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MLB Insider: In numbers game, Yankees trump Tigers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Player A has a career WAR of 71.8. Player B has a career WAR of 70.4.

Player A had his number retired by the New York Yankees on Sunday night, and certainly will be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer when he’s eligible in the coming years. Player B has not had his number retired by the Detroit Tigers, and wasn’t even a 15th-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Tigers infielderd Lou Whitaker, left, and Alan Trammell pose prior to the home opener of their 18th season as Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium in 1994.

To quote the Tweeter-in-Chief: SAD!

Player A, obviously, is Derek Jeter, the Kalamazoo kid who played 20 years of shortstop in the Bronx. Player B, obviously, is Alan Trammell, who played 20 years of shortstop in The D.

Practically every baseball metric considers these two players extremely comparable — Jeter the better hitter, Trammell the better defender — yet one is considered an icon in this game, and the other might just go unrecognized standing in line at the Fowlerville McDonald’s.

How exactly did this happen?

The easy explanation is one late Tigers broadcaster Paul Carey told me a few years back: One player played East of the Hudson River, and one didn’t. In other words, Jeter benefited greatly from playing in the media capital of the world, New York, and in an era where every game is televised, and every tweet is scrutinized.

That surely explains the Hall-of-Fame thing, as Jeter threatens to become the first player ever to receive unanimous support on his Hall-of-Fame ballot. Trammell topped out at less than 50 percent, and isn’t even eligible anymore.

Just as gross a snub, Lou Whitaker didn’t even last two years on the ballot, even though his contemporaries, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Morgan, were easy, breezy inductees.

But the Hall of Fame’s not really my point here. Jeter is a deserving Hall-of-Famer, and it’s no state secret just how I feel about Trammell and Whitaker’s Cooperstown credentials. The writers have failed, bigly —not that it’s a surprise the big markets have consistently let down the stars from the smaller markets over the years.

The bigger beef here, instead, is with the Tigers, themselves.

The Tigers have long believed, of course, that Trammell and Whitaker are Hall-of-Famers. Cool. But it’s awfully tough to make that case when you won’t even retire their numbers. The Tigers, traditionally, wait to retire numbers until a player has made the Hall of Fame. But that’s giving an awful lot of pull to a voter in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania, don’t ya think?

This line of thinking also lends itself to a potential awkward situation in the coming years — how will the Tigers honor Pudge Rodriguez, a Hall-of-Famer this summer and a central figure in the franchise’s turnaround, but certainly less important than Trammell and Whitaker.

I’ve asked the Tigers, multiple times, for a spelled-out reasoning for this nonsense, and never have received a response. Another Ilitch-owned team, the Red Wings, have their own saga on their hands, with the non-number-retirement of Sergei Fedorov.

Look, there’s no hard rules on this kind of stuff. Every franchise is different, and has the right to do what it wants. But here’s a good guideline to go by: Retired numbers shouldn’t have a lick to do with anything but what said player meant to his franchise.

Former Yankees shortstop and Kalamazoo native Derek Jeter holds his plaque with Hal Steinbrenner and wife Elizabeth Steinbrenner during the retirement ceremony of his No. 2 jersey Sunday at Yankee Stadium in New York City.

The Yankees get that, as well as anybody — Billy Martin, Thurman Munson, Jorge Posada, Don Mattingly, Andy Pettitte, Ron Guidry and Bernie Williams aren’t Hall-of-Famers — even though it means they’re now out of single digits, except for “0,” after Jeter’s No. 2 went to Monument Park.

The Tigers, sadly, do not, because if they did, Trammell and Whitaker would’ve had their Nos. 3 and 1, respectively, retired the minute they stepped off the field for good in the 1990s, and would have been immortalized in a statue — perhaps of the two of them turning two — when Comerica Park opened in 2000. If you want to throw Jack Morris into that mix, go for it. I don’t. But to each their own.

Interestingly, Jay Jaffe, of Sports Illustrated and an expert at quantifying player values spanning all eras, recently posted a column on the six numbers across all of baseball that should be retired — with Trammell and Whitaker joining Barry Bonds (Giants), Dave Stieb (Blue Jays), Fernando Valenzuela (Dodgers) and Larry Walker (Rockies).

Trammell and Whitaker won a World Series in Detroit, the last World Series in Detroit. They were loyal to Detroit. They were All-Stars. They were Gold Glovers. They were Silver Sluggers. They weren’t MVPs (neither was Jeter), though Trammell should’ve been in 1987.

Simply put, they scream Tigers baseball.

Yet, Tigers fans are left to scream: What’s taking so long!?!

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer winces in pain after being hit with a line drive in the fourth inning Sunday. In the fifth, the former Tiger struck out the side on nine pitches.

Scherzer’s scare

We’re guessing he’s just fine.

In the fourth inning Sunday, Nationals ace Max Scherzer was drilled in the knee by a line drive. He hit the deck, was in obvious pain, and was examined at length by training staff.

Then, in the fifth inning Sunday, Scherzer struck out the side on nine pitches — in what’s referred to in baseball circles as the “immaculate inning.”

It was just the second in Nationals history. The other belonged to Jordan Zimmermann, now a Tiger, in 2011.

“I didn’t realize it until I went back into the video room and they were like, ‘Did you know?’ ” Scherzer, an ex-Tiger, told MLB.com. “That was the first time I had done that, so that was pretty sweet.”

The Nationals won that game, the second game of a doubleheader, 6-5, over the Phillies, and are 24-13, already a whopping 7.5 games up on the next-closet team, the Mets.

Scherzer, in Year 3 of a seven-year, $210 million contract, is 4-2 with a 2.80 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.

Collins ‘thrilled’ to be with Mets

This weekend, Terry Collins (10), the Midland, Mich., native and Eastern Michigan alumnus, will become the longest-tenured manager in Mets history, passing Davey Johnson.

Speaking of those Mets, it’s been a rough, rough year — from all the injuries, to the Matt Harvey saga, to the sex toy. Yeah. Look it up.

Through it all, manager Terry Collins has handled things in a relatively calm manner, a trait that’s probably the reason he’s been able to survive the pressure cooker that is New York.

This weekend, Collins, the Midland, Mich., native and Eastern Michigan alumnus, will become the longest-tenured manager in Mets history, passing Davey Johnson. Collins started on the job in 2011, led the team to the World Series in 2015, and the wild-card game in 2016. Not bad for a man who, at first, was considered a stop-gap hire in the wake of the Jerry Manuel saga.

“People were telling me, ‘You’re only gonna be here until they get to be good, and they’ll get somebody else,’ ” Collins, 67, told the New York Times. “I’m thrilled to still be here. This is a great place to manage. It’s really fun. A tremendous fan base with great passion for the team and the game.”

Collins is 497-511 with the Mets and 941-945 overall, including managerial stints with the Astros and Angels.

Three up ...

1. Wearing No. 2, Houston’s ALEX BREGMAN hit a grand slam at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night, “Derek Jeter Night.”

2. Cincinnati’s EUGENIO SUAREZ, a former Tigers prospect, is fourth in the NL in Wins Above Replacement.

3. For all the talk about the Yankees, the ORIOLES are 22-14, impressive without closer Zach Britton.

... three down

1. After a sizzling start, Tigers outfielder TYLER COLLINS is hitless in his last 29 plate appearances.

2. The World Series-champion CUBS continue to spin their tires, at 18-19 and fourth place in the NL Central.

3. Since re-signing with the Blue Jays, slugger JOSE BAUTISTA has been brutal, with a .642 OPS through 38 games.

Diamond digits

38: The lowest number that’s not retired by any team in Major League Baseball.

340: Strikeouts Red Sox ace Chris Sale is on pace for, which would be the most since Randy Johnson had 372 in 2001.

5/15/1912: In a dark day for the Tigers, Ty Cobb charged into the stands in New York and, as the story goes, attacked a disabled heckler. He was suspended indefinitely, but the ban was short-lived as his teammates threatened to strike unless he was reinstated.

He said it

“You got to be tough, you got to be strong.”

Tim Welke, retired major-league umpire from West Michigan, recalling the advice given to him by his mentor, Steve Palermo, who died Sunday at age 67.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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