The 1935, 1945, 1968, and 1984 World Series winners are one of baseball’s historic franchises. And they have great players who have spent their entire careers in the Motor City. While some Rushmores are really interesting and nearly impossible to figure, there are some of you out there, perhaps many, who name the Tiger Mount Rushmore without tremendous consideration.
Guys It’s Not
Well, in spite of the greatness of Ty Cobb, our rules say the 967 plate appearances and 6.3 WAR at the end of his career in Philadelphia preclude him from inclusion here. Hooks Dauss is 19th on the all-time Tiger WAR list with 39.2 WAR, and he never played for another team. A solid pitcher for a long time and a star in 1915 and 1923, Dauss isn’t actually close to making it. One spot ahead of Dauss is HoMEr Bill Freehan with 44.7 WAR, all for Detroit. He’s not terribly close either. Surprisingly, #13, Justin Verlander isn’t either despite over 50 WAR. A spot ahead of Verlander as of this writing is Tommy Bridges with 51 WAR. He had eleven seasons of over 3 WAR on the mound, and he doesn’t make it either. Neither does two-time MVP Prince Hal Newhouser, 8th in WAR for Detroit. Wow, the Tigers have a lot of contenders. That’s because their top-four are so great.
Tiger Mount Rushmore
Al Kaline: Would we look at Kaline’s career differently if eight of his grounders snuch through the infield? If the wind blew one of his fly balls out? Mr Tiger, in spite of 92.5 career WAR, is underappreciated among greats. Maybe that’s because his career batting average dipped to .297. Or maybe because he never hit 30 homers and finished his career with 399. Plus, he missed 500 career doubles by just two. I can’t imagine what would have happened without those eight hits that got him to 3,007. The 45 voters who didn’t think he was deserving of the Hall in 1980 might have grown by some. But not to the 370 voters who didn’t find Ron Santo deserving. Wow!
Charlie Gehringer: The Mechanical Man helped the Tigers to the title in 1935, won the MVP Award two years later, and hit .320 for his career. Since the time his career began in 1924, only Joe Morgan has totaled more WAR among second basemen.
Lou Whitaker: Sweet Lou has it tough. He’s not the best second baseman in Tiger history. Charlie Gehringer is. He may not be the best keystone player in his own infield. Many would give that distinction to Alan Trammell. And he’s not even the best second baseman outside the Hall. That’s Bobby Grich. But his exclusion from the Hall is outrageous. In his one time on the ballot, he was soundly beaten by an inferior middle infielder, Dave Concepcion. He was crushed by an inferior Tiger, Jack Morris. Two guys were voted in on their first ballot when Lou appeared, Dave Winfield and Kirby Puckett. If I had a franchise and could guarantee it the talent of just one of the three, I’d happily choose Lou Whitaker.
Alan Trammell: I don’t think I feel quite as badly for Trammell being outside the Hall as Whitaker. Trammell at least had fifteen chances to Whitaker’s one. Was it the difference between being a white shortstop and a black second baseman? Well, um, maybe. He was an All-Star six times to Whitaker’s five. He won four Gold Gloves compared to Whitaker’s three. He won the 1984 World Series MVP, while Whitaker won the 1978 AL Rookie of the Year. Whitaker homered more, scored more runs, drove in more runs, had a higher OBP, and a higher SLG, and had more WAR. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that Alan Trammell isn’t in the Hall is a joke. Had he begun in New York in 1995 rather than Detroit in 1977, we’d call him one of the best ever.
My Tiger Rushmore
This is the hardest choice I’ve had thus far.
Ty Cobb: A reader remarked after my introductory post to this series that while it might be okay to exclude Roger Clemens from the Red Sox Rushmore because Sox fans aren’t fans of the Rocket, doing so with someone like Willie Mays would just be silly. While I don’t mind if these posts are a bit silly, he inspired my inclusion of this section. And Cobb is clearly the best Tiger ever.
Lou Whitaker: I could have copped out and offered Lou Trammell or Alan Whitaker, but I had to make a choice. I pick Whitaker mainly because the media hasn’t. And he was a great, great player who belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Come back next Friday for the Colorado Rockies.