Two Thoughts On the Hall of Fame

I generally try to avoid commentary on the Hall of Fame voting procedure, because, honestly, it is terrible, unfair, and extremely flawed. Any time baseball writers have the ability to vote for something of meaning, they almost always screw it up. Most of the time it is because a voter carries a personal agenda with him/her when they fill out their ballot. They want to make a name for themselves by doing something outrageous that stands out. Often times it works – we now know the name Evan Grant as the idiot who gave Michael Young a first place MVP vote. His vote was likely 25% because he believed Young deserved it, and 75% because his ego wanted publicity and recognition.

After all, how can you trust a process in which Babe Ruth, not only the greatest player, but also one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, only received 95.1% of the vote in the first Hall of Fame election? 11 voters left Ruth off their ballots. Ridiculous! One old story goes that a writer left Ruth off the ballot because he didn’t like the way Ruth treated him on road trips. Seriously? At that point in time the entire general public should have clued in that the Hall is flawed.

Anyways, here are two thoughts that came to mind after the 2012 class was unveiled yesterday.

1. Poor Alan Trammell

As a Blue Jays fan, I don’t like Alan Trammell. Him and the rest of the Tigers tormented my youth, constantly beating out Toronto when the teams were both AL East division rivals. But as a baseball fan, I (generally) can recognize a good player from a bad player, a great player from a good player, and an elite player from a great player. In my mind, Alan Trammell was an elite baseball player, one that is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s look at the numbers to see what they say. Below is a table comparing Trammell to four other shortstops who made the Hall of Fame in recent years – Robin Yount, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, and this year’s inductee Barry Larkin. (Note that Yount played the last several years of his career as a CF so his numbers may be a bit skewed).

As you can see, Cal Ripken is clearly the leader in all counting stats. But Trammell holds his own in the rate stats, with a batting average and OBP only bettered by Larkin, and an OPS in the vicinity of Yount. His OPS+, which is adjusted for ballparks and era, is virtually tied with the other four hitters.

This second table shows a few more advanced stats as well as honours and awards:

As you can see, in terms of WAR, Yount and Ripken are far ahead, but Trammell is essentially tied with both Smith and Larkin. Defensively, everybody knows how amazing Smith was – that is the main reason he made the Hall. But Trammell, according to total zone fielding runs above average, is a far better defender that both Yount and Larkin. Though he never won an MVP, he finished in the top-20 in voting six times. (All-Star game appearances and Gold Gloves should be taken with a grain of salt as they are basically popularity contests. How else do you explain Ozzie making the 1995 team despite being injured, batting .250 at the break, and finishing with a .199 average?).

Finally, look at the post-season stats for the five players:

Yes Trammell played fewer games, but slugged the most HR, had by far the highest OPS, and also won a World Series title.

Clearly, Trammell is nearly on equal footing with these four HOFers. So how does one explain this:

Yount – First Ballot Hall of Famer (77.5% of the vote)

Smith – First Ballot Hall of Famer (91.7%)

Ripken – First Ballot Hall of Famer (98.5%)

Larkin – Third Ballot Hall of Famer (86.4%)

Trammell – 11th year on the ballot, 36.8% max

Is it an anti-Detroit bias? After all, many great players from those glory years including Jack Morris (13th year on the ballot) and Lou Whitaker (career 69.7 WAR – better than Barry Larkin – lasted only one year on the ballot) are constantly falling short. Is it because he didn’t have a cool nickname like Ozzie (the Wizard), couldn’t do a backflip like Ozzie, didn’t set any hallowed records like Cal, or didn’t lead his team to a huge World Series upset like Barry? Who knows. I only know that Trammell deserves his due, and he’s likely not going to get it.

2. Future Jays in the Hall?

I have a co-worker who is an enormous Cincinnati Reds fan, and who is understandably thrilled with Barry Larkin’s induction. He sent an email to me yesterday saying “I plan on attending my first HOF induction weekend!”

As Blue Jays fans, we all had a thrill last year with the induction of Roberto Alomar into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend, and after receiving that email yesterday I thought to myself if I’ll ever be able to attend another HOF induction ceremony for a Blue Jay. Sadly, it doesn’t look likely, at least anytime soon.

There will certainly be players that get inducted to the Hall that played for the Blue Jays. Frank Thomas comes to mind. Maybe Roger Clemens (depending on how the steroid vote goes down). But those guys will not be wearing the Blue Jay cap in Cooperstown. So who’s next?

The two names that jump to mind at first are Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay. Delgado finished with great career numbers: a .280 batting average, 473 HR, and a .929 OPS. He also finished in the top-20 of MVP voting six

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times. But are those numbers enough? Fred McGriff has similar stats (in fact he’s Delgado’s closest comparable player according to baseball reference) and he’s having a difficult time getting anywhere close to induction. I think he’ll fal short.

Then there’s Halladay. In my mind, he’s a sure fire Hall of Famer. But will he go in as a Jay? Debatable. At the present time, you can make a case that he should. 14 seasons, 12 of which were in Toronto. He started his career here, won a Cy Young here, become a superstar here. But he isn’t retiring now. He likely has another 4-5 years left, and there’s a good chance that all of those will be in Philadelphia. There’s also a good chance he goes to the playoffs several more times as a Phillie, wins another Cy Young as a Phillie, and maybe wins a World Series as a Phillie. If so, he’s going into Cooperstown as a Phillie.

Which leads me to this conclusion. I’m not going to see a Blue Jay inducted into the Hall of Fame until I’m a much older man. Sad.

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