Tigers trio could get HOF vote in December

Tony Paul

It’s been 23 years since Jack Morris retired, 22 years for Lou Whitaker, and 21 years for Alan Trammell.

The legendary Detroit Tigers will find out early next month if they’re Cooperstown candidacies will get a reboot, when the Baseball Hall of Fame releases its Modern Baseball ballot Nov. 6.

While the names on the ballot, to include players whose greatest impact came between the years 1970 and 1987, are being kept under wraps, the Hall of Fame confirmed that all three former Tigers are eligible to be on the ballot.

A rule change two years states that players who fall off the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot after their eligibility ends are eligible for the Eras Committee ballot as soon as that fall of the same year.

Trammell’s eligibility ended in January, when he fell well short on the writers’ ballot for the 15th consecutive year. Morris’ run ended in 2014, when he missed for a 15th consecutive year. Whitaker, in one of the grossest examples of Hall of Fame injustice ever, lasted just one year on the ballot, 2001, falling off after he failed to receive 5 percent of the vote.

If there’s been any solace for Tigers fans over the years, it’s that Trammell and Whitaker could now someday go into the Hall of Fame together, fitting given how their careers played out.

The 10-person Modern Baseball ballot will be presented to the 16-member voting committee — made up of Hall-of-Famers and other dignitaries — at the winter meetings in early December, at Disney World in Florida. Results will be announced the same week. To be elected, a candidate needs 75 percent of the vote, or 12 votes. Committee members can vote for as many as four candidates, with no write-ins.

Assuming Morris, Trammell and Whitaker make the ballot — and given their career numbers and sabermetric stats stack up nicely with Hall-of-Fame peers from their era, it’s likely they will — it will be interesting to see how they fare in their first go-around with the committee. If Al Kaline is on the committee, as he has been in the past, his influence also could prove pivotal.

The Modern Baseball committee votes twice every five years, with the three other committees — Today’s Game (1988-present), Golden (1950-69) and Early (1871-1949) — voting once every five years. The committees are the Hall of Fame’s latest incarnations of the old Veterans Committee.

If Morris, Trammell and Whitaker fail to make it this time, they’d have to wait until the 2019 winter meetings for another vote.

Morris won three World Series championships, including with the Tigers in 1984, Twins in 1991 and Blue Jays in 1992. Trammell and Whitaker are the longest double-play combination in baseball history, playing alongside each other for 19 years — but have been snubbed by Hall-of-Fame voters, while contemporaries like Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Ryne Sandberg and others have breezed through the election process.