In a surprising turn of events, the Baseball Writers Association of America came to its senses and finally elected Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, the Detroit Tigers' long-time double play combination, into the Hall of Fame. Both Trammell and Whitaker squeaked over the 75 percent vote threshold in their final year of eligibility, and will rightfully be enshrined alongside the greatest players in baseball history.
At least, that's how the story should have gone.
Instead, the BBWAA made a mockery of a loaded ballot, electing just two of several deserving candidates in the 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame vote. Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and catcher Mike Piazza will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer, but in their wake are nearly a dozen others who had careers worthy of immortality. Some, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, are being persecuted by the holier-than-thou crowd for potential PED involvement. Others -- Tim Raines and Mike Mussina, come on down -- aren't as widely appreciated by those who refuse to give their numbers the proper context. Outfielder Jim Edmonds got the Whitaker treatment, falling off the ballot in his first year of eligibility with just 2.5 percent of the vote.
The biggest crime, in this author's biased opinion, hits closer to home. Trammell, the do-everything star of the 1980s Tigers, fell well short of enshrinement in his 15th and final season on the ballot, earning just 40.9 percent of the vote. Now, he must wait to see if the Veterans Committee decides to right the BBWAA's wrong, though Trammell would have to wait until at least 2020 for that to occur.
Regardless of whether Trammell or Whitaker eventually enter the Hall, the BBWAA voting system is broken. Trammell, a shortstop from Southern California who hit .285/.352/.415 with 185 home runs and 1,003 RBI in his 20-year career, never earned more than 36 percent of the vote until his last gasp attempt this year. He was worth 70.4 rWAR during his career, nearly as much as future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter. One wonders what would have happened had Trammell rightfully won the 1987 MVP award, as the rest of his résumé is on par with the greats of his era: six All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, and a World Series ring.
Then there's Whitaker, who fell off the ballot in his first year of eligibility (2001) with just 2.9 percent of the vote. Long overlooked in favor of inferior players with more flash, Whitaker was a model of consistency. He hit .276/.363/.426 atop the Tigers' lineup for 19 years, and was worth 74.9 WAR. His accolades nearly match Trammell's, with five All-Star appearances, four Silver Sluggers, three Gold Gloves, and the 1978 Rookie of the Year award on his mantle.
Now, we wait, though the odds aren't great. The Veterans Committee has only elected three players to the Hall of Fame since 2007. It doesn't seem likely that they will start to open the floodgates now that the Hall of Fame ballot is saturated with so many greats from the 1980s and '90s, and history shows that the Tigers have often been overlooked on this platform. No, the vote won't tarnish our memories of their great play, but they are still worthy of being immortalized among their peers, the greatest men to every play this game.