Writers’ View: Who on the Modern Era Ballot Belongs in the Hall of Fame?

The Hall of Fame’s Modern Era committee is scheduled to vote on Sunday, with the results announced later that day. Who among the 10 candidates will be elected into Cooperstown is anyone’s guess. Based on previous veterans’ committee decisions, it won’t be many — if any at all. The electorate consists of 16 members, and the support of at least 12 of them (75%) is needed to cross the threshold.

We conducted a poll of our own, asking a cross section of baseball writers from around the country (and Canada) which of the candidates is deserving. We requested, along with their selections, a brief explanation for each Yes vote. (As you’ll see below, “brief” is a relative term.)

Here are the responses, with final results tallied at the end.

———

Mike Axisa, CBS Sports
Selections:Tommy John, Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“Tommy John was a borderline Hall of Famer as a player, and I think his impact on the game through the surgery that bears his name should be considered, and that pushes him in for me. John’s overall impact on the game, both as a player and medical marvel, are Cooperstown worthy.”

“Marvin Miller is a yes, easily. He had a profound impact on the game and played a large part in helping MLB get to where they are today, a $10 billion industry. It’s a shame he’s not in already.”

“Trammel… All around greatness at a premium position for two decades. Easy call for me. Can’t believe Trammell isn’t already in.”

———

Rob Biertempfel, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“Marvin Miller had a greater impact on baseball — bringing about free agency, arbitration, pension improvements — than any other non-player in the game’s history.”

“Alan Trammell had more than 2,300 hits and four Gold Gloves. He was a dominant player — I’d go so far as to say the best — on one of the best teams of the 1980s.”

———

Tim Britton, Providence Journal
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“I mean, really? Miller’s constitutive contributions to the modern game are so self-evident that his persistent exclusion from the Hall can only be vindictive — the kind of collusion he fought so sternly against. A Hall without Miller is like a New Testament lecture that neglects Paul.”

“Like Andy Murray or Ivan Turgenev, Simmons had the misfortune of plying his trade in the golden age of his profession, and he has necessarily taken a backseat in the shadow of Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter. But whereas others on this ballot flashed more brilliantly over briefer periods, Simmons plugged along as one of the best players of the 1970s, peaking in its second half and delivering more than a decade of premium offense at the position.”

“Trammell’s 1987 season ranks as one of the finest offensive years ever for a shortstop — one that likely deserved an MVP award (and certainly deserved one more than George Bell). While offensively inconsistent — he had a habit of interspersing a bad year into any stretch of four or five good ones — Trammell was a two-decade rock in the middle infield alongside Lou Whitaker, who merits induction as well, let alone further consideration from the committee.”

———

Craig Calcaterra, NBC Sports
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“If you cannot tell the story of baseball in a given era without mentioning a man’s name, he’s probably a Hall of Famer. Marvin Miller fundamentally altered the game’s landscape for the better. He’s in.”

“Ted Simmons is the anti-Garvey, in that no one talked about him as a Hall of Famer when he played, but he sure looks like one with hindsight. A top-10 all-time catcher. Don’t believe me? Name 10 better.”

“Alan Trammell is the most underrated shortstop in baseball history, both offensively and defensively. Likely earned two MVPs the voters failed to award him. He’s better than many shortstops who are already in. He should’ve been voted in by the writers years ago.”

———

Jerry Crasnick, ESPN
Selections: Marvin Miller, Jack Morris.

“I’m 100% on board with Marvin Miller getting into the Hall of Fame. It’s long overdue. I agree with the proposition that he’s one of the most influential people in the history of the game. I just wish he had made it while he were still alive and had a chance to give a speech in Cooperstown. It would have been classic.”
 
“As for players, I’m going with Jack Morris as my sole entrant. I understand that his 3.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP haven’t aged well. But Bill James was trumpeting him as a Hall of Famer long before Morris threw his final pitch. Several years ago, Tom Verducci did an analysis and found that Morris logged 18% more innings than any other pitcher in baseball in the period from 1979 to 1992. ‘Taking the ball’ alone doesn’t qualify a pitcher for Cooperstown, but I valued Morris’s consistency and reliability enough to vote for him when he was on the BBWAA ballot until he fell victim to the 10-man ballot squeeze. I realize he’s borderline, but he would get my support this time around.”

——

Shi Davidi, Sportsnet Canada
Selections: Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell.

“Increasingly, I find myself placing more and more value on a pitcher’s durability and Morris finished 175 of the 527 starts he made, which is remarkable. Additionally, he pitched eight or more innings 248 times, while he logged at least 235 innings 11 times, with 250 or more six times. You don’t hang on to the ball that long without deserving it, which is why he’s a Hall of Famer to me.”

“Trammell compares well to other enshrined shortstops. His .767 OPS would be tied for 13th among Hall of Fame shortstops with George Davis while his 185 homers would rank fifth, right behind Barry Larkin’s 198. He won four Gold Gloves, was regularly among the top 10 in defensive WAR per baseball-reference.com, and posted an above average score in the JAWS scoring system (a measure developed by Jay Jaffe that combines career and seven-year peak WAR totals for comparing Hall of Famers). Trammell delivered that dream combo for 2,293 games, which makes him worthy.

“I’d also include Marvin Miller, and there’s really no need to justify it. Long overdue.”

———

Jared Diamond, Wall Street Journal
Selections: Tommy John, Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“Let’s get the controversial choice out of the way first. Tommy John is the most intriguing and complicated person on this ballot, because his candidacy hinges not on numbers, but on a philosophical conversation about what the Hall should be on a fundamental level. Clearly, John’s statistics alone don’t merit enshrinement. But personally, I am of the belief that Cooperstown isn’t simply a place to lionize elite players, but to honor the people who shaped the sport. One’s full contributions to the game should be considered, not simply one’s on-field performance. (It’s for this reason I’d seriously think about voting for Hideki Matsui if I had a BBWAA vote.) John is precisely the type of player for whom the Modern Baseball Era ballot exists. It was impossible to understand his role in baseball history when he was on the BBWAA ballot. Now, he’s impossible to ignore. Tommy John changed baseball forever, and for that he deserves a plaque.”

“It’s a blight on baseball that Marvin Miller isn’t in the Hall of Fame already. Bud Selig’s inclusion only shines an ever brighter light on his inexcusable omission. Miller is undeniably one of the most significant people ever to be associated with Major League Baseball. As the executive director of the MLB Players Association from 1966 through 1982, Miller helped usher in free agency and facilitated the abolition of the reserve clause. One cannot discuss the history of this sport without including Miller as a crucial character. The Hall of Fame will have an embarrassing absence until he is enshrined.”

“Alan Trammell is a classic example of a player who needed the rise of data analytics for his true greatness to shine. By every measure, Trammell is one of the best shortstops ever — and certainly more accomplished than at least a handful of shortstops already in Cooperstown. According to Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, Trammell is more qualified than players like Barry Larkin and Pee Wee Reese. His career WAR, as calculated by Baseball-Reference, is barely lower than Derek Jeter’s. Alan Trammell is a Hall of Famer.”

———

Rustin Dodd, Kansas City Star
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“Trammell’s 132 batting runs rank 20th at the shortstop position. One of the best two-way shortstops of his era, he has the numbers and was overlooked by the writers.” 

“Simmons’ career WAR and his peak are both Hall worthy. If he played in a different era — and not alongside Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, and Gary Carter — I think he would be viewed differently.” 

“Marvin Miller… Why isn’t he in already?” 

———

Lynn Henning, Detroit News
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“Trammell is an easy vote, and not because he played in Detroit. He’s right there with Barry Larkin, he’s right there in terms of essential historic Hall of Fame numbers for shortstops. He deserves to go, minus any conditions or qualifiers.”

“Miller long ago deserved to be enshrined. He is responsible, in direct ways, for players to be treated to the same market safeguards we’ve historically honored in other corridors of commerce. He was a pioneer in helping lead players from their indentured-servant status to competitive and economic freedom. He should be a unanimous selection. I doubt, because of anti-union sentiment, he’ll be any more fortunate this time around.”

“Simmons… Yes. Narrowly, but yes. He has the numbers to be included in a top tier of historic catchers. He had a cerebral side to his game that influenced baseball well ahead of more modern-era thinking. He was simply a player of nearly pure excellence, even if his metrics are, admittedly, on the bubble. By comparison to the others, I find him a far more compelling case than any player or pitcher other than Trammell.”

———

Jay Jaffe, Sports Illustrated
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“Marvin Miller revolutionized the game and its business practices by establishing that the talents of major-league players did not exempt them from basic workplace protections and by ensuring that they get fair compensation. He’s the candidate with the strongest case of any individual outside Cooperstown and perhaps the strongest case of any non-player in the game’s history.”

“A tremendous switch-hitter, Ted Simmons was unfairly maligned for his defense, mainly because he didn’t have the arm of Johnny Bench or Gary Carter, whom he had the nerve to play in the same league with at the same time. Via JAWS, he’s the 10th-best catcher of all time. “

“Like Simmons, Alan Trammell was overshadowed by Hall of Fame contemporaries, namely Cal Ripken Jr. and Robin Yount, who got more of the accolades in the AL. He was robbed of the 1987 AL MVP award; had he won that, and had the Tigers not been upset by the 85-win Twins in the ALCS, he might be in already. Via JAWS, he’s the 11th-best shortstop of all time, better than the average HOF shortstop and just ahead of Derek Jeter and Barry Larkin, the latter of whom has stats and a career pattern that bear an uncanny resemblance to Trammell’s.”

———

Chelsea Janes, Washington Post
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“If Barry Larkin is in the Hall of Fame — and he is because he got 86% of the vote when he was eligible — then Trammell should be, too. Trammell actually accumulated more WAR than Larkin in his tenure, while providing a near statistical match across offensive statistics. His numbers are also similar to those of Derek Jeter, who seems a near-lock to make the Hall when his time comes. “

“Perhaps the reserve clause would have fallen into disrepair without Miller, but it gave way to modern free agency because of him. Average player salaries probably would have risen to some extent without him, but they increased more than tenfold during his tenure. He simply changed the game — though nothing about changing an institution as deeply traditional as baseball is simple — and deserves to be recognized because of it.”

———

Tyler Kepner, New York Times
Selections: Tommy John, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell.

“With 288 wins and a 3.34 ERA, [Tommy John] is right on the borderline. His status as a medical pioneer pushes him over. To pitch 14 years after Dr. Frank Jobe’s ground-breaking surgery without missing a start — and with no precedent for how to recover from it — adds a heightened degree of difficulty to his substantial on-field accomplishments.”
 
“Jack Morris – another borderline stat line (I know, I know, the 3.90 ERA), but his big moments push him over. He gets high marks for impact: two complete-game wins in the 1984 World Series, a World Series MVP award seven years later, his mastery of the pitch of the ’80s (the split-finger fastball), and a 10-year prime from 1979 to 88 as a consistent, durable winner.”
 
“I don’t love [Alan Trammell] as much as some voters, but I have to be consistent: he was outstanding at the plate and in the field at an important position, and excelled when it mattered most. The World Series MVP award in 1984, a shoulda-been MVP season in 1987, two decades with the same team… he meets the standards with both numbers and impact.”
 
“Marvin Miller – It’s much too late, and his late-life opinion on steroid testing is pretty appalling. But as an historic change agent within the game, Miller clearly deserves a spot.”

———

Bob Kuenster, Baseball Digest
Selections: Steve Garvey, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Ted Simmons.

“Garvey’s MLB career is filled with Hall of Fame credentials: 10-time All-Star, 1974 N.L. MVP, two-time All-Star Game MVP, two-time LCS MVP, and four-time Gold Glove winner. He finished with six 200-hit seasons, 2,599 hits, 272 homers, and 1,308 RBI. His overall fielding may be in question, but his production and consistency were top-notch.”

“Marvin Miller changed the landscape of MLB’s Players Association into a powerful labor union that revolutionized not only baseball, but also all professional sports.”

“Morris’ dominance on the mound may not have captured individual honors like a Cy Young Award, but during the 1980s he won the more games (162) and pitched more innings (2,443.2) than any other big-league hurler and ranked third in strikeouts (1,629) during the decade. He was a three-time 20-game winner, five-time All-Star, and three-time World Series champion. He also tossed one no-hitter.”

“As a run-producing, switch-hitting catcher, Simmons tallied 2,472 hits, 248 homers, 1,389 RBI, and hit .285 over 21 seasons. Among the 15 MLB catchers enshrined in Cooperstown, only Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, Buck Ewing, Ernie Lombardi, Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Piazza posted a higher BA than Simmons; only Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Carlton Fisk, Rodriguez and Piazza hit more homers; only Berra drove in more runs; and only Rodriguez garnered more hits. Simmons’ defensive WAR (4.7) is in line with Roger Bresnahan (4.9), Roy Campanella (5.7), Cochrane (4.4), Rick Ferrell (5.5), and better than Lombardi (2.9) and Piazza (1.0). His 50.1 WAR reading compares favorably to Berra (59.5), Campanella (34.2), Cochrane (52.1), Dickey (55.8), Gabby Hartnett (53.4), and Piazza (59.4). Plus Simmons’ percentage of throwing out attempted base stealers (34%) is very respectable. He’s been overlooked long enough.”

———

Jen McCaffrey, MassLive (Boston)
Selections: Alan Trammell.

“Trammell was a World Series MVP with comparable numbers to those at his position (namely Hall of Fame shortstops Robin Yount and Barry Larkin) during his 20-year playing career. That gives him an edge after being overlooked the first time around. While others on the ballot were right on the cusp for me (Tiant and Mattingly), Trammell was the only player I felt had a strong, well-rounded case. I suppose I am a small-Hall type.”

———

Bruce Miles, Daily Herald (Chicago)
Selections: Tommy John, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell.

“Trammell might be one of the more underappreciated players of his era. Think of it this way: if Cal Ripken had stayed at first base, it would have been Alan Trammell starting at shortstop for the American League in the All-Star Game every year for a decade-plus.”

“I voted for [Jack Morris] on the regular ballot for years, so I must give him my vote here. Morris has been a lightning rod on HOF voting, but I believe his record and what he meant to his teams weighs in his favor.”

“Tommy John — the record, the longevity, and the perseverance all say Hall of Famer to me. The similarity scores also put TJ in pretty good company.”

“It’s a travesty that Miller wasn’t elected while he was still alive. No one single non-player in the history of baseball changed the game the way Miller did. If commissioners are in the Hall of Fame, Miller deserves a place alongside them — or perhaps better put, right across from them, as he sat across from them as an adversary in labor negotiations.”

——

Ben Nicholson-Smith, Sportsnet Canada
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“Any account of baseball history that doesn’t include Marvin Miller is incomplete. By challenging the reserve clause and ushering in salary arbitration and free agency, he completely changed the business of baseball, building offseason intrigue and creating the hot stove as we know it along the way. To me, the five commissioners in Cooperstown further underscore the need to induct Miller, easily one of the most influential people in the sport’s history.”

“Simply put, there just aren’t that many shortstops who hit as well as Trammell for extended periods. With 70 career WAR and a lifetime .352 on-base percentage in 20 big-league seasons, he ranks among the most productive players ever at his position and belongs in Cooperstown as a result.”

———

Jeff Passan, Yahoo Sports
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons.

“A Hall of Fame without Miller is an oatmeal cookie without the oatmeal: a lot of sugar and fat without the substance that holds it together. One could make a compelling argument that Miller is the single most important figure in baseball history — maybe sports history — for the change he fomented. It is long past time he receives the recognition he earned.

“I’ve never considered myself a small-hall guy, and yet when I looked at this list, the only two player candidates worthy of deep consideration were Simmons and Alan Trammell. They’re awfully similar in that they’re important-position, not-dominant, borderline types. And so to pick Simmons and not pick Trammell feels a bit wrong. Simmons’ bat was better, compared to his position and the league. His position was brutal on the body and psyche. He constantly earned All-Star recognition during a time when making the All-Star team wasn’t easy. And while an argument in favor of Trammell generally goes the same way, he falls a hair short compared to his peers than Simmons.”

———

C. Trent Rosecrans, Cincinnati Enquirer
Selections: Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons, Alan Trammell.

“I voted for Trammell when he was on the ballot and I’d vote for him again in a heartbeat. He belongs in (as does Lou Whitaker).”

“I can see no reason Marvin Miller isn’t in already. The fact he isn’t is a blight on the previous committees. If this one doesn’t elect him, it’s a blight on this one.”

“Simmons seems to be lost among some of his contemporaries — and quite the contemporaries they are when you’re talking Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Carlton Fisk. He has the counting stats (2,472 hits) and the rate stats (.285/.348/.437). JAWS has him 10th all time among catchers, which should put him solidly in. He’s certainly worthy in my eyes.”

———

Mike Shalin, New Hampshire Union Leader
Selections: Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Alan Trammell.

“The idea Marvin Miller wasn’t elected long ago is truly absurd. Understandable — I guess — but absurd. The man was a genius whose magic improved the lives of the players and, in the process, helped build baseball into the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today.”

“Jack Morris did not get the proper respect from the voters in missing out his first time through. The ultimate gamer. I would match him with several pitchers already in. Tough as nails and a winner. Very special guy.”

“I admit to overlooking Trammell his first time through and I’m sorry for that — and will think of him as I vote for Omar Vizquel on the first ballot. Not that he was as good defensively as Vizquel, but he was a great all-around player on winning teams, certainly in Larkin’s class and, from what I’ve heard, a better player than both Scooter and Pee Wee.”

“Parker was as good a natural player as I ever saw. People remember him as a giant of a DH but man could he play right field — and that arm!!!! His off-field problems hurt him, but he became a true ambassador of the game later in his career — always a pleasure to talk to for the media.”

———

Joe Sheehan, Sports Illustrated
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“Alan Trammell is the all-around star the voters often miss on. I was late to his candidacy because of the early end to his career and some doubt about his defensive numbers, which were compiled on the high-grass Tiger Stadium infields of the 1980s. I turned around on him when considering the Hall’s dearth of shortstops and his exceptional eight-year peak. A shortstop with a .352 OBP in 9,000 PA in a low-offense era is a Hall of Famer.”

“Marvin Miller is associated with the gains of the MLBPA, particularly free agency, but the knock-on effects of his success with the players helped shape the industry for decades. The need to compete for talent forced teams, and the league, to professionalize all aspects of their business. Baseball evolved into a global hegemon in no small part because of Miller’s elevation of the players to an equal partner in the game’s spoils. If we’re going to honor the men he beat like a drum, then Miller should be honored as well.”

———

Mark Simon, ESPN
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“The justification for Miller is as simple as reading his New York Times obituary, which describes him as ‘one of the most important figures in baseball history.’ He built the player’s union into something significant and negotiated the free agency and arbitration systems that became models for other sports and changed the way athletes are viewed.”
 
“Trammell combined high-quality play both offensively and defensively with longevity. Of the top 15 eligible shortstops by Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system, only Bill Dahlen and Trammell are not in the Hall of Fame. Trammell’s 110 OPS+ is a little misleading — the time at which he excelled was one in which there were not many great offensive shortstops. Trammell had six seasons of at least 400 plate appearances and an OPS+ of 125 or better. The only shortstops to match or better it that are Honus Wagner (11), Arky Vaughan (9), Alex Rodriguez (7), Barry Larkin (6), Ernie Banks (6) and Joe Cronin (6). His defense is supported by both the eye test (four Gold Gloves) and the numbers. In short, his total package would be enough to merit my vote.”

———

Brandon Warne, The Athletic (Minnesota)
Selections: Marvin Miller, Alan Trammell.

“There’s little consolation now that Marvin Miller is gone, but it’s time to correct this miscarriage of justice and put him in the Hall of Fame — finally. Miller paved the way for modern-day free agency, and in a way helped make the game as financially viable — while still giving the players what they deserve — as it is today. Without Miller’s help, Curt Flood would not have been able to buck the system the way he did. As noted by Jay Jaffe in a recent article, the average MLB salary rose from $19,000 to over $240,000 during his tenure as executive director of the players’ association.”

“Alan Trammell was a modern shortstop but an era before we grew to expect them to be like him. Not only was he a terrific fielder, but he walked as often as he struck out and got on base at a wonderful clip. A routine year for Trammell at his peak was a wRC+ in the 130-140 range at a time when shortstops league-wide were averaging 50-60 points lower than that. He belongs.” 

———

Results
Marvin Miller: 21 of 22 votes (95%)
Alan Trammell: 19 of 22 votes (86%)

Ted Simmons: 8 of 22 votes (36%)
Jack Morris: 6 of 22 votes (27%)
Tommy John: 4 of 22 votes (18%)
Steve Garvey: 1 of 22 votes (5%)
Dave Parker: 1 of 22 votes (5%)
Don Mattingly: 0 votes
Dale Murphy: 0 votes
Luis Tiant: 0 votes

We hoped you liked reading Writers’ View: Who on the Modern Era Ballot Belongs in the Hall of Fame? by David Laurila!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

newest oldest most voted
stan
Member
Member
stan

I’m very happy to see so many Ted Simmons mentions. He’s the 9th best catcher of all time. When he played he was known as a good bat/ no glove guy but in retrospect his catching was actually at least average. One of the writers above listed him as top 9 all time. He’s actually top 8 because Joe Torre is listed as a catcher and didn’t play there for most of his career.