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Assessing Alan Trammell's candidacy for the Hall of Fame

Will the 14th time on the Hall of Fame ballot be the charm for the former Tigers shortstop?

Alan Trammell
Alan Trammell
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Alan Trammell last season was 1996. That was the same year Nomar Garciaparra, who also is on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, made his debut. Trammell is of the (baseball) generation before most of the players on this ballot, when shortstops were rarely offensive weapons. In the 20 seasons since Trammell retired, that paradigm has largely faded, which might explain why he not only hasn't been elected into the Hall, but hasn't even topped the 40% mark on voters' ballots. For I think that Trammell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

The case for Alan Trammell

Trammell played 20 season in the majors, and almost all of them as a starting shortstop. Until the last few years of his career he was at least an average defender. Trammell didn't stick at shortstop because he hit enough to justify it but because he was a first and foremost a very good defensive shortstop. He probably would have had a long career even if he hadn't hit all that much. He won four Gold Gloves in the first half of his career, and probably should have won at least two more. He and Lou Whitaker (who also deserves to be in the Hall) were Detroit's keystone combination from 1978-1995, and were the backbone of many excellent Tigers teams in the 1980s.

From Game 4 of the 1984 World Series:

The perception of Trammell as hitter has dimmed somewhat in view of the generation of shortstops that came after him, but he was recognized as one of the premier hitting shortstops of his era. He won three Silver Sluggers (1987, 1988, and 1990), and probably should have won the 1987 AL MVP. He was the 1984 World Series MVP, and actually was better in the ALCS. He finished with a career .285/.352/.412 line (110 OPS+), which is a bit misleading. Trammell was not a consistent hitter year-to-year: he had 9 seasons in which his OPS+ was less than 100, but 7 seasons in which in greater than 120. In other words, he was rarely the above-average hitter that his final OPS+ indicates.

But add his defense to that at times great offense and you have one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. His career 70.4 WAR is 11th All-Time amongst career shortstop, and ranks between Barry Larkin (already in the Hall) and Derek Jeter (a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer). His career value exceeds that of Hall of Famers Ernie Banks (67.5), Pee Wee Reese (66.3) and Lou Boudreau (66.3).

The case against Alan Trammel

His case is as an all-around shortstop, which seems harder for voters to embrace than a shortstop who was great in one facet of his game. His overall offensive averages doesn't match up with the top-tier shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he doesn't have the defensive reputation that a shortstop like Ozzie Smith has.

My two cents

He's absolutely deserving, though it looks like he'll have to wait for the Veterans Committee to elect him. He has two years on the BBWAA ballot, and with the current logjam, there's little chance he'll get to 75% either this year of next year.

Although that could set up an appropriate induction ceremony in 2017, as that would be the first time both Trammell and teammate Lou Whitaker would be eligible to appear of the Expansion Era ballot of the Veterans Committee. Perhaps both could get elected then.

Trammell and Whitaker making the "first turn" before a game this season (the Tigers honored the 30th anniversary of their 1984 championship)