With all of the talk surrounding certain players–Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire–that voters may or may not think shouldn’t be in the Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s time some talk started to circulate about deserving players who are being overlooked year after year. I can think of none more deserving and more overlooked than Dale Murphy.
It’s not easy to write this column without coming off as a whiny homer who’s boyhood idol is being disrespected, because that’s the honest truth of it. But regardless of how I personally feel about the Atlanta Braves or Dale Murphy, I’d be able to make an easy argument as to why ‘The Murph’ belongs in Cooperstown.
Murphy’s final MLB season was in 1993, which means he has been eligible for consideration for the Hall of Fame since 1999. To be elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) you need 75% of the votes, but the highest that Murphy has ever received was 23% in 2000.
He has been able to maintain the minimum 5% needed to remain on the ballot each year (although his votes falling below 15% since 2000 is an absolute joke), but this will be his 15th and final year of eligibility on the ballot before his name is turned over down the road to the Veteran’s Committee.
We’ve all heard the arguments from some writers as to why Murphy doesn’t belong in the hall, or as the New York Times‘ baseball writer Stuart Miller put it, that he’s a “close but no” guy. Some have cited that Murphy’s sharp decline at the end of his career have hurt his chances.
Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal says, “I don’t vote for Murphy…I feel badly about it — if ever a guy met the ‘character, integrity, sportsmanship’ criteria in a positive way, it’s him. But his relatively short peak bothers me, and even though we’ve come to understand that batting average is not the best offensive measure, his .265 mark is simply not up to Hall standards.”
Those three words–character, integrity and sportsmanship–also known as “Rule 5” in the BBWAA for Hall of Fame election rules, are what should propel Murphy into the Hall of Fame as the appendix to some pretty impressive numbers. If those words can keep other players from being elected, then there is no reason they shouldn’t be what puts Murphy over the top.
No steroids, no “cream” or “clear”, no corked bats, no pine tar incidents, not even a whiff of controversy or question as to whether or not Dale Murphy’s accomplishments were naturally achieved. He played during an era that was fraught with cocaine and other drug use and he left just as the juicing in baseball began its upswing. His impeccable reputation as a clean-living player is nearly unparalleled, particularly in modern baseball.
I would agree that the so-called “steroids era” in baseball and the mammoth power numbers that came with it have made Murphy’s numbers look a little less impressive than they actually are. The fact that he played on many more bad Braves teams than good ones could also factor in to him being overlooked. But the bottom line is, the members of the BBWAA need to re-evaluate, and do the right thing by voting Dale Murphy in Cooperstown.
The numbers, although some pale in comparison to modern sluggers, are pretty darn impressive:
• Back-to-back NL MVP 1982, 1983
• 7-time NL All-Star
• 4-time Silver Slugger award-winner
• 5-time Gold Glove award-winner
• 6th player in MLB history to reach 30 home runs/30 stolen bases in a single season
• Only player in history to compile a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in a single season, 1983
• Led MLB in total bases during the span of 1980-1989 (2,796)
• 2nd in total home runs from 1980-1989 (308)
• 2nd in total runs from 1980-1989
In other words, the 1980’s pretty much were owned by Dale Murphy (ok, and Mike Schmidt). The Hall of Fame is supposed to recognize the history of the game, and those who were the dominant force during their time. I think the numbers above pretty much paint that picture.
Dale Murphy belongs in the Hall of Fame – period. He personifies everything that a Hall of Fame player should be. He was (and still is) unselfish, and humble – the consummate team player. He was always (and still is) giving his time to the fans, never refusing a request for an autograph or a photo opportunity with a admiring fans. If the BBWAA fails to elect him in his final year of eligibility, they are doing a disservice to the game of baseball, and all that the hall stands for.