January 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

Joe Adams

Playing one more season hurt Alan Trammell's Hall quest

When Lou Whitaker retired at the end of the 1995 season, Alan Trammell decided to play one more season. (Steve Perez/Detroit News)

Another Hall of Fame election is upon us, and while attention in these parts turns toward whether Jack Morris finally becomes the first player from the 1984 Tigers to be enshrined, truth be told, Tigers fans are more interested in another quest.

Morris was a Tiger for the majority of his career, but Tigers fans seem more interested in the case of Alan Trammell, who spent his entire career in Detroit and seems to have a much more difficult case for enshrinement than Morris.

Morris, of course, left the Tigers as a free agent and won World Series titles with the Twins and Blue Jays. Trammell, on the other hand, stayed in Detroit and finished his career with some bad Tigers teams.

That might explain why Tigers fans see him in a more favorable light but not why Hall voters don't.

My theory --- Trammell has nobody to blame but himself.

Why?

When Lou Whitaker retired at the end of the 1995 season, Trammell decided to play one more season. That decision, I believe, injured both men's chances for the Hall of Fame.

I argue Whitaker's fate is worse than Trammell's. He fell off the ballot after his first year of eligibility, having failed to receive five percent of the votes, which was required to stay on the ballot.

While Whitaker fell off the ballot, Ryne Sandberg of the Cubs made the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility. I've yet to be convinced Sandberg was a better player than Whitaker. His main advantage was he played before a national audience thanks to Chicago superstation WGN.

When Trammell was playing, he generally was considered the third-best shortstop in the American League, behind Cal Ripken and Robin Yount. No rule says the Hall needs just two shortstops from each era, and Trammell's case has been buttressed by the election of Barry Larkin, who was comparable to Trammell but not necessarily better.

I think if Trammell and Whitaker would have hit the ballot in same season, instead of in succeeding years, it would have helped both players immeasurably. Were there ever any two players in baseball who were thought of together more than Trammell and Whitaker? They were a double-play combination for 20 years and were the 1-2 hitters for one of the best single-season teams in history. Trammell's case also was hurt when he lost the 1987 MVP vote to Toronto's George Bell in a horrible injustice, but that's another story.

Trammell's quest picked up steam last year. He got 36 percent of the vote, but with only four years left on the ballot and the influx of superstars beginning with the 2013 vote, it's doubtful he will make it.

That leaves him for the Veterans Committee, where he can be reunited with Whitaker in the minds of the voters. Hopefully, that will help both finally gain enshrinement.

joe.adams@detnews.com