The 20-year career: it's the new 10!

You want some spirited debate (of the non-Iowa Caucus variety, that is)? Try the Internet. More specifically, browse the comments of any Rob Neyer piece on ESPN.com — especially when he’s writing about the Hall of Fame.

Today Rob raised a terrific Tigers-related question in his column titled: Trammell being unfairly judged? (Insider only).

Actually, he first points to an article on BaseballProspectus.com in which Joe Sheehan shares his mock ballot. Guess who ain’t on it? Tram.

Once again, Trammell’s candidacy is the most difficult one to evaluate. He was one of the best players in baseball at his peak, and was part of the bridge from shortstops as singles hitters to the better players we see out there today. On the other hand, he had a fairly short peak and a short career. I’m wary of the defensive numbers on him, as his home park was notorious for its high infield grass. With so much of Trammell’s statistical case built on very good defensive stats at his peak, the twinge of doubt I feel about their validity makes me nervous. My bigger objection, though, is to the way his career ended. Trammell was done as a full-time player at 32, which is awfully early for a 20th-century position player being pushed for Cooperstown. Like Rice, Trammell would have been a Hall of Famer with a more typical decline phase. Instead, he had 10.2 WARP, total, after 32. I’m leaving him off, again.

Whoa. The grass at Tiger Stadium is being held against Trammell? Who the —? What the —?

It appears Mr. Neyer isn’t sure what to make of it either.

[W]hile it’s true that a typical decline phase would make Trammell’s career stats look a lot better, I don’t think Trammell’s (apparently) atypical decline is a reason to leave him out of the Hall of Fame

(snip)

I am not saying that Trammell’s 2,365 career hits constitute, by themselves, a great case for the Hall of Fame. I’m saying we shouldn’t hold Trammell’s decline phase against him, because his career accomplishments are right in line with plenty of Hall of Fame shortstops.

Two, while I’m intrigued by the notion that Trammell’s solid defensive credentials — he won four Gold Gloves, and Bill James has him as a Grade B-minus shortstop over his entire career — are partly the result of the high grass in the Tiger Stadium infield, I’d sure like to see somebody do some actual work on this one. Yes, sinkerballer Walt Terrell’s home/road splits were massive when he pitched for the Tigers, particularly from 1985 through ’87.

Ah, Walt Terrell. Oh, and Sheehan isn’t voting for Jack Morris either.

As I said at the outset. If you’re an ESPN Insider, check out the comments on Rob’s post. Some people need to lighten up.

P.S. Happy 59th Birthday to short-time Tiger pitcher Ike Brookens, cousin of long-timer Tom.