Trammell faces long odds in his 14th try on Hall of Fame ballot

Alan Trammell has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for 14 years.

Alan Trammell has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for 14 years.

Tomorrow the National Baseball Hall of Fame will announce the results of the annual voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America and reveal the Class of 2015. Ironically, for a man who had so much class, Alan Trammell‘s name won’t be mentioned.

Trammell is on the ballot for the 14th time but he has never been able to garner more than 36.8% support so far and that occurred in 2012. This Hall of Fame ballot has several highly qualified candidates and it’s likely that Trammell will get something close to the 20% support he got last year. To be elected a candidate must receive 75% support on the ballot.

No one knows more than Trammell the long odds he faces. “It’s very nice to know I have some support, but I’m not close enough,” Trammell told the Detroit Free Press last month.

But if you ask his peers, his former teammates, and Detroit fans who watched him for two decades in a Detroit uniform, they would agree that Trammell deserves to be a Hall of Famer.

In 20 seasons all spent wearing The Old English D, Trammell hit .285 with 2,365 hits, 185 homers, 1,231 runs, 1,003 runs batted in, and 236 stolen bases. Those offensive numbers place him in the upper echelon for shortstops in big league history. Add in his great defensive play where he was regarded as a fundamentally sound player and captured four Gold Gloves. But don’t stop there, Trammell won the 1984 World Series Most Valuable Player Award and also added to his clutch reputation by hitting .343 with 28 homers and 105 RBIs in 1987 when he was asked by Sparky Anderson to hit cleanup to replace Lance Parrish. Trammell’s incredible offensive performance that year carried the Tigers to the best record in baseball and an AL East division title. Down the stretch he hit .417 from September 1 on, adding a .677 slugging percentage while getting on base almost half the time.

Trammell’s credentials go beyond the numbers. He was the face of the Tigers’ franchise for most of his career, providing leadership for a team that had the second-best record in baseball during the 1980s. So often, as he went, so went the Tigers. When Trammell got off to a hot start in 1984, the team went 35-5 to set a record for the best start in baseball history. When Trammell caught fire in the second half of the ’87 season the Tigers roared past the Blue Jays to finish in first place. He was far more than just a great player, he was the franchise.

New names on the ballot this season include Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz. Most likely two of those three will earn election tomorrow, and holdover Craig Biggio (who missed by two votes last year) will probably make it too. But with other candidates Mike Piazza, Jeff Bagwell, and Tim Raines all over 40% and with Gary Sheffield and Carlos Delgado also debuting on the ballot, votes will be spread out making it harder for candidates like Trammell to gain more support. Traditionally, players who last 14-15 years on the ballot get a boost in their last few years, but the Hall of Fame ballot is bloated with the players already mentioned as well as steroids guys like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Trammell’s fate is a matter of numbers and they aren’t on his side.

He has one more chance on the writers’ ballot in 2016 and after that Trammell will be eligible for election by the Eras Committee which considers players of his era every three years commencing again for the election class of 2017. His former double play partner Lou Whitaker will also be eligible to appear on the Eras Committee ballot for the first time that year too. Maybe it was always meant to be that the two would be elected to the Hall of Fame together?