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More Expansion-Era Stars Deserve Plaques In Cooperstown

Alan Trammell (left) and Lou Whitaker led the 1984 Tigers to a title. (Getty Images)

Because of its history, tradition and exclusivity, the Hall of Fame resonates emotionally with virtually all baseball fans.

But the venerable institution has one blind spot: The impact of players born in the 19th or early 20th centuries are overstated compared with players born after. The Hall is aware of this imbalance.

Hall chairman of the board Jane Forbes Clark addressed the issue in 2016 when announcing the Hall’s new era committees. The committees will consider the cases for players who have fallen off the writers’ ballot on a more consistent basis than the old veterans committee did.

"Notably, there are twice as many players in the Hall of Fame who debuted before 1950 as compared to afterward, and yet there are nearly double the eligible candidates after 1950 than prior,” she said in a press release.

Born BetweenHall of Fame Players
The number of Hall of Famers born between 1940 and 1969 probably will grow in the next few elections. That’s because a number of stars born in the 1960s remain on the writers’ ballot. The preeminent names from that group, in terms of voting results, are Barry BondsRoger ClemensTrevor HoffmanEdgar MartinezMike Mussina and Curt SchillingGary Sheffield and Larry Walker also belong to this group but have failed to gain traction in balloting.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Guerrero and Manny Ramirez will attempt to join Pedro Martinez and Ivan Rodriguez as the only Hall of Famers born in the 1970s.

Even if several of these players eventually earn enshrinement, Hall membership still would skew toward earlier generations. To achieve the Hall’s goal of better representing the stars of the 1980s and ’90s, Baseball America submits the following players for your consideration. All four fell off the writers’ ballot, and all four produced careers within hailing distance of a Hall of Famer.

Alan Trammell, SS, Tigers

Born: 1958. Active: 1977 to 1996. Honors: 6x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove, 3x Silver Slugger, 1984 World Series MVP, 1987 AL MVP runner-up. Next Eligible For Vote: 2017 "modern baseball” committee.

Similar Hall of Famer: Barry Larkin (No. 2 similarity score).

Comparison Per 650 Plate Appearances

BA Verdict: Hall of Famer

Lou Whitaker, 2B, Tigers

Born: 1957. Active: 1977 to 1995. Honors: 5x All-Star, 3x Gold Glove, 4x Silver Slugger, 1978 AL Rookie of the Year. Next Eligible For Vote: 2017 "modern baseball” committee.

Similar Hall of Famer: Ryne Sandberg (No. 1 similarity score).

Comparison Per 650 Plate Appearances

BA Verdict: Hall of Famer

When they debuted in the late 1970s, Trammell and Whitaker helped usher in an era of middle infielders who contributed both offensively and defensively—even though Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryne Sandberg, who both debuted in 1981, get more credit for that revolution because of their power production. In fact, advanced metrics recognize Trammell as the best shortstop and Whitaker as the best second baseman of the 1980s. What’s more, their Tigers teams won more games in the ’80s than any franchise but the Yankees and won the 1984 World Series.

Kenny Lofton led the AL in stolen bases five times in the 1990s. (Getty Images)

Kenny Lofton, CF, Indians

Born: 1967. Active: 1991 to 2007. Honors: 6x All-Star, 4x Gold Glove. Next Eligible For Vote: 2023 "today’s game” committee.

Similar Hall of Famer: Tim Raines (No. 2 similarity score).

Comparison Per 650 Plate Appearances

BA Verdict: Hall of Famer—barely

Lofton’s teams qualified for the postseason 11 times in his 17 seasons, fueled by his contributions as the top leadoff batter of his era and his outstanding defensive play. He retired with 622 stolen bases, a total we may not see approached for a long time.

Only one Hall of Fame outfielder of the Integration Era has an OPS+ below 110, as Lofton does at 107. That one other player is Lou Brock (109), who was a superior basestealer, albeit one who struck out more, walked less and provided far less defensive value as a left fielder than Lofton did as a center fielder.

Kevin Brown, RHP, Various Teams

Born: 1965. Active: 1986 to 2005. Honors: 6x All-Star, 2 ERA Titles, 1996 NL Cy Young Award runner-up. Next Eligible For Vote: 2021 "today’s game” committee.

Similar Hall of Famer: Don Drysdale (No. 4 similarity score).

Comparison Per 34 Starts

BA Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer

MiLB Top 10 Prospects Flashback: 1990 Florida State League

The 1990 FSL boasted transcendent young catcher Ivan Rodriguez plus two late-round draft picks out of college who far exceeded expectations.

Only Pedro Martinez (2.45) had a lower ERA than Brown (2.53) for the six seasons from 1996 to 2001. During that time, Martinez won three Cy Young Awards, compared with one second- and one third-place finish for Brown in the NL. In those two instances, he received just 10 total first-place votes out of 60. That could be a fluke of luck—or an indication that contemporary witnesses never viewed Brown as the best starter in his league, despite the fact he pitched like one. Outside of his peak, Brown recorded a 3.79 ERA over 1,931 innings, and his name later surfaced in the Mitchell Report linking him to steroids and human growth hormone.

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