Detroit — Better late than never, right?
Lou Whitaker finally has a legitimate shot at joining his longtime Tigers’ double-play partner Alan Trammell in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Whitaker, who played second base for the Tigers for 19 seasons, from 1977 through 1995, is one of nine players selected to the Modern Baseball Era (formerly known as the Veteran’s Committee) ballot. He joins Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey (Michigan State), Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Southfield native Ted Simmons.
Influential former executive director of the MLB Players’ Association Marvin Miller is also on the ballot.
"I've been saying this for a long time — this is the first thing he has to do — get on the ballot," Trammell said Monday night. "This is great news. This is how he can make it. He had to get on the ballot and I am just going to keep my fingers crossed.
"I am so happy for him."
Support for Whitaker’s induction into the Hall of Fame has been growing gradually over the last decade, his career gaining greater appreciation with a more new-age statistical examination of his production, especially compared to second basemen already enshrined.
Whitaker, for example, hit more home runs than Roberto Alomar (244 to 210). He had a higher career WAR than Craig Biggio (75.1 to 65.5). And he had a better OPS-plus than Ryne Sandberg (117 to 114). At the time he retired in 1995, Whitaker was one of three second baseman to post more than 1,000 runs, 1,000 RBIs, 2,000 hits and 200 home runs.
The others were Joe Morgan and Rogers Hornsby.
He was also the rookie of the year in 1978, won three Gold Gloves, four Silver Slugger Awards, was a five-time All-Star and, as was mentioned, was an invaluable cog in the Tigers’ 1984 championship season.
Bill James, in his annual Baseball Handbook, called Whitaker the 13th greatest second baseman off all-time.
Yet, this is a player who received a paltry 2.9 percent of the vote in his only year on the ballot in 2001. His candidacy — as well as the greatness of that 1984 team — was illuminated further when teammates Jack Morris and Trammell were inducted off the Veteran’s Committee ballot in 2018.
"One and done, that was such a crime — come on," Trammell said. "Now hopefully that's a moot point. In a couple of months we can be talking about Lou being in the Hall of Fame with myself and Jack — where he deserves to be."
Whitaker was among the Tigers’ entourage in Cooperstown to celebrate their induction. Trammell, in his acceptance speech, made a heartfelt plea that Whitaker will one day join him in halls of the baseball museum at Cooperstown.
Seems only fitting that the longest running double-play combination in baseball history should be in there together.
“Alongside fans from across the globe, all of us with the Detroit Tigers are thrilled to learn that Lou Whitaker has been named to the Modern Era Committee ballot,” read a statement from the Tigers. “’Sweet Lou’ was an integral part of our 1984 World Series Championship team and is a key piece of the storied tradition of baseball in the Motor City.
“When the voting results are announced next month, we’re confident that all of us will be celebrating this Tigers’ legend’s election to Cooperstown.”
The results will be announced prior to the Winter Meetings in San Diego, Dec. 8.