Gibson makes Hall cases for Morris, Trammell
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A lefty all the way as a power-hitting, game-changing World Series champion with the 1984 Tigers and 1988 Dodgers, Kirk Gibson was signing baseballs with his right hand on Tuesday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.
Told that Babe Ruth also was right-handed with a pen, Gibson looked up and said, "Really? It's called being ambidextrous." A football star in his Michigan State youth, the D-backs' manager added that he used to shoot -- and dunk -- basketballs right-handed.
Never one to shy away from a big moment or expressing an opinion, Gibson was asked a little later about the Hall of Fame candidacies of Jack Morris and Alan Trammell, teammates during the glory days in Detroit. Morris was the ace, and Trammell, making sweet music in the heart of the infield with Lou Whitaker, was a shortstop very much along the lines of 2012 Cooperstown inductee Barry Larkin.
"I think you can guess that I believe they should be in," said Gibson, the 2011 National League Manager of the Year in Arizona. "I think it's somewhat political, which is understandable.
"I think the most consistent consensus thing that I've heard is you're supposed to measure the guy against his peers -- the people he competed against within the era that he played. So, I think if you look at Alan Trammell and Jack Morris, it certainly would make them Hall of Fame worthy."
Morris spent 14 of his 18 Major League seasons in Detroit, registering 198 of his 254 career wins. He pitched in four postseasons and three World Series, starting Game 1 for the 1984 Tigers, '91 Twins and '92 Blue Jays. Each time his team celebrated a championship. His 1987 Tigers lost to the Twins in the ALCS.
On the Hall of Fame ballot for 13 years, Morris' approval rating with the Baseball Writers Association of America is on the rise. He increased his percentage in 2012 to 66.7, up from 53.5 the previous year. A comparable gain in the current election would lift him above the 75 percent threshold into Cooperstown.
Trammell also is picking up some steam. With 36.8 percent of the vote in 2012, he jumped 12.5 percent. His best showing in 11 years on the ballot still leaves him a long way from home.
Trammell was a .285 career hitter with 185 home runs, 1,003 RBIs and 1,231 runs scored. He won four Rawlings Gold Gloves and had a 67.1 lifetime WAR (wins above replacement) according to Baseball-Reference.com.
The Reds' Larkin hit .295 with 198 homers, 960 RBIs, 1,329 runs scored, three Gold Gloves and a 67.1 WAR -- identical to Trammell. Larkin drew 86.4 percent of the votes on his third ballot exposure in 2012.
"Was Alan Trammell flashy?" Gibson asked. "Probably not. Look at his numbers. Barry Larkin just made it in. He's a worthy Hall of Famer. Alan Trammell is right there with him. He played 20 years. I think the most outstanding thing about Trammell is he played with the same guy for 20 years, Whitaker. Those guys are just unreal, what they did.
"With Jack, I think if you evaluate the numbers too far, you look at his ERA or things like that, I think that it kind of muddies his case."
Naysayers point to his 3.90 career ERA and absence of a Cy Young Award. But Morris won more games than anybody in the '80s. Five times he finished in the top five in the Cy Young voting. He was in the top five in the league nine times in victories, seven times in innings, eight times in complete games.
Walking away after the 1994 season with the Indians, his fourth club, Morris was 254-186 (.577 winning percentage) with 175 complete games and 2,478 strikeouts in 3,824 innings.
He was 7-4 in 13 postseason starts with a 3.80 ERA, his team winning six of the seven series in which he appeared.
"This guy," Gibson said, "I've been in many games with him where he'd give up a four or five or six spot in the first two innings and refuse to come out of the game. He'd walk in the dugout and say, 'I've never lost with 10.' We'd win 9-8.
"Or if he's out there and it's the seventh inning and we're up by six runs and he has to give up four to win, he's certainly not coming out of the game. Certainly his postseason accolades and records are almost unmatched, certainly within the era of the game that he played.
"They both should get in, in my view. I certainly support that, and they would represent the Hall very well."
The '84 Tigers started the season 35-5 and took out the Padres in five World Series games. Trammell, hitting .450, was the Series MVP. Gibson, the AL Championship Series MVP, powered a sweep of the Royals.
That great team is represented only by its manager, Sparky Anderson, in the Hall of Fame. Gibson seems to believe Morris is on the verge of joining him.
"I think that won't be the case for that much longer, I really don't," Gibson said of the exclusion of '84 Tigers from Cooperstown. "I think somebody will get in the Hall."
Morris recently confided that he isn't holding his breath.
"Let's just say I would be honored," Morris said. "What's important is a healthy family and food on the table for your kids. For me, it's the highest honor in baseball.
"I've learned a lot over these 14 years. Some things are out of your control, and there's no willing it to happen. It's a process that happens the way it's supposed to happen."
If he makes an acceptance speech in Cooperstown, Morris will be sure to endorse Trammell while remembering Gibby, Sparky and all the rest of those Tigers.
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.