The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame recently concluded a vote by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The voting process has been the subject of great scrutiny. despite electing two deserving candidates in second baseman Roberto Alomar and starting pitcher Bert Blyleven, the process is still a mess.
Let’s not take anything away from the careers of Alomar and Blyleven, they were truly great. But both elections were overdue. The duo missed election last year by a combined total of 13 votes. Alomar was punished by select voters – many didn’t consider him worthy of election his first time on the ballot. But this year, he garnered 90 percent of the vote, the third-highest mark in history.
Blyleven’s election makes him the only player elected into the Hall of Fame on his 14th time on the ballot. His election gives qualified candidates like Tim Raines hope. Blyleven was overshadowed by other pitchers during his heyday but was able to round up more support through an Internet campaign that focused on advanced statistical analysis (I’m looking at you, Rich Lederer).
For example, it is true Blyleven never won a Cy Young during his playing career. However, he had a Wins Above Replacement higher than the Cy Young winner five times during his career.
The only other players to receive more than 50 percent of the vote were shortstop Barry Larkin with 361 votes (62.1 percent) and pitcher Jack Morris with 311 (53.3 percent).
I have no problem with the amount of support Larkin is getting after debuting on the ballot last year with a strong 51.6 percent showing.
He’s a deserving player, by traditional merits and advanced analysis, who now finds himself on the cusp of election next year.
My question is what does Alan Trammell have to do to get the time of day from the BBWAA?
Trammell saw the ballot for the tenth time this year, receiving 24.3 percent of the votes, less than a third of what he needs for election. Looking at the careers of Larkin and Trammell, there’s no way Larkin is 220 votes better. Tram finished his career with a 110 adjusted on-base plus slugging, and four Gold Gloves at a premium defensive position.
Larkin finished with a career 116 OPS , but his support is greater because it’s easy for writers to remember his greatness. He won the 1995 MVP hitting .319 with 15 home runs and 51 stolen bases. Trammell’s best year came in 1987, when he hit .343 with 28 home runs, 34 doubles, and 21 stolen bases.
He finished second in the MVP voting that year to the Blue Jays’ George Bell, who led the league in traditional statistics home runs and runs batted in, but saw Tram’s Tigers eliminate the Jays on the last day of the season. Of course, Trammell led Bell in WAR that year 8.4 to 5.0. His ’87 8.4 mark also bests Larkin’s ’95 M.V.P campaign at 5.9 and his peak ’96 year of 7.4.
Trammell wasn’t Ozzie Smith, Mark Belanger or Omar Vizquel in the field. But Trammell had more defensive hardware than Cal Ripken Jr. and Larkin. This is extremely frustrating considering the amount of support Jack Morris gets. Baseball writers continue to ignore the defensive value Trammell and Lou Whitaker provided when it comes to their cases, yet the same group is rewarding Morris for the same thing.
This further displays the lack of awareness the voters have when it comes to evaluating players. Whitaker, who played a prime defensive position providing value offensively (career 116 OPS ) and defensively (three Gold Gloves), couldn’t even stay on the ballot after his first year of eligibility. Yet, Juan Gonzalez received 5.2 percent of the vote this year?
Morris gets half the vote, but only 12 guys vote for Kevin Brown when his career ERA is almost three quarters of a run lower? This is complete madness, at least nobody voted for Bobby Higginson or Raul Mondesi.
The sad truth for Trammell is that no player with less than 30 percent on the 10th ballot has ever been elected by the writers or the Veterans Committee. It’s amazing that the two most underrated players of the 20th century played side-by-side for 19 seasons. It’s a shame that they aren’t celebrated in the same way as their peers.
The Hall of Fame voting process is so screwed up, they’d be overjoyed if evaluating players was the height of their problems. Unfortunately, the league and the writers sat on their hands during the steroid-era and now the court of public opinion will decide whether or not the elite players of this generation used performance-enhancing drugs.
Even guys like Jeff Bagwell (41.7 percent) and Edgar Martinez (32.9 percent), who have clearly deserving resumes and no actual evidence of steroid use, are having a tough time getting in.
Mark McGwire (19.8 percent) and Rafael Palmeiro (11percent) might as well grab a Snickers, because the driving force behind the next 20 Hall of Fame ballots won’t be WAR, it’ll be PED.