Would Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker be in the Hall of Fame if they had played in New York?

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Here’s a fact I didn’t know: of all of the pre-1995 teams, the 1984 Tigers and the 1981 Dodgers are the only two World Series champions who do not have a player in the Hall of Fame. I would’ve guessed there were more, as it seems quite possible to build a World Series winner consisting of a lot of very good players, but apparently it’s not terribly common.

Or maybe it has more to do with Hall of Fame voters overlooking players on those two teams. Hall of Fame voters getting it wrong isn’t exactly shocking, but here it’s not a 100% satisfying answer. After all, the 1981 Dodgers don’t have anyone who stands out as an obviously overlooked Hall of Famer. Steve Garvey came the closest, but he really didn’t deserve it. Maybe if, in another dimension, someone had put Pedro Guerrero at DH and left him there for his whole career he would’ve made it. Heck, maybe the Dodgers wouldn’t have won the World Series at all if it hadn’t been a strike year with weird playoff rules. The 1981 Reds had the best record in baseball that year and didn’t even make the playoffs because of the split season. They had Tom Seaver and Johnny Bench.

But whatever we say about that Dodgers team, I hope that we can agree that the 1984 Tigers have gotten boned in the Hall of Fame department. Specifically Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker. The Detroit News has an article about the two of them and other 1984 Tigers meeting for the team’s 30th anniversary the other night and about how they’d love to be considered by the Veteran’s Committee and that they’d like to go in together.

For what it’s worth, former Tigers’ broadcaster Paul Carey has an idea why each of them got short shrift:

“It’s because we’re Detroit, and not New York or Boston. You understand that?” said Paul Carey, Ernie Harwell’s long-time partner on Tigers broadcasts. “We’re west of the Hudson River, and that’s the problem.”

It’s hard to say, of course. But I do feel like Trammell and Whitaker would have a way, way higher profile if they had done what they did in another, more glamorous city.

In other news, Whitaker and Trammell turned two at the anniversary celebration the other night:

source: Getty Images

Free agents who sign with new teams are not disloyal

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Most mornings my local newspaper is pretty predictable.

I know, when I navigate to its home page, that I’ll find about eleventeen stories about Ohio State football, even if it is not football season (especially if it’s not football season, actually), part 6 of an amazingly detailed 8-part investigation into a thing that is super important but which no one reads because it has nothing to do with Ohio State football and, perhaps, a handful of write-ups of stories that went viral online six days previously and have nothing to do with anything that matters.

Local print news is doing great, everyone.

I did, however, get a surprise this morning. A story about baseball! A baseball story that was not buried seven clicks into the sports section, but one that was surfaced onto the front page of the website!  The story was about Michael Brantley signing with the Astros.

Normally I’d be dead chuffed! But then I saw something which kinda irked me. Check out the headline:

Is Michael Brantley “leaving” the Indians? I don’t think so. He’s a free agent signing with a baseball team. He’s no more “leaving” the Indians than you are “leaving” an employer who laid you off to take a job at one of its competitors. This is especially true given that the Indians made no effort whatsoever to sign him. Indeed, they didn’t even give him a qualifying offer, making it very clear as of November 2 that they had no intention of bringing him back. Yet, there’s the headline: “Michael Brantley leaves Indians.”

To be clear, apart from the headline, the article is unobjectionable in any way. It merely recounts Ken Rosenthal’s report about Brantley signing with the Astros and does not make any claim or implication that Brantley was somehow disloyal or that Indians fans should be upset at him.

I do wish, though, that editors would not use this kind of construction, even in headlines, because even in today’s far more savvy and enlightened age, it encourages some bad and outmoded views of how players are expected to interact with teams.

Since the advent of free agency players have often been criticized as greedy or self-centered for signing contracts with new teams. Indeed, they are often cast as disloyal in some way for leaving the team which drafted or developed them. It’s less the case now than it used to be, but there are still a lot of fans who view a player leaving via free agency as some kind of a slap in the face, especially if he joins a rival. Meanwhile, when a team decides to move on from a player, either releasing him or, as was the case with the Indians and Brantley, making no effort to bring him back, it’s viewed as a perfectly defensible business decision. There was no comparable headline, back in early November, that said “Indians dump Brantley.”

Make no mistake: it may very well turn out to be a quite reasonable business decision for Cleveland to move on from Brantley. Maybe they know things about him we don’t. Maybe they simply know better about how he’ll do over the next year than the Astros do. I in no way intend for this little rant to imply that the Indians owed Brantley any more than he owed the Indians once their business arrangement came to an end. They don’t.

But I do suspect that there are still a decent number fans out there who view a free agent leaving his former team as some sort of betrayal. Maybe not Brantley, but what if Bryce Harper signs with the Phillies? What if Kris Bryant walks and joins the Cardinals when he reaches free agency? Fans may, in general, be more enlightened now than they used to be, but even a little time on talk radio or in comments sections reveals that a number of them view ballplayers exercising their bargained-for rights as “traitors.” Or, as it’s often written, “traders.” I don’t care for that whole dynamic.

Maybe this little Michael Brantley headline in a local paper that doesn’t cover all that much baseball is unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it’s an example of how pervasive that unfortunate dynamic is. It gives fans, however tacitly, license to continue to think of players as bad people for exercising their rights. I don’t think that belief will ever completely disappear — sports and irrationality go hand-in-hand — but I’d prefer it if, like teams, athletes are likewise given an understanding nod when they make a business decision. The best way to ensure that is to make sure that such decisions are not misrepresented.