Lou Whitaker (at least it's supposed to be him) gave a bizarre interview with MLB Network Radio on Friday in which he seemed occasionally incoherent and not altogether "there." However, among the odd speech pattern and awkward silences with co-host Jim Bowden, he gave some insight on the Hall of Fame candidacy of Jack Morris.
Morris, in his 15th and final attempt on the Baseball Writers Association of America ballot, is among those wondering if this is the year he gets into Cooperstown. With nearly a quarter of the votes made public as of Monday, it's not looking good for Morris. The official announcement comes Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. Morris' next opportunity probably would be with a veteran's committee, perhaps in 2016.
No matter how it's parsed, Morris has a better shot than Trammell or Whitaker. And that rankles Sweet Lou, a Morris teammate alongside Alan Trammell from 1977 to 1990, who did not come off as Morris' biggest supporter in the interview. Whitaker never knocked Morris per se, but his comments could be summed up thusly:
Jack Morris was only as good as Trammell and Whitaker — and if Morris belongs in the Hall, then Trammell and himself should precede him. The Detroit Sports Rag got hold of the audio and the Detroit News did a transcription:
“Jack Morris was no better than Alan Trammell-Lou Whitaker,” Whitaker said during the interview [...]. “If we didn’t make the plays, and we didn’t come up with the big hits, Jack Morris wouldn’t be where he was, or where he is.”
Now, just because it was hard to listen to Whitaker at that particular moment, it doesn't mean he's wrong. What did people say about the good and great Detroit Tigers teams of the 1980s? They were best up the middle, with Trammell at shortstop and Whitaker at second base, and Chet Lemon in center with Lance Parrish behind the plate. THEN pitchers like Jack Morris and Willie Hernandez got love. The narrative of the time did not survive into the present.
Regardless, it can be shown with statistics that Whitaker and Trammell were better players than Morris. Whitaker might have been the best second baseman of the 1980s — right there with Ryne Sandberg, anyway. Better at Wins Above Replacement (via Baseball-Reference) than Roberto Alomar and 10 other second basemen in the Hall. Trammell ranks as the 11th-best shortstop by WAR, better than Barry Larkin and 15 others at that position in Cooperstown. About as valuable as Derek Jeter.
Morris, conversely, ranks 159th among starting pitchers in WAR, better than five Hall of Famers including Catfish Hunter. He was good, just not as good as Trammell and Whitaker.
The interviewers never asked Whitaker about his own personal feelings about dropping off the Hall of Fame ballot after one measly season because he didn't get enough support. He probably does have an ax to grind — maybe not with Morris but with the writers. He certainly believes in his own career.
Nor did the interviewers ask him about why writers continue to under-appreciate Trammell, who remains a long shot with three ballots to go before getting kicked off. Sweet Lou was acting just a bit too odd to keep on the air.
But that doesn't mean he was wrong.
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