They say, “Death and taxes are the only certainties in life,” and today, Mark McGwire and Alan Trammell both experienced one of those inevitabilities, in a matter of speaking. In their final year of eligibility for inclusion on the Hall of Fame ballot, 10th and 15th years respectively, they failed to meet the 75 percent of the vote mark. One last time. A metaphorical death, but allegorical to how death usually works; death is really just running out of time.
Losing out to time is often not something we associate with baseball. At least, not in the game itself, as it has no clock to lose out to. However, even without that clock to loom god-like over us, losing out to time is just as much an element of baseball as it is in life. Slipping out of contention to be canonized in Cooperstown with a bronze bust is a death of sorts. Sure, Big Mac and the-guy-who-looks-like-Peter-Weller-could-play-him-in-a-movie could be enshrined by the Veterans’ Committee some day. I’d be willing to bet, however, that it isn’t the same as being voted in.
Trammell’s strongest showing on the ballot was his last, topping out at 40.9 percent of the vote on Wednesday. McGwire, presumably hurt by his strong association with the so-called Steroid Era, never had a stronger showing than 23.7 percent in 2010. He would whimper out to the tune of 12.3 percent this year.
That was his fourth year on the ballot and some wondered if he could gain steam enough over the next 11 years (that was before the limitation on eligibility was shortened to apparently root out all those big, bad dopers as quickly as possibly). It would seem, in retrospect, almost as certain as death and a visit to H&R Block, that Big Mac’s 583 career dingers – 10th all time – never had a chance to salvage his hopes for the Hall. Nor could his admission to the use of PEDs.
Unfortunately for McGwire, his strength of character via admitting PED use couldn’t erase the wanton lack of character he displayed while helping to revitalize the game’s strike-damaged popularity back in 1998. I have my pointed opinions when it comes to the BBWAA standing as moral gatekeepers for the sanctity of the game. But, when I look at things a bit more, I’m not sure I could apply the logic that that is happening in the case of McGwire. I’m as positive as a 9/11 Truther that it is the case with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. The amount of bold under their names on Baseball Reference alone should illuminate even the most stubborn of the unwashed.
Enough about those guys, though. Aside from McGwire’s 583 big, shiny long balls, there’s not a whole lot to argue in his favor for the Hall. He’s a pretty one-dimensional slugger; 10th all time in home runs and seventh all time in slugging at .588. Sure, his career OPS of .982 is good for ninth all time, but his on-base numbers are surely overinflated by intentional walks based solely on his potential to put it in the seats. In an era when the homers were the fireworks show, I’m not sure I’d be quite as impressed with his one-dimensional power. Then again, I don’t have a vote, who’s listening? I also think that he falls just well enough short on all three JAWS measuring points. For the 19 first basemen in Cooperstown, the average WAR, WAR7, and JAWS are 65.9, 42.4, and 54.2. McGwire clocks in with a respectable, but underwhelming 62.0, 41.8, and 51.9. In my estimation, the BBWAA got it right with McGwire, PED bias or not.
What about Alan Trammell, though?
There are 21 shortstops in the Hall of Fame. Their average WAR, WAR7, and JAWS are 66.7, 42.8, and 54.7. Trammell’s 70.4, 44.6, and 57.5 not only best all three checkpoints, but are better than Derek Jeter‘s save for overall WAR (The Prince of The Bronx has a 71.8 WAR). We all know how many years it’s going to take for Jeets to get voted into the Hall, right? Yes, that’s right, one year. In fact, I’d be willing to put a hundred bucks on that right now. The Man Who Slays Supermodels might have four more World Series rings than Detroit’s Robocop look-alike, but they each have a World Series MVP trophy on their shelves. So, they’ve both had postseason success. Can the Detroit Tigers’ inability to build a dynasty off of 1984 be Trammell’s fault?
Luckily for Jeter, there are no defensive metrics for Trammell’s pre-sabermetrically investigated career in the field. If Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs had FRAA and DRS on Trammell, there would be at least another 250 words of junking Jeets by comparison.
Unfortunately for Trammell, I think some less SABR-inclined voters might have seen his .767 career OPS as a reason not to check the box next to his name. For your information, that’s the 46th best mark by a shortstop in all of baseball history. Derek the Beloved, on the other hand, is 20th at .817 all time. See, I can be nice to Jeets.
By way of JAWS, Trammell appears to be the 11th best shortstop out of all the guys who have ever played that half of the keystone combination. In all other manner of statistically diagnosing Trammell’s chances, he appears to be a very borderline candidate. I’d say it’s a push here, as Trammell probably will end up in the Hall — via the Veterans’ Committee — but just wasn’t compelling enough to vote in by the ballot.
I’m almost certain that the BBWAA did a pretty darn good job this year. Aside from the case of Tim Raines. But that’s for another time.