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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Hall of Fame ballot is due, and so is Tigers great Trammell

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I've beaten this drum for years, shouted it from the top of the mound, hollered it from the top step of the dugout.

Voice hoarse, throat shot, Hall of Fame ballots due by Dec. 31 ... I'm surrendering the microphone today.

Don't take from me the fact that Alan Trammell has been criminally under-supported on the ballot for years.

Take it from two icons who span generations and know the game as well as anybody has ever known it.

Trammell was 'the toughest out' in a strong Tigers lineup, Pat Gillick says. (Getty Images)  
Trammell was 'the toughest out' in a strong Tigers lineup, Pat Gillick says. (Getty Images)  
"I have personally brought this up a number of times to different baseball people, front office people, owners, coaches, managers, players that knew of our time," Tony La Russa, the now-retired legendary manager, told me when we spoke a few nights ago. "I cannot believe the lack of support that Alan is receiving.

"The only thing I can figure is he never made big enough fuss over himself."

La Russa, who ranks behind only Connie Mack and John McGraw on baseball's all-time list of winningest managers, is not yet in the Hall of Fame. But he will be one day.

"I think he's a player who deserves a lot of consideration," Pat Gillick, the Hall of Fame executive who was enshrined last summer, told me. "He played on a lot of great Tiger teams and he was a big part of why the Tigers were so competitive and won a World Series [1984]. It was because of Trammell and Lou Whitaker and Jack Morris and that group.

"Trammell was probably one of the most all-around defensive and offensive shortstops in the American League in the late 1970s and 1980s."

That era included Cal Ripken, elected to the Hall in 2007 with 98.5 percent of the vote. It included Robin Yount, elected to the Hall in 1999 with 77.4 percent of the vote.

It also included, over in the National League, Ozzie Smith, elected in 2002 with 91.7 percent of the vote.

Trammell, now in his 11th year on the ballot, checked in at only 24.3 percent last year. And that was a good year. It was up from 22.4 percent the year before, and 17.4 percent before that.

La Russa argues vehemently that Trammell is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer.

Gillick, while more circumspect, spoke volumes when I asked him to step back into his old general manager's chair when he was running the Blue Jays in the 1980s while Trammell and Smith were at their peak.

Would he have traded Trammell for Smith straight up?

"That's a tough one," Gillick said. "That's a real tough one."

No question, Ozzie is a Hall of Famer.

Fan Poll

Does Alan Trammell deserve a spot in the Hall of Fame?

Yes
71%
No
29%

Total Votes: 12,754

Now. If you agonize like that over whether to trade a legit Hall of Famer for Trammell ... there's your answer regarding Trammell's Cooperstown qualifications.

Trammell clobbers Smith across the board in nearly every statistical offensive category. It's not even close. Defensively? Even if you favor Smith here, the difference between him and Trammell is nowhere near the chasm their Hall voting totals suggest.

Anyway, back to whether Gillick would have traded Trammell for Smith.

"They're two different type of players," Gillick said. "That's the difference. Yount, Ripken and Trammell were offensive shortstops. Smith, I'd have to say, was more a defensive player than an offensive player. The other three gave you offense. Defensively, Smith was the prototype.

"It depends on what your team needed. If you were looking for a combination of offense and defense, you take Trammell. If you had enough offense at first base, second base and third base and were looking for defense, you would probably look for Ozzie.

"But as a combination overall, those other three were better defensive and offensive players."

La Russa competed against Trammell's Detroit clubs in each of his first 18 seasons as manager, first with the White Sox and then with Oakland. To this day, he calls Trammell "one of, if not my favorite, players."

Best example of how much La Russa admired Trammell? Sparky Anderson, the late Tigers manager, no longer is around to verify this, but he and La Russa spoke of it often.

"Whenever we played the Detroit Tigers, on the road for sure, I would go out early just to watch Alan Trammell take ground balls," La Russa said. "Just to admire his mechanics, how you catch a ball, exactly how you teach. Hands low and out front, his over-the-top throw. Almost without exception, he'd hit the first baseman with the throw between the chin and his waist.

"It was remarkable how accurate and true his throws were. You can talk offensive stats that were impressive, he was a dynamite defensive player, and he was a clutch player and leader."

La Russa was close with Anderson and says Sparky always considered Trammell the most "versatile" player on his roster, capable of hitting third or fourth if Detroit's clean-up batter was hurt. La Russa vividly recalls working against the Tigers "as a young manager, and this was a guy we feared in clutch situations, setting the table."

So did Gillick, whose Toronto teams waged epic battles with the Tigers in the mid-to-late 1980s. The deep Tigers' lineup during that time included Whitaker, Darrell Evans, Lance Parrish, Chet Lemon and Kirk Gibson. But, Gillick said, "I'd have to say Alan was the toughest out in the Detroit lineup.

"And the fact that he not only was a good offensive player and an excellent defensive player, he also was very, very talented in the field -- he knew how to play the game, knew what to do in situations."

La Russa said he ranks Trammell alongside such luminaries as Ripken, George Brett and Kirby Puckett -- all Hall of Famers -- and a few others.

Yet ... 24 percent of the Hall vote last winter? When contemporaries with whom he was on the same level long since have been inducted?

"Clearly, you'd take Cal, because Cal hit for more power and Cal was a clear first-ballot Hall of Famer," La Russa said. "But I don't know of anybody after Cal you'd rate as a shortstop higher than Alan Trammell.

"I've come out on my own about this, irritated, because I really enjoyed and respected Alan."

While La Russa is adamant on the subject -- he phoned me back to talk within minutes after I left a message -- Gillick, again, was a bit more reserved. He did not flatly state that Trammell is Hall of Fame.

Of course, he didn't have to. All you had to do was listen:

"Basically, if you ask 10 people to rate Ozzie, Trammell, Yount and Ripken, you'd get some consensus," Gillick said. "But I don't think everyone would have the same ratings 1 through 4. I think one would prefer one over the other, and someone else would prefer one over another.

"It's an interesting question. They're all four great players. I'll say that."

It speaks volumes. Hopefully, some folks are listening.

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