Barry Larkin, the longtime shortstop for the Cincinnati Reds, received a well-deserved invitation to the Baseball Hall of Fame on Monday.
Larkin received a resounding 86 percent of the votes from the Baseball Writers' Association of America – 75 percent is the threshold for admission.
However, while I extend my congratulations to Larkin, I have to wonder why Detroit Tigers shortstop Allen Trammell is still locked out of Cooperstown.
In his 10th year of eligibility, Trammell received only 36.8 percent of the votes, suggesting he may have to wait many years until the Veterans Committee considers his nomination.
(Even Jeff Bagwell, who is widely suspected of having used steroids during his power-driven career, got more votes than Trammell.).
If you look at Larkin’s and Trammels’ careers, you will see some startling similarities (although they were not quite contemporaries, since Larkin’s career began nine years after his Detroit counterpart’s did).
Both played about two decades (Larkin, 19 seasons; Trammell, 20).
Both played for only one club their whole career and are therefore strongly identified with that franchise. This is quite a phenomenal accomplishment given that many star players pack their bags every couple of years, due to the blessings of free agency.
Taking into consideration that Trammell played one more season, their career numbers are still almost identical – Larkin has an advantage in runs scored, significantly more stolen bases and a higher batting average. Other than that, their numerical data are virtually mirror images.
Larkin won one World Series (a sweep of the Oakland A’s in 1990), while Trammell’s 1984 Tigers are considered one of the greatest championship teams in history.
Larkin was the NL MVP in 1995; Trammell never won the MVP award, but many feel he was robbed by not winning it in 1987 when he hit .343 for the AL East division leaders.
Trammel has a slight edge in Gold Gloves -- four to Larkin’s three.
Both players were considered good citizens who were classy and never caused any trouble nor embarrassed themselves with their behavior.
Then, why don’t the writers seem to like Trammell?
My guess is that since he played in the same era as other two Hall of Fame American League shortstops (Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount), perhaps some writers feel he doesn’t “measure up” to them. However, I would counter that Trammell was just as good as Ripken and better than Yount.
Trammell's lack of an MVP may also suggest to writers that he was never an elite player. I also wonder if his disastrous tenure as Tigers manager is harming his post-playing career reputation.
Also, perhaps Trammell is hurt by the perception that his great Tigers team of the 1980s had no “superstars.” Indeed, only manager Sparky Anderson from that club is in the Hall of Fame. The other prominent members of those Tigers (Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, Kirk Gibson, Chet Lemon and Lou Whitaker) don’t look like they will ever be allowed into Cooperstown – although Morris may have an outside chance.
The only good news for Trammell is that his vote count jumped from last year when he got only 24 percent – but he still has a long way to go to reach 75 percent and he’s running out of time.
Larkin’s quick entry and Trammell’s long wait is just another reason why people are so frustrated with the Hall of Fame.