If I was given the power to induct one position player and one pitcher into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I'd immediately enshrine Lou Whitaker and Tommy John.
Lou Whitaker played second base for the Detroit Tigers from 1977 to 1995. He, along with teammate Alan Trammell, combined to make the greatest double-play duo in baseball history. Alan Trammell was rightfully inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. Meanwhile, Lou Whitaker seems further from Cooperstown than ever. This is like sending peanut butter to the Sandwich Hall of Fame while pretending that jelly doesn't exist.
Let's look at the numbers:
|Hits||Home Runs||Batting Avg.||OPS||RBI|
Lou Whitaker has better batting statistics than Alan Trammell, although I'd argue that both of them were good-but-not-great hitters. Nevertheless, baseball statisticians have awarded Whitaker with 75.1 wins above a replacement player (WAR) in recognition of his total contributions as a player. (He was a great fielder, as was Trammell.) That's more than Trammell's 70.7 WAR and also greater than all but 48 position players among the thousands who have played the game!
Some allege that Whitaker was snubbed because of racism. Others say his personality was tough (even if true, Cooperstown is full of players who were nasty on and off the field). Whatever the reasons, it's wrong to ignore Lou Whitaker's contributions on the field and the "Veteran's Committee" has the power to right this wrong by sending Whitaker to Cooperstown in 2019. They darn well should!
Tommy John may be the best "groundball pitcher" to ever play the game. He induced more double-plays (605) than any pitcher in baseball history and only gave up a scant 0.6 home runs per 9 innings pitched. John finished his career with 288 wins (more than Jim Bunning), a .555 winning percentage (better than Nolan Ryan) and 62 wins above a replacement player (36.3 more than Rollie Fingers). All of those parenthetical pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.
After missing the 1975 season to recover from the now-commonplace surgery that bears his name, Tommy John returned to the mound in spectacular fashion. He won 20 or more games in 1977, 1979 and 1980 with a good ERA to boot. I think John would have seen Cooperstown decades ago if he retired on his record from the 1960s and 1970s. Instead, he pitched into the late 1980s and people forgot how good he was. Even so, John retired with solid lifetime statistics:
|Wins||Losses||Winning %||ERA||Strike Outs|
Tommy John had more than 2,000 strikeouts in his career, which works out to less than 100 per season that he pitched. I think that people hold that against him, and if so, that's just silly. Is a solo home run more valuable than a two-run double? Of course not. But, that's the type of logic that puts strikeout pitchers on a pedestal while diminishing double-play pitchers who achieve the same (or better) end result.
I believe that Tommy John will find his way into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I just hope that The Modern Baseball Committee makes that happen while John is alive. Remember Ron Santo. He played during the same era as John and could have enjoyed a place in Cooperstown for decades. Instead, he was inducted in 2012, two years after his death. That's a mistake that shouldn't be made again.