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D-backs on the Hall of Fame ballot, #5: Alan Trammell

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Not a player this time, but Alan Trammell was Kirk Gibson's bench coach on the Diamondbacks for almost four season, and took over the reins for the last three games of the season.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Career: 20 seasons, 2,293 games, 9,376 PA, .285/.352/.415 = .767 OPS (110 OPS+), 70,4 bWAR
Arizona: four seasons as bench coach and temporary manager.

Trammell is one of those who, while you can argue his Hall of Fame credentials, should certainly be getting mentioned on more than the 21% of ballots he received in 2014. Wheter you use career bWAR, WAR7 (best seven seasons) or JAWS (Jay Jaffe's custom Hall of Fame metric), they all rate Trammell superior to Craig Biggio, who came within a gnat's eyelast of being elected to Cooperstown last season. Trammell, meanwhile, is on his 14th and penultimate stab this year, and has never polled more than the 37% he received in 2012. With his numbers going the wrong way the past two seasons, the omens aren't good for Alan.

Yet, in many ways, he was among the best at the position of his generation, playing his entire career with the Detroit Tigers. He was an All-Star six times between 1980 and 1990, despite that being an era when Cal Ripken basically could be inked into the line-up for the American League at shortstop. He won four Gold Gloves, three Silver Sluggers, received MVP votes seven times and was fourth in the Rookie of the Year balloting for 1978. But, it has to be said, he was perhaps rarely great: he only once came in the top six for MVP voting, finishing runner-up in 1987 by a narrow margin (332 points to 331), behind the Blue Jays' George Bell.

This is where the Hall of Fame does appear to struggle: identifying players who perform at a high but not elite level for an extended period, without attracting much attention, even if their overall value is greater than those who burned twice as bright but half as long. Trammell was, I suspect, also a victim of being a defensive wizard in a time before defensive metrics were able to provide an objective measurement of how good a fielder someone was. His dWAR of 22.0 ranks seventh among major-league shortstops in the integrated era; you can more or less pick your fielding metric, and it'll tell you how good he was.

On MLB.com, Richard Justice has a good piece on Trammell's non-statistical credentials for Cooperstown. "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. He took pride in his preparation and his understanding of the game. He ran the bases smartly, and in the end, cared only about winning." However, it is also worth noting that injury limited his playing time in the second half of Trammell's career: from 1988-96, he averaged 96 games per season.

A little bit like Curt Schilling, Trammell may also be a victim of overshadowing. Deadspin's Michael Humphreys notes, "The BBWAA has voted in just six post-integration players who either played most of their games or had their most valuable seasons at shortstop"  The problem for Trammell is, three of his contemporaries are already among those enshrined in the Hall of Fame: not just Ripken, but also Robin Yount and Ozzie Smith. Being perceived as the fourth-best at a position for your era isn't going to help make a case for induction, even if you could well have been among the elite had you played at another time.

One wonders if his awful record as a manager, including the Tigers' 119-loss season in 2003, may have dimmed his appeal: Trammel's winning percentage of .382 ranks him 236th among the 239 with as many games managed (489), and is the lowest in the past sixty years. His time in Arizona began in October 2010, after interim manager Gibson was given the job permanently, and brought on a number of old pals to the coaching staff - not just Trammell, but also Charles Nagy, Don Baylor and Eric Young. It was an interesting reversal of roles, since Gibson had actually been Trammell's bench coach, back in the Detroit days.

At the time, Gibson said, "He's one of my better friends and I talk more baseball with Alan Trammell than anybody in the game. We share a belief and a philosophy. We were taught the same way in Detroit through Sparky [Anderson]. He's a very trusted friend, a great competitor with high standards. People might have taken for granted that he'd be on the staff, but I wanted to make sure he was hired for the right reasons...  He made a huge impression on me. He has a great baseball mind, he'll help our middle infielders and he'll be a sounding board during games."

Trammell was there for the good, being Gibby's wingman during the run to the 2011 National League West title, and also for the bad, as the team's record dropped by 30 wins over the three season that followed. When Gibson was fired in September, with three games left, Trammell got the boot as well, though stayed on to manage the season out, going 1-2. In some ways, Alan's dismissal was a little surprising, since new CBO - and man wielding the ax - Tony La Russa had previously named Trammell his favorite player of all time, calling him as good as Ozzie Smith. Not good enough to save his job though.

With just two years left on the Cooperstown ballot, it seems very unlikely he will be elected directly, though it wouldn't surprise me if the Veteran's Committee eventually chose to bring Trammell into the fold. The numbers suggest he was one of the best players ever at the position, and it's not really his fault, he was unlucky enough to play at a time when shortstop had an embarrassment of riches.