Now THIS is an outrage. Ian Kinsler is a sound ballplayer, but even if he were Hall of Fame caliber, the idea of him wearing No. 3 for the Detroit Tigers should be out of the question. And yet, that's going to be his number. The same one Alan Trammell wore from 1978-1996 (and, later, for three seasons as a manager). The same No. 3 that should be retired.
Kinsler joins shortstop Jose Iglesias on the middle infield, of course, and do you know what number Iglesias wears? No. 1, as in Lou Whitaker's number from 1977 to 1995. The Tigers middle infielders again will wear Nos. 1 and 3. It might seem cool, but it's not cool.
Trammell is one of the best and most popular players in Tigers history and should be in the Hall of Fame, but it'll take a Ron Santo-like surge among some future veteran's committee to make that happen. Also, the Tigers, for whatever reason, have not retired his jersey number. They let Gary Sheffield wear No. 3 when he played for the Tigers in 2007 and 2008 — and that was just as much of a disgrace, even if Sheffield definitely is Hall of Fame caliber. It was a bad precedent. In time, perhaps they'll explain why they've changed their policy, or if there ever was a policy, or why there is no policy. No matter, it should be one of those unwritten baseball rules: Nobody wears No. 3 again for the Tigers.
The same goes for No. 1 because of Whitaker, who has just as reasonable of a case for the Hall of Fame as Trammell. Here's what he said during the ALCS in October about Iglesias wearing No. 1:
"Well, you know, Tigers want to be No. 1. You need No. 1 on the field. And so he was brave enough to ask for it," Whitaker said. "He got it. I was a rookie when I had it. He's a rookie. So hopefully he can just have a great career."
Whitaker said he was not asked about the number.
"I guess he went in there and saw nobody wearing the number," he said. "It was up for grabs, and that's what he wanted, and that's what he got."
Very gracious of Whitaker. And it's not like Trammell seems like one to complain, either. Whitaker and Trammell were appreciated in their day — they were the players on the Tigers you had to stop, and everyone knew it — but they haven't gotten much respect in Hall of Fame voting. Jack Morris and supporters whine and get attention now, but Trammell and Whitaker were better players than Morris. Where's the Hall of Fame movement for them? That's another argument, though.
This numbers racket is something the Tigers can control. They've already retired seven numbers (including Jackie Robinson's No. 42), so they're not going to run out. They don't even have to do a ceremony if they don't want. Maybe the Tigers want to wait for Trammell and Whitaker to make the Hall of Fame, though they've already retired Willie Horton's No. 23 — and he's not going to Cooperstown — so that precedent's been used.
But letting other players after Whitaker and Trammell wear Nos. 1 and 3 is bad form, Hall of Fame threshold or not.
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