Another Hall of Fame season has come and gone without any Detroit Tigers joining the party. Jack Morris and Alan Trammell were popular names heading into the vote with Morris being the most likely to succeed, but both lost votes and were left holding the short straw once again.
Debates rage on about whether Morris was Hall of Fame worthy due to his elevated career ERA of 3.90 and his 1.30 WHIP. Morris was a winner though, rolling up 254 big league victories with many coming when the lights were brightest. His candidacy was debatable but ultimately he didn’t get in.
To me, what boggles the mind far more than Morris missing the boat yet again is the collective voter ignorance when it comes to Trammell and his former keystone mate Lou Whitaker. Whitaker fell off the ballot after just one year when he failed to even garner 5% of the vote. Disgraceful.
When listening to The Drive With Jack Ebling out of Lansing on Wednesday afternoon he brought up something he heard that suggested the 1984 Tigers were the best “TEAM” of all time. World Series champions that left little doubt, yet fail to boast even a single Hall of Famer. You don’t find that very often.
But should this be the etching on their tombstone? I say no.
And while it’s true that the Veteran’s Committee could eventually vote all three of these Tigers into the Hall, it’s not how they should have to enter.
Morris notwithstanding, Trammell and Whitaker should have been in years ago. Certainly the voting system is flawed. Antiquated and outdated writers get votes who have failed to evolve in their thinking of what makes a great baseball player. To their credit though, the voters themselves are horribly restricted by only being allowed to vote for 10 former players each year. Why? Shouldn’t they vote for as many or as few as they deem worthy of the most prestigious award baseball has to offer?
Regardless, it isn’t entirely the voters or the Hall of Fame’s voting policies that are to blame here.
Paging Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski… This dyamic duo has rebuilt the Tigers into a perennial contender by opening up the wallet and creatively trading for a contending roster year in and year out. However, they have done this while virtually ignoring their not so distant past.
Should Sparky Anderson’s #11 be the only individual memorial that adorns Comerica Park in representation of the ’84 Tigers. If you’re going to pick just one that’s certainly a great choice but there is absolutely no excuse as to why Sweet Lou’s #1 and Tram’s #3 do not hang on the Comerica brick with statues under construction or already comingling with Cobb, Gehringer, and the rest.
Willie Horton’s #23 is retired in Detroit. He played 12 full seasons for the Tigers and helped them to the 1968 title. Horton swatted 262 homers while wearing the Old English D. Horton played in four All-Star games as a member of the Tigers.
As for Trammell and Whitaker? They played 19 and 18 full seasons with the Tigers, respectively. Trammell was an All-Star six times to Whitaker’s five. Trammell won four Gold Gloves, Whitaker has three on his mantle. Whitaker was a Silver Slugger four times to Trammell’s three. Whitaker was the 1978 Rookie of the Year and Trammell the ’84 World Series MVP. They were the up-the-middle defensive and top-of-the-order offensive fuel that piloted the Tigers to that magical crown 30 long years ago.
Whitaker clubbed 244 homers and swiped 143 bases during his time in Detroit. Trammell hit 185 and stole 236. Their statistics rank among the best at their position not only from their generation, but all-time. Yet the Hall of Fame is but a distant dream.
In short, and from my perspective, since Al Kaline retired in 1974 no two players more perfectly epitomize what it means to be a legendary Tiger in terms of statistical excellence, organizational loyalty, and love from the fan base than Tram and Lou.
Whitaker hung up the cleats in 1995 and Trammell in ’96. Since then, they have by and large been forgotten by not just Hall of Fame voters but also the Tigers organization. #1 is now worn by Jose Iglesias and #3 by Ian Kinsler. Not only were these number assignments offensive, it’s just bad policy.
Noted sabermetrician and baseball mind Bill James rated Trammell as the 9th best shorstop of all-time and Whitaker the 13th best 2nd baseman ever. Yet no love.
It has been nearly 20 years since this incredibly talented and prolific combo owned the dirt at Tiger Stadium. Had the Tigers as a club made a bigger deal about their legacies as truly great players, giving them their much deserved due by retiring their numbers, maybe then some of the catatonic Hall voters would’ve taken greater notice and their names wouldn’t continue to rest in anonymity.
Come on DD and Mr. I, you gotta get this one right.
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