Monday, January 19, 2009

HOF Debate: Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker

This is the first installment of a regular series, analyzing the Hall of Fame case for players that have escaped the attention of the baseball writers. This article focuses on two teammates, Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, who played their careers in relative obscurity (aka Detroit), thus at least in part explaining their lack of HOF support.

It is almost impossible to think about one player without the other--the double play combo played together for 19 seasons, including a World Series championship in 1984 (where Trammell was the series MVP). Both players spent their entire careers with Detroit, a feat almost unheard of today.

First, the easier case to make is for Trammell. Trammell was a six-time All Star SS (playing SS the same time as Cal Ripken), a four-time Gold Glove winner, and a three-time Silver Slugger winner. According to, the most comparable player to Trammell is Barry Larkin, who most likely will be inducted in the Hall of Fame within the next few years. But he played in Ripken's shadow for most of his career, and the powerful shortstops of the 1990s diminished the view of Trammell's more traditional SS performance. Trammell remains on the writer's ballot, but he failed to garner even 20% of the votes this year. Trammell's best bet for induction will be after he leaves the writer's ballot, as he stands a fairly good chance with a Veteran's Committee.

Trammell also possesses one of the best rookie cards of all time, sharing the 1978 Topps card with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor.

Trammell's teammate, Lou Whitaker, faces an even more onerous challenge in making it to the Hall. The "original" Sweet Lou, Whitaker was the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year, a five-time All Star, and three-time Gold Glove winner. He was arguably the best second baseman in the American League in the 1980s. states that the most comparable player is Ryne Sandberg, who certainly benefited from the brighter lights of Chicago versus Lou's anonymity. Whitaker failed to receive 5% in his first year of Hall of Fame eligibility, thus he is ineligible for the writer's ballot. Again, he deserves a close look by the Veteran's Committee, as he was instrumental in the success of the Tigers teams of the 1980s.

Ironically, both Trammell and Whitaker debuted in the same 1978 Topps set.

In this author's opinion, both players deserve Hall of Fame consideration, along with their former teammate Jack Morris (but that's a story for another day). Like many of their 1980s contemporaries, particularly as midden infielders, they have not gotten their proper recognition based on the inflated offensive statistics of the steroid era.

Finally, a bit of trivia. Not only were Trammell and Whitaker teammates on the field, but they both guest starred in a 1983 episode of Magnum P.I.

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