.
    As much I love love loved Darrel Evans, well, he never looked Hall to me. I clearly recall a night at the ‘Stick he could not get a glove on anything. I also know he was denied more than a few taters and all important RBIs by the arctic winds of the yard on many a night.
    On every night I saw Raines play, I knew he was Hall for sure, Larkin too. Pure love hate and respect with those guys. Eric Davis had a room of love and hate all to himself.

  5. istillbelieveinblue - Jan 10, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    This really makes sense. Look at Ron Santo. He was great, and definitely a Hall of Famer in my book, but I understand the arguments against him, one of them being he was never the best player on his own team, let alone the National League. That’ll happen when you play with Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams. Maybe a guy like Trammel will get in via the Veterans’ committee someday, when the guys voting are the same guys that played against him instead of writers.

  6. Detroit Michael - Jan 10, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    I disagree with the post’s first sentence. Alan Trammell likely will be inducted into the Hall of Fame eventually. He’s got 36% of the BBWAA vote, a fine statistical argument for being in, and is continuing to make friends throughout baseball by staying in the game. He’ll be in.

    The BBWAA, with fairly few exceptions (Jim Rice and Bruce Sutter are the only ones in the last ten years I’d guess), does not elect any borderline candidates to the Hall of Fame. The BBWAA mostly controls the timing of when a player gets elected. The fuzzy boundary between who eventually makes it into the Hall of Fame is determined by the various veterans committees many decades afterward.

  7. coltssteve - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    The fact that Trammell is a WS MVP (1984) and Larkin is not, should have been enough evidence to the BBWAA voters that Barry Larkin as the sole HOF entrant should not have passed the smell test. For Barry Larkin to receive 86% of the vote because of phony baloney Silver Slugger awards, and cherry picked “new statistics” is absurd. Both Alan Trammell and Jack Morris were more deserving of entrance over Larkin. Both Trammell and Morris did extraordinary feats during their careers just look at their WS performances. I mean if Curt Schilling can have a serious HOF case because of his clutch WS performance then why not Trammell and Morris. For Trammell to garner only 36.8% versus Larkin at 86% proves beyond a doubt that the BBWAA, so called researchers, are incompetent and really have no idea who should be elected to the HOF. In my view, a true HOFer is clear cut e.g. Gwynn, Ted Williams, Nolan Ryan, etc. People had to lobby over three years and develop a cherry picked new statistic thesis for him to gain entrance. Lastly, the only reason Larkin made the HOF is because of steroids. Writers are now so obsessed with keeping the roiders out that they will create crazy arguments to justify electing someone to the HOF who never should have even come close to gaining entrance. The writers of the BBWAA are hypocrites who selectively chose statistics to justify their arbitrary votes. Lastly, please only elect people who can play a full season. Playing seven full seasons out of 19 total should be enough of a red flag to keep a guy out.

  8. oikosjeremy - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    I vaguely recall reading a remark from Bill James (in an old edition of the Historical Baseball Abstract?) about how Tinkers, Evers, and Chance all got into the HoF because people always thought of them as a great threesome, even if individually they wouldn’t all merit inclusion. So maybe Trammell isn’t so much suffering from having played with Whittaker, as suffering from no one having written a catchy poem about “Trammell to Whittaker to whoever’s playing first”. 😉

  9. oikosjeremy - Jan 10, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    correction “Tinker”

  10. chrisbee80 - Jan 10, 2012 at 7:38 PM

    It’s always about your team and marketability over your stats. Will The Thrill had better stats then many who are still on the ballot after one year and some who are in the HOF, yet he failed to get 5%. Its ALL about marketing just like the Heisman in college football

  11. vincentbojackson - Jan 10, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    Hard to take the hall of fame seriously when it excludes two greats like Trammell and Whittaker. They are among the very best ever, both on and off the field.

  12. tiger337 - Jan 10, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    Whitaker and Trammell hurting each others HoF chances is an interesting take. Both of them deserve more support than they have gotten. I’ve long that they might go in together via the Veterans Committee.

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