On the other hand, the three non-Tigers I voted for just might. In fact, I'll be surprised if Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven don't get in this time around. Jeff Bagwell might have to wait a bit longer -- perhaps a lot longer because of the era in which he played.
My reasons for choosing Morris and Trammell have been well-documented in the eight years I have been given a vote as a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Bottom line on Morris: He was the A.L.'s best pitcher in the 1980s and few matched his knack for winning big games. Bottom line on Trammell: His offensive numbers were clearly better than Ozzie Smith (a first-ballot Hall of Famer) and he wasn't far behind Smith defensively, despite all the hype the Wizard received for his glove work.
That brings me to Alomar. For several reasons, I was on the fence when it came time to vote last year, and my motto is: If it's maybe, then it's no. In the months since, I've discussed the issue with other writers who I respect, and simply put, I blew it last year. Alomar won 10 of 11 gold gloves from 1991 to 2001 and led second basemen in average, hits and home runs over than span. Ken Rosenthal was right when he called last year's vote "an embarrassment." I think my mistake (and others') will be corrected this time around.
Similarly, I didn't vote for Blyleven the first year I had a vote. I mistakenly compared him to Tommy John and Jim Kaat, who I felt were close but not quite there. Then I looked deeper into Blyleven's numbers, and one stat simply cannot be ignored: 3,701. That's Blyleven's career strikeout total -- fifth all-time. Every other pitcher in the top 12 (excluding a tainted Roger Clemens) is either in the Hall of Fame or will make it on the first ballot that they're eligible (Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux).
That brings us to Bagwell. He is officially the first slugger from the steroids era that I marked on my ballot. No, I have not voted for McGwire. No, I did not vote for Palmeiro. Why? Performance enhancing drugs. Bagwell has never been linked to steroids, either by investigation, accusation or rumor. He amassed impressive numbers in 15 seasons before he was derailed by shoulder problems, and he did it mostly in a ballpark (the Astrodome) that historically unkind to sluggers. Comparisons can be made, of course, that Fred McGriff -- with similar numbers -- also deserves my vote. But McGriff played four more seasons than Bagwell did, and Bagwell was a far better base runner, swiping 202 bases (compared to McGriff's 72). He also scored 168 more runs than McGriff (1,517-1,349) in nearly 1,000 fewer at-bats.
I know, I know. There are fans out there who will complain that there is no way I can be sure Bagwell wasn't on the juice (true), so I can't simply pick and choose who I believe was or wasn't taking steroids (false). I can, and I have.
God gave me a brain, discernment and an opinion. Thankfully, the BBWAA gave me a vote.