The On Deck Circle

Baseball History, Commentary and Analysis

Cleaning Up The Hall of Fame: Rizzuto vs. Trammell

Phil Rizzuto, N.Y. Yankees bunting wonder, ill...

Image by State Library and Archives of Florida via Flickr

In this new series, we are going to clean up The Hall,  the Hall of Fame, that is.  According to the Hall of Fame’s official website, about 1% of all players who have ever worn a Major League Baseball uniform have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

That number seems about right to me.

But it raises a question.  How big and crowded should The Hall be allowed to become?  Currently, there are 295 plaques (which includes managers, umpires, etc.) in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery.  Over time, of course, this number will continue to grow, and although it is not growing quickly, it is possible to foresee a day when the Plaque Gallery is as crowded as the checkout line at Target on Black Friday.

I have no particular number in mind as to what constitutes “enough” plaques in the Plaque Gallery.  But could The Hall physically hold, for example, 400 plaques?  How about 500?  Assuming baseball continues to hold any interest for the general public one century hence, will anyone in the year 2112 make the pilgrimage to Cooperstown to stand in front of Orlando Cepeda’s plaque and have any idea who he was?  Should that matter?

First of all, we have to stop pretending that every player who was considered a superstar in his time cannot be reevaluated in light of all that has happened in the several decades since he last put on a pair of spikes.  The passage of time offers a perspective not available to that particular player’s contemporaries.

Certain players who appeared to be superstars in the first half of the twentieth century now appear, given modern standards of objective analysis, to have been merely very good ball players who left a strong emotional imprint on the judgments of peers (and voters) of decades past.

What I’m proposing, then, is to gradually improve the quality of the players in the Hall of Fame, one player at a time.  One player out; another (arguably better) player in.

All of which brings us to Phil Rizzuto.

Phil Rizzuto was an important part of several New York Yankees championship teams in the 1940’s and early ’50’s.  His defensive skills made the Yankees pitchers better.  But was his defense good enough to merit Hall of Fame selection?

In a word, no.  Rizzuto’s dWAR for his career, (interrupted for three years by W.W.II) was 11.0, the same as Frank White, and slightly higher than Willie Randolph.  For a relatively weak-hitting infielder, his defense needs to be world-class — Ozzi Smith-good —  to justify selection to The Hall of Fame.  Rizzuto doesn’t meet that test.

Rizzuto’s career offensive numbers are unimpressive.  He posted a career triple slash line of .273 / .351 / .355.  Rizzuto’s career OPS+ of 93 is about the same as Edgar Renteria’s career mark of 94.

Rizzuto hit just 38 home runs in his career, scored only 877 runs, stole 149 bases and amassed just 339 extra base hits in his entire career.  He did, however, lead his league in sacrifice bunts four times.

Rizzuto enjoyed one fantastic year when he won the A.L. MVP award at age 32 in 1950.  His WAR of 7.1 led the league. He reached a career high 271 total bases, scored 125 runs and batted .324.  Rizzuto also produced 200 hits, drew a career high 92 walks, and slammed 36 doubles.

Although he was a five-time All Star, much of his Hall of Fame resume revolves around this one season.  But lots of players have had one great season.  It is not often the case, however, that they go on to gain enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Rizzuto was the David Eckstein of his era, but on a much bigger stage, and with a more formidable P.R. machine behind him.

 Clearly, Phil Rizzuto does not belong in The Hall.

The player whom I would replace him with is former Detroit Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell.  Whereas Rizzuto posted a career WAR of 41.8, Trammell easily outclasses him with a mark of 66.9.  By comparison, HOF’ers Eddie Murray, PeeWee Reese, Gary Carter and Roberto Alomar all produced lower career WAR than Trammell.

Trammell also posted a better career OPS+ of 110 to Rizzuto’s 93.

A much better power hitter, Trammell slugged 185 home runs in his career.  He also produced 652 extra base hits, nearly twice as many as Rizzuto’s 339.  Trammell’s triple slash line of .285 / .352 / .415 is also better than Rizzuto’s, as is his .767 OPS.

Trammell compiled 2,365 hits, 1,231 runs scored, and 1,003 RBI.  Each of these numbers are significantly higher than what Rizzuto produced.  And even accounting for the three years that Rizzuto missed while in the service, it is still unlikely that the would have matched Trammell’s totals in any of those categories.

Defensively, Trammell was no slouch, either.  He won four Gold Gloves, and finished his career with a dWAR of 7.5, not as good as Rizzuto’s, but not significantly worse, either.

Trammell finished second in A.L. MVP voting in 1987.  He won three Silver Sluggers as the best hitter at his position.  He also made six All Star Teams.

Clearly, Trammell was the better shortstop.  Removing Rizzuto from The Hall and replacing him with Alan Trammell would make The Hall incrementally better, but you have to start somewhere.

1984 World Series Hero, Alan Trammell 1991 Tig...

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20 thoughts on “Cleaning Up The Hall of Fame: Rizzuto vs. Trammell

  1. This article is so ON POINT. I visited Cooperstown last year and asked the people on duty there if they had others asking about this controversy. One man told me I was the first one to question Rizzuto -in and Trammell -out THAT AFTERNOON. Why is Trammell still OUT? – it is ridiculous…..the committee needs to get their heads out of #$$!$%$% and put him in.

    • Thank you, Peter. While there’s obviously no chance of removing Rizzuto from The Hall (and, at this point, there’s not much point in doing so), there really is no good reason why Trammell shouldn’t be in there as well.
      I haven’t been to Cooperstown in years, but I’d still like to get back up there someday.
      Thanks for reading, and take care,
      -Bill

  2. I am 100% in agreement – I have been having this discussion over the years with anyone who would listen to me……it is a travesty…rizzuto was pedestrian player, at best and in today’s game, would not even make a roster…..Trammell needs to be added now..he is far more deserving

    • Players from the 1980’s have generally been overlooked as a group. Instead, we will have another pointless attempt by yet another old-timer’s committee to induct a player from the pre-integration years, a group that has been picked over again and again. Trammell was very underrated (as was his teammate, Lou Whitaker), but Rizzuto got to play on several championship teams, and that’s made all the difference.
      Thanks for stopping by,
      -Bill

  3. Provocative post, Bill. I love this kind of stuff. I think you have more to fear from rabid Yankees fans than you do from ghosts. I’m surprised none of them tore into you here for suggesting that Scooter get the boot.

  4. Pingback: Watching Derek Jeter’s Iconic Career | The Outfield

  5. absolutely – Rizzuto made it because he was a Yankee and Trammell didn’t becuase he was a Tiger….Phil baby rode th4 coattails of REAL HOFers…Trammell was the best player on his team for many years….. Rizzuto should be O-U-T and Trammell should be I-N !!!!!!!!!

  6. My personal Hall of Fame project bumped Rizzuto and added Trammell, but the first SS I’d go after is Rabbit Maranville. Maranville’s name will come up in a few years as he is essentially the first version of Omar Vizquel.

  7. It's all good on said:

    I like this idea of cleaning out the HOF. If it were up to me I would make it a two for one deal. Joe Tinker AND Rizzuto for Trammell or why not throw in the entire double play combo of Tinker to Evers to Chance (I never understood the popularity of that poem). We need to clear those HOF walls off for the all time hit leader, all time homerun champ and proabably the greatest pitcher from all time (Clemens). Oh yeah, I guess there will still be room. Oh well we always have Ron Santo!

    • Hi Dan, Thanks for jumping on board! Yup, there are some very questionable characters in The Hall. But I don’t see Rose, Bonds and Clemens getting in for some time (yes, I know you were being ironic.) But we may have to work backwards, and remove Jim Rice out of The Hall before we start doing anything else.
      Thanks for reading, man, and have a great Christmas!
      Bil

  8. Pingback: Cleaning Up the Hall of Fame: Rick Ferrell vs. Thurman Munson | The On Deck Circle

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  10. Frankly, I don’t like the idea of taking someone out of the HoF once they’re in (even someone like OJ Simpson). Seems like you and your family shouldn’t have to worry about lobbying every year to assure you aren’t dropped once you are honored.
    Having said all that, I agree Trammell is a much better choice than Rizzuto.
    v

    • I see your point. But I don’t expect this blog will have much influence on The Hall anyway. Just hypothetical arguments meant to provoke some discussion. Also, most of the guys I’d pull out are dead already, so they probably won’t care much, although if I am visited by the Ghost of HOF’ers Past, I’ll have to eat my words.
      Have a great Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading, Bill

  11. Yes, life is more who you know. Thanks for linking to my blog. I had to update the link I had for you but you’re on the blogroll.

  12. Bill,
    You’re argument here is rather interesting. Even today there are a number of names in the HOF many fans, including myself, don’t know. What if Rizzuto wasn’t a Yankee broadcaster? Would his popularity have been as great?

    • Hi Vince, I’m sure all those years in the Yankee broadcast booth helped a lot with the Old Timers Committee voters. And a positive word from Ted Williams goes along way, too. But The Hall has long been an insider boys club, where connections make all the difference. Much like real life, I suppose.
      BTW, I added you to my blog roll. Thanks for signing up, Bill

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