No, really. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more often about things other than politics. Seeing as this is Jan. 6 and I really haven’t done that before today, the resolution isn’t going so well. (Neither is the whole “exercise” thing.)
But today’s Baseball Hall of Fame voting results got me in a nonpolitical state of mind, nostalgic for the Braves’ old No. 3.
Dale Murphy will probably never make the Hall, and a good case against his inclusion can be made. A .265 career batting average is probably fatal to his chances, and his vote totals have been heading in the wrong direction.
But I think a strong case can be made for the Murph as a pre-steroid era selection, as a statement against the blind eye the league turned to performance-enhancing drugs for so long.
In fact, I once made such a case here. The gist:
His power numbers — 398 home runs, 1,266 runs batted in — would place him near the top of the list of enshrined center fielders. He won five Gold Gloves for fielding prowess; only 12 Hall-eligible outfielders won more, and half of them have been voted in. His main drawback is his low batting average of .265, which bests only the great Reggie Jackson among Hall of Fame outfielders. Yet Mr. Murphy’s career average fell by 14 points between his last great season in 1987 and when he finally called it quits in 1993. Had his career been cut short by injury like some in Cooperstown, rather than winding down slowly, he might have had a better chance of election.
For sustained excellence, no hitter of Mr. Murphy’s era — the 1980s — matched his production. In that decade, “Murph” ranked first in total bases (which counts one for singles, two for doubles, and so on), second in homers and RBI, fourth in runs scored and runs created, fifth in hits and bases on balls, and 10th in the now-popular OPS statistic (the sum of the on-base and slugging percentages). He was an all-star seven times in the ’80s and won two National League MVP awards. Of the 23 Hall-eligible players in major-league history to win more than one Most Valuable Player award, 21 have been elected to the Hall. The exceptions are Mr. Murphy and Roger Maris, whose career numbers are hardly comparable to Mr. Murphy’s.
For a boy who grew up in Georgia in the 1980s, baseball began and ended with Dale Murphy — imitating his batting stance in whiffleball games, seeking out his “Diamond Kings” baseball cards (I’m pretty sure I paid more than a mere $3 for my card at Dalton Stamp & Coin), cheering for him to hit a home run on our annual trips to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (he never did — although, amazingly, as terrible as the Braves were during the mid- to late 1980s I never saw them lose a game during those years).