Once again this year Alan Trammell will not hear his name called when baseball's newest Hall of Fame class is announced. This will not come as a surprise to Trammell, nor to any of those who believe he put together a Hall of Fame career in Detroit.
Trammell by either the eye test or the statistical one deserves to be enshrined. And yet while often a player with a legitimate argument for the Hall will enjoy slow, steady gains among voters, Trammell fell from 36.8 percent in 2012 to 20.8 percent last year. With a crowded ballot again this year and a maximum number of 10 votes to be cast by each ballot-holder, Trammell is not likely to see a gain this year either.
That's a real shame -- but one I can understand.
The great thing about Hall of Fame voting is that like fantasy sports it's easily accessible for the fan at home and allows them to play along.
I don't have a Hall of Fame vote, like most everyone else out there. Yet like Hall of Fame voters, my opinion has changed from year to year. Maybe you could say I've grown more informed, though others might think I've actually gone in the opposite direction.
There was a time I believed Jack Morris deserved to be in the Hall and Trammell did not. Maybe I was a literalist. It's the Hall of Fame, I'd note. And few pitchers of Morris' era were more famous. And did you see that World Series game? How is he not a Hall of Famer?
Trammell? Well, he was really good at baseball. But not good enough to garner a lot of awards. Didn't even win an MVP once. Couldn't be that famous even in his own time, why does he deserve a spot in the Hall?
Frankly, it's a good thing I didn't have a vote.
Since then my opinion has totally reversed. Over the years I added Trammell to the list of players I believed deserved a spot, then removed Morris, whose time on the ballot has since run out, as well.
Maybe that's overcompensating in the other direction, but the statistics make a clear case for why Trammell belongs and Morris didn't, if you choose to listen.
The problem with advanced stats is that although they may tell you something you didn't know about the game, not all of them are easily accessible to the mind. And the more you have to twist and turn to understand them, the less likely you are to give them credence.
For instance, WAR -- wins over replacement player. It's a great tool to allow you to compare players from different skill-sets, positions or eras to each other. It truly is. But the calculations behind the stat? That's not going to fit in a handy paragraph.
Or a personal favorite when looking at Hall of Fame debates, Jay Jaffe's JAWS. The description at Baseball Reference is, being kind, dry reading.
"A player's JAWS is his career WAR averaged with his seven-year peak WAR (not necessarily consecutive years). For non-pitchers, all non-pitching WAR (offense, defense, baserunning) is included in determining the averages, but any pitching WAR they might have accrued is not … "
That's not even the full sentence. I can understand why some would be skeptical. I'd be more worried if you read that and weren't a bit skeptical, frankly.
Trammell ranks 11th among shortstops in JAWS. Nine of them above him in the rankings are retired, and eight of those are in the Hall of Fame. Thirteen shortstops with a lower JAWS rating are in the Hall.
Maybe Trammell's problem is that by that measure he was only the fourth-best of his era, behind Cal Ripkin, Robin Yount and Ozzie Smith? But should that disqualify his candidacy? Maybe it does for a majority of voters. But then why'd Barry Larkin get in?
Morris meanwhile ranks 163rd in JAWS among starting pitchers, and substantially below the 59 who've made the Hall.
"Yeah, but if you saw him pitch …" You'd have watched a player who either "pitched to the score" or who gave up more runs than many of his contemporaries while playing for some great teams. Your narrative, your choice on that one.
Which when you get right down to it sums up the Hall of Fame. Right now Trammell's narrative is strong among those whose livelihoods lie in statistics, but he seems to be lost among a majority of those who hold votes. The story that can be told about Trammell is a good one, but it just doesn't seem that interesting to most ears -- or maybe it's just not reaching them.
A shame. It needs to be heard by more. If it were, maybe the tide would turn in his direction, as it did with me.
Trammell deserves to hear his name called for Cooperstown.
Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (www.blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.