This is a tale of fifteen years of getting stiffed by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America: the story of Alan Trammell’s once-promising Hall of Fame candidacy.
The latest incident of being “stiffed” occurred on January 6th, 2016, when Trammell — one-half of the longest running double-play tandem in Major League Baseball history alongside Lou Whitaker (1977-95) — was rejected entry into the Hall in his final year on the ballot.
Although he received above 40 percent of the BBWAA’s vote for the first time (40.9 percent), it was not a good enough result for a large sect of Tigers fans who believe “Tram” was undeservedly held out of Cooperstown while less offensively impressive shortstops (i.e. Ozzie Smith) and equally deserving ones (i.e. Barry Larkin) have gained entry and in three years or less of being on the ballot (Larkin in his third year and Smith in his inaugural year).
For instance, according to Baseball Reference, the aforementioned St. Louis Cardinals legend and defensive wizard Smith only hit 28 home runs and recorded an OPS+ of below 100 in his 19-year big league career.
Additionally, Smith and Trammell finished runner-up for Most Valuable Player in their respective leagues during the 1987 campaign — both Smith and Trammell’s best finish in National League and American League MVP award-voting, respectively.
Yet, Smith’s OPS+ during his ’87 MVP runner-up season paled in comparison to Trammell’s, who recorded an OPS+ of 155 — a career-best mark and 50 points better than “The Wizard of Oz’s” OPS+ of 105.
And from ’87 until the end of their respective careers, which simultaneously finished up in 1996, Trammell proved once again to be the better offensive shortstop. In fact, Smith recorded an OPS of just .700 in the last 10 seasons of his career with an OPS+ below 100 — OPS+ of 94 — while Detroit’s 1984 World Series MVP put together a 10-year stretch in which his OPS+ was 20 points better than the 2002 HOF inductee’s (114 OPS+).
The three-time Silver Slugger and four-time Gold Glove award winner also compiled an on-base plus slugging percentage nearly 100 points better than Smith’s over his final 10 seasons.
And yes, I know that Smith finished with a better career wins above replacement mark than the longtime Tigers shortstop, accumulating a WAR of 76.5 from 1978-96 in comparison to Trammell’s WAR of 70.4 from 1977-96, according to Baseball Reference.
However, it is also true that “Tram,” a six-time All-Star, finished with a higher career WAR than all of the following Hall of Fame infielders: the aforementioned Larkin (a 2012 HOF inductee who produced 70.2 WAR), a pair of Chicago Cubs legends in 2005 HOF inductee Ryne Sandberg (67.5 WAR) and 1977 HOF inductee Ernie Banks (67.4 WAR) plus 2015 HOF inductee Craig Biggio (65.1 WAR), just to name a few.
Another significant thing to point out is that during the Tigers’ 1976 second-round selection’s should’ve been MVP campaign of ’87 in which he hit .343 along with 28 long balls and 105 runs batted in, he produced more WAR — 8.2 — than Larkin did during his MVP-winning campaign of 1995 (5.9 WAR).
All of this indicates to me that the BBWAA did Trammell wrong. Although he never won an MVP like Larkin, Sandberg, Banks and many others who are in the Hall, Trammell should have been enshrined in Cooperstown during one of his 15 years on the ballot.
Now, the only way for him to receive such an honor is via the Expansion Era Committee. It’s something that I believe should and will happen for the smooth-operating shortstop who played all 20 of his big league seasons on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.