One of the greatest Hall of Fame injustices in recent years, in my book, occurred two years ago with the ballot for the Modern Baseball Era Committee.
While Detroit Tigers greats Alan Trammell and Jack Morris made the ballot and got voted in, their teammate Lou Whitaker wasn’t even up for consideration. Just as Sweet Lou drew only 2.9 percent of the vote his only year on the writers’ ballot in 2001, one of the greatest second basemen in baseball history was once again overlooked.
Times could be changing. With Trammell having made a plug for his former double play partner in his induction speech and Whitaker eligible for consideration again this fall, perhaps he’s due for his moment. But results that follow hint that there still might be some conversation needed around Whitaker’s case.
As a refresher for anyone new, I recently conducted a survey via the website Qualtrics, asking people to rank 10 players at each position, from 1 for most-deserving of induction to 10 for least-deserving. Having previously shared results for pitchers, catchers, and first basemen, it’s my pleasure to now share results for second base.
Q4 – Rank the following second basemen, ranging from 1 for most-deserving of Hall of Fame induction to 10 for least-deserving
[From a survey of 425 respondents, fielded via Qualtrics]
There’s a lot to unpack here. Once again, I’m struck by the parity up top after the first position. Jeff Kent has struggled to gain any traction on the writers ballot, rising to 18.1 percent, his best showing thus far, in his sixth and most-recent appearance. It’s striking to see him outpace sabermetric favorite (and one of my personal favorite candidates) Bobby Grich. It’s also interesting to see Grich ranked in front of Chase Utley, his closest comp among ballplayers in recent years.
As for Whitaker, top showing and an average ranking of 2.83 would seemingly be cause for celebration among his supporters. Still, the breakdown of individual voting shows a couple things for Whitaker worth highlighting.
Whitaker got the most first-place votes. But he also got the most second-place votes and wasn’t terribly far off on having the most third-place votes. Granted, some of this is reflective of the caliber of second basemen not enshrined. Still, my sense is that not enough consensus has developed to ensure Whitaker will be enshrined this fall. I’ll be struck if he fails to make the ballot again. But with Whitaker needing 12 of 16 committee votes for induction, I could see him falling in the 7-10 vote range.
Staying on Whitaker for a moment longer, filters via the survey website that I used for this project, Qualtrics, can help us go further into the minds of voters who didn’t rank Whitaker first. The filters show:
- The 61 voters who ranked Grich first ranked Whitaker 2.66 on average, slightly better actually than Whitaker’s overall ranking of 2.83;
- The 61 voters who ranked Robinson Cano first ranked Whitaker 4.15 on average;
- The 60 voters who ranked Kent first ranked Whitaker 4.52 on average.
This suggests to me that voters who appreciate Grich are also likely to appreciate Whitaker, which makes sense since it takes sabermetrics to appreciate each man’s case. What’s interesting to me is that Grich is also eligible with the Modern Era Baseball Committee this fall. I suspect he’ll be left off the ballot, since like Whitaker, he was one-and-done on the writers’ ballot and unlike Whitaker, Grich doesn’t have a recently-inducted teammate advocating publicly for him. In fact, Grich has yet to make a veterans’ ballot. But I wouldn’t be stunned if Grich’s absence from the ballot hurts Whitaker with a voter or two. They’re just too similar of candidates.
Looking at the remainder of the results, it’ll be interesting to see if this is Cano’s high-water mark as a candidate. Same for Dustin Pedroia. Both men look like their days as useful players could be behind them. I’m pleased to see Willie Randolph, another underrated player, doing relatively well in the votes here. Ross Barnes did about as well as an 1870s legend could be expected. As for Davey Lopes and Frank White, I might look to swap them out as candidates if I field this again in the future.
That said, I’ll share the results of third base tomorrow.