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Often overlooked Trammell worthy of Cooperstown call

Alan Trammell isn't even a close call when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. At least he shouldn't be. He helped define the position of shortstop during his 20 seasons. He did that both offensively and defensively.

Electees from the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot are set to be announced today at 2 p.m. ET on MLB Network and, with coverage beginning at 11 a.m. ET.

That's the thing voters apparently have overlooked. They apparently see Trammell as a good, but not great offensive player, and they don't focus on his defense. Yet he won four Gold Glove Awards at a time when Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount also played shortstop in the American League. Trammell's 2,139 games at shortstop are the 10th most in history. He turned 1,307 double plays, seventh most all time for a shortstop.

Perhaps only the players that saw Trammell every day understand how special he was. To the people who knew him best -- Sparky Anderson, Jack Morris, Kirk Gibson -- he was the prototype of a great player. Trammell took pride in his preparation and his understanding of the game. He ran the bases smartly, and in the end, cared only about winning.

Anderson told stories of leaving the clubhouse after midnight some nights and seeing Trammell huddled with teammates talking baseball. Trammell was a six-time All-Star and the Most Valuable Player of the 1984 World Series. He got AL MVP Award votes seven times in an 11-season stretch and won three Silver Slugger Awards. Trammell finished in the top nine in Wins Above Replacement five times.

By almost any metric, Trammell was one of the best players of his generation, and isn't that the definition of a Hall of Famer? Compared to other players on this ballot, he stacks up nicely.

Trammell's 70.4 career Wins Above Replacement is ninth among the players on the ballot and higher than that of either Craig Biggio or John Smoltz. For his seven best WAR years, he's eighth among the players on this ballot.

But that 70.4 WAR is better than a long list of Hall of Famers, including Tony Gwynn, Eddie Murray, Duke Snider, Ernie Banks and Carlton Fisk.

Perhaps he suffers because, unlike Ozzie Smith, who was perhaps the greatest defensive shortstop of all time, Trammell didn't do any single thing better than anyone else. Instead, he did everything well.

Trammell was top 10 in the AL in batting average five times, in on-base percentage three times and in runs three times. He's 128th on the all-time list in hits and 111th in games.

Some of his numbers may suffer because he played in a time that hadn't yet seen the offensive eruption that was to come. All that said, he was one of those players every other was compared to.

When Orioles manager Earl Weaver shifted Ripken to shortstop in 1982, he told him, "Now look, you're not going to make the All-Star team. With Trammell and Yount over there, you can forget it."

Weaver sold his guy a tad short, but Ripken played enough times against Trammell to know that he was a special, special player, one who deserves far better than being named on 20.8 percent of the ballots like he was last year.

In 13 previous times on the ballot, Trammell has never received more than 36.8 percent of the vote, which is silly. He deserves better.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
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