For those of us who grew up being able to watch the Chicago Cubs on WGN and the Atlanta Braves on TBS, an infatuation with good players on bad teams was very likely. At one time, I thought that Leon Durham and Shawon Dunston were the greatest players on the planet.
However, one player stood above the rest before John Smoltz and Tom Glavine helped make the Braves a team worth watching, and that player was Dale Murphy. Eligible for the Hall of Fame since 1999, Murphy is in the last year of his eligiblity after never gaining more that 23.2 percent of the vote, which occured in 2000.
While we have many things to consider for his candidacy, his son, Chad, did a favor to the BBWAA by writing some major points in an open letter to all voters:
- Back-to-back NL MVP 1982, 1983 (1 of only 12 players—and the youngest in history at that time—to accomplish this)
- 7-time NL All-Star (top NL vote-getter in 1985 and a starter in 5 of those games)
- 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 (Jeff Bagwell, 1999)
- Led MLB in total bases during the span of 1980-1989 (2,796)
- 2nd (only to HOFer Mike Schmidt) in total home runs from 1980-1989 (308)
- 2nd (only to HOFer Eddie Murray) in total runs from 1980-1989
- 1st in total home runs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (308)
- 1st in total RBIs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (929)
- 2nd in total hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (1,553)
- 2nd in total extra-base hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (596)
- Played in 740 consecutive games from 1980-1986 (11th longest streak in history at the time, and 13th today. Only missed 20 games total between 1980-1989)
- Reached base in 74 consecutive games, 1987 (3rd longest streak in Major League history)
- 398 career home runs (19th in Major League history when he retired, 4th among active players)
- 2111 career hits
- 1266 career RBIs
- .265 career batting average
- Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsmen of the Year” Award, 1987 (represented baseball as the “Athlete Who Cares the Most,” along with U.S. gold-medalist Judi Brown King, Kenyan gold-medalist Kip Keino, and others)
- Lou Gehrig Award, 1985 (given to the player who most exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig, both on and off the field)
- Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award, 1988 (given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”)
- Bart Giamatti Community Service Award, 1991
- Jersey number “3” retired by the Braves, 1994
- Inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, 1995 (induction class with Roberto Clemente and Julius Erving. One of only 8 baseball players inducted in the Hall’s history)
- Inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence, 1995 (joining Mike Schmidt, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nolan Ryan, and others)
- Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, 1997
- Inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, 1997
- Inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, 2000 (joining Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron, among others)
- Founder of the IWon’tCheat Foundation in 2005, whose mission is to encourage character development among youth
And that was just from his son. Two of the top seven players in Baseball Reference’s Similarity Score are Hall of Fame players. He is ranked as the No. 122 hitter in the history of baseball by the site’s EloRater, well ahead of recent Hall inductee Jim Rice.
But are all of those accomplishments that his son wrote about enough? What do the numbers say?
So, is the short career with tremendous production worthy of the Hall of Fame, or is a longer career with strong but not dramatic numbers more important?
Player A is Dale Murphy.
Player B is Don Mattingly.
Player C is Hall of Famer Jim Rice.
Obviously, the 1987 and 1988 seasons for Rice were towards the end of his career, but Rice was a eight-time All-Star and one-time MVP. Mattingly was a six-time All-Star, a nine-time Gold Glove first baseman, and a one-time MVP. Murphy was a seven-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove outfielder, and a two-time MVP.
I hate to play the “if-he-is-in-then-he-should-be” game, but based on the numbers and productivity, should Mattingly and Murphy be in the Hall of Fame? Is Jim Rice one of the weakest players in the Hall of Fame right now?
How long do you have to be the best player in baseball to be considered a Hall of Famer? Dale Murphy was one of the most feared players to step to the plate for most of a decade. So was Don Mattingly. Is that enough?
Dale Murphy is joined by Barry Bonds (7), Yogi Berra (3), Roy Campanella (3), Joe DiMaggio (3), Jimmie Foxx (3), Mickey Mantle (3), Stan Musial (3), Mike Schmidt (3), Johnny Bench (2), Ernie Banks (2), Juan Gonzalez (2), Carl Hubbell (2), Hank Greenberg (2), Roger Maris (2), Willie Mays (2), Joe Morgan (2), Hal Newhouser (2), Cal Ripken, Jr. (2), Frank Robinson (2), Alex Rodriguez (2), Frank Thomas (2), Robin Yount (2), and Ted Williams (2), as the only multiple MVP winners in the history of baseball. Only Maris, Thomas, Gonzalez, Rodriguez, and Murphy are not in the Hall of Fame, with Thomas, Gonzalez, and Rodriguez still awaiting eligibility, with Gonzalez unlikely to earn votes due to the many players that he called teammates who were linked to steroids when he was putting up incredible numbers for the Texas Rangers, although his numbers are worthy.
So, if baseball is all about numbers and, as Murphy’s son wrote, Dale Murphy was a man of integrity, is he a Hall of Famer in his last year of eligibility?