SAN DIEGO -- Lou Whitaker's wait for the call from Cooperstown goes on.
Nearly two decades after Whitaker was one-and-done on the Hall of Fame ballot, the Tigers second baseman fell short on Sunday in his first turn on the Modern Era Committee ballot. He received votes from six of the 16 committee members, just half of the 12-vote total needed for induction.
Ted Simmons, a Michigan native who played at at Southfield High School, was inducted with 13 votes. Marvin Miller, the longtime director of the MLB Players Association who negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement in the sport, joined him with 12 votes.
Like former Tigers teammate Alan Trammell and Jack Morris two years ago, Whitaker was hoping to find his long-awaited respect among a panel that included several of his peers and opponents from the 1980s, including George Brett, Rod Carew, Dennis Eckersley, Eddie Murray, Ozzie Smith and Robin Yount.
Also on the committee was Dave Dombrowski, who became familiar with Whitaker’s cause during Dombrowski’s 14-year tenure as Tigers president and general manager.
The reception was much better than his lone year on the writers’ Hall of Fame ballot, where he received just 2.9 percent of the vote for the 2001 class and was taken off future ballots. It still wasn’t enough on a ballot that included Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Miller, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Simmons.
Whether Whitaker suffered from the recency bias of two teammates, Trammell and Morris, elected by the committee two years ago wasn’t immediately clear.
Outside of the committee, Whitaker had a vocal supporter in Trammell, his double-play partner for 19 seasons. Ever since Trammell’s induction two years ago, he has talked of someday seeing Whitaker join him, and maybe seeing a statue of both of them as a double-play duo.
“It’s going to happen,” Trammell said Friday. “It’s just a matter of when, and I’m hoping it’s this year.”
Whitaker had stats and accomplishments over his 19-year career that not only stood the test of time, but seemed strengthened by it. His 75.1 Wins Above Replacement, according to baseball-reference, ranked 78th all-time and 49th among position players. Among position players eligible for induction, only Barry Bonds and Bill Dahlen had a higher WAR. Respected baseball historian, statistician and executive Bill James has also supported Whitaker’s cause, noting him and Dahlen as the best players not currently in the Hall.
While Dahlen could be considered as part of the Early Baseball ballot next year, Whitaker will have to wait three years for the next opportunity. The Modern Baseball Era Committee will next consider candidates in 2022 for the 2023 induction year, as the process to consider candidates occurs two times in a five-year period.