Striped delightby John Brattain
January 11, 2008
It’s as good a time as any for this (no, I’m not quitting THT so put that champagne back).
To begin with, a little background—my fandom has led me to rooting interests in both leagues. I was in kindergarten (best five years of my life) when the Expos were born and they became my NL team. Just recently, I’ve picked a new team in the senior circuit to follow—the Phillies. As my readers (both of you) know, I’ve been a Blue Jays fan since their inception.
However, as you probably have never wondered, I did have an AL team pre-1977—the Detroit Tigers.
I maintain a soft spot for the Tabbies and took regular pilgrimages to the corner of Michigan and Trumbull until it was abandoned for … that other place. I still pull for them when they’re not playing the Jays. Their recent resurgence under Dave Dombrowski is well deserved for their fans. They suffered much, especially under Randy Smith’s stewardship (hello to Alex Dureich, a friend and eloquent critic of Smith‘s work) and it’s nice to see them among the AL elite. I would have preferred Miguel Cabrera to come to Canada; nevertheless, Motown will suffice.
At any rate, it’s like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Give me five bees for a quarter," you’d say.
Now, where were we? Oh yeah—the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those…
Sorry, I’m rambling; it’s time to get to the point.
With the Hall of Fame vote concluded for this year, once again I was amazed that no member of the mid-'80s Tigers was voted into Cooperstown. The 1984 club was a thing of beauty. The Tigers had five players who could make a decent argument for induction. I’m not saying all five belong. I am stating, however, that at least two absolutely should be inducted.
Let’s review our "fab five" and see why they have decent cases. They are Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Darrell Evans.
Morris, in my opinion, was better than the sabermetric group says he was; by the same token, he wasn’t as good as the traditional stats crowd opines, either. There’s been some debate over at Baseball Think Factory as to whether the only reason Morris is in the picture is Game Seven of the 1991 World Series. At the time he was active, Morris was widely viewed as an ace pitcher. I remember several times folks speculating whether he was on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
It’s not just 1991.
Using the BBWAA’s general methodology (read: traditional stats) Morris looks promising. For starters, his 254-186 record, three 20-win seasons and durability (175 complete games) are impressive. From 1979-1992 Morris is first in innings pitched (by more than 500 innings), games started (32 more than anybody else), and complete games (62 more than No. 2 Fernando Valenzuela). Simply put, he was indisputably the premier workhorse in MLB—nobody took the ball more often and went deeper into games than Morris.
While many have debunked the myth of his ability to pitch to the score, the right hander did rise to the occasion in big games. While some hold the 1992 postseason against him, it looked very much that it wasn’t a matter of him not coming through so much as he was through. After a complete game loss in the first game of the 1992 ALCS, Morris pitched 308 innings more with an ERA of 6.08 and was finished. Up to that point (end of Game One of the ‘92 ALCS), in pennant races and postseasons, he tossed 322.2 very high-leverage innings while posting a 2.98 ERA.
He might make it via the Veterans Committee. He wouldn’t be the worst pitcher in the Hall and not a wholly unreasonable selection (from a traditional stats point of view)—but that’s hardly an endorsement.
The following catchers have hit 300 or more home runs: Mike Piazza, Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk and Parrish. Stop and think about it—in major league history, only six backstops have topped 300. Save for Piazza (who is a mortal lock) only Parrish is not in the Hall.
Only Piazza had fewer at-bats than Parrish in reaching the 300 milestone. He was a solid defender who copped three Gold Gloves and was an eight-time All-Star. He played superbly in his only postseason appearance and has a World Series ring. For a dozen seasons (1979-1990), Parrish batted .259/.319/.451. That may not seem impressive until you consider that .248/.311/.372 was average for the position. On top of that, a league-average batter hit 143 homers over those 12 seasons and an average backstop weighed in at 133 four-baggers. Lance Parrish went yard 268 times from 1979-1990.
I find it odd that he didn’t do better in Hall of Fame voting. Good-fielding catchers with that kind of thump have been scarce in major league history. He may fare better with the Veterans Committee, but I feel strongly that he should be in line behind Bill Freehan (11-time All-Star, five Gold Gloves). In the final two years of the pitcher’s era of the 1960s, league average for a catcher was .224/.293/.325 and Freehan batted .272/.377/.450 with 95 extra-base hits (45 HR). He's an overlooked star that one day I’ll devote more time to lobbying in his behalf.
Okay, to open, I really don’t think he has a good case but I want to make a point regarding probable 2009 inductee Jim Rice:
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI GIDP RCAA Evans .248 .361 .431 1344 2223 329 36 414 1354 133 301 Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 315 270
Obviously, Rice had a better career but the distance between him and Evans isn’t that large. If Jim Rice goes in next year, then Evans' case suddenly becomes viable. After all, third base is higher on the defensive spectrum than left field. Now what do you say about a third sacker who was almost as valuable offensively as a Hall of Fame left fielder?
See where this could end up? If Rice goes in then what about “Dewey” Evans—does he deserve induction? Not only did he play a more important defensive position, he copped eight Gold Gloves while doing so. Personally, I feel that Rice wasn't even the best outfielder on his own team.
Player Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG OPS+ RCAA GIDP Evans 1470 2446 483 73 385 1384 .275 .372 .481 127 374 192 Rice 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 .298 .352 .502 128 270 315
Yeah, I’m a little steamed over Tim Raines and Andre Dawson falling short—the point stands, though. If Rice makes it, then a lot of guys suddenly become candidates.
Moving on…now for the "no-brainers:"
It’s hard not to make a case that Trammell is among the top five shortstops in American League history. Trammell is (in AL history at his position) third in extra base hits/total bases, fourth in hits/doubles/reaching base, fifth in HR/RBI, sixth in runs, seventh in total bases. He was a six-time All-Star in the era of Cal Ripken, won four Gold Gloves and was robbed of the 1987 MVP. And, in about the same number of at-bats, he grounded into half as many double plays as Jim Rice (sorry—well not really, they’re on the same ballot). Since I’m ragging on Rice, let’s toss this in:
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI RP* GIDP Trammell .285 .352 .415 1231 2365 412 55 185 1003 2049 156 Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 2318 315
*Runs Produced—hey, the BBWAA uses this stat.
When you consider that they were contemporary players, does it make sense that the spread between a probable Hall of Fame left fielder and a Gold Glove shortstop is that narrow? Is it logical that the left fielder garnered 293 more votes than the shortstop?
Were you aware that Bill Mazeroski never had a single year in 17 seasons where he was better than league average offensively? He is a Hall of Fame second baseman. After a 32-AB cup of coffee as a 20-year old in 1977, Whitaker played 18 seasons and was better than league average offensively in all but one of them. Yes, Dazzlin’ Maz was historically great defensively, but Whitaker was no slouch himself, copping three Gold Gloves. Whitaker’s three awards came in the middle of the era of another amazing gloveman—the K.C. Royals' Frank White, who is often compared to Mazeroski.
From 1969-1999, Lou Whitaker, among major league second sackers, is first in hits, doubles, extra base hits, RBI and total bases. He is second in runs, home runs and reaching base and third in three-base hits, walks and RCAA. Simply put, he has a case in determining the best second baseman of his particular era—or at the very least, best in the AL. He is eclipsed somewhat in the high-octane offensive levels after the strike, but the years under consideration include four seasons of the "juiced" era.
Heck, while we're at it...
Player AVG OBP SLG Runs Hits 2B 3B HR RBI RP* GIDP Whitaker .276 .363 .426 1386 2369 420 65 244 1084 2226 143 Rice .298 .352 .502 1249 2452 373 79 382 1451 2318 315
He's even closer to Rice than Trammell is (with about a half season's worth more AB) and Whitaker didn't last a year on the freakin' ballot. While neither were high percentage base thieves (Sweet Lou stole at a slightly higher success rate), Whitaker stole almost 90 more bases.
I didn’t spend much bandwidth making the case for Trammell and Whitaker because it should be self-evident to the BBWAA. All you have to do is touch on the highlights and it becomes clear that they are overqualified for the Hall. There should be a much wider gap between an unremarkable defensive left fielder in the Hall of Fame and a Gold Glove second baseman—especially since they're contemporary players.
Quite frankly, it will be an absolute joke—one so bad that even I can't top it, a travesty, an example of one of the severest case of rectal-cranial inversion in BBWAA history—if Rice is inducted before Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. Frankie Frisch was downright King Solomon-esque on the Veterans Committee compared to this level of sheer boneheadedness.
I hope that if the BBWAA continues to miss badly on the '80s era Tigers the Vets Committee will rectify the oversight … at least as far as that magnificent keystone combination went.
References and Resources
Am I the only one who thinks it would be incredibly awesome if they were inducted together and shared a plaque?
Our good friend, and THT stalwart, John Brattain passed away on March 24, 2009. John was a prolific writer, whose work can also be read at Sympatico/MSN Sports and Baseball Digest Daily. John's work was also featured at USA Today, MLBtalk, ESPN Insider, Baseball Prospectus, The Baseball Analysts and The Baseball Journals. Never afraid to express himself in any medium, he was also a frequent radio speaker.
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