And now for something completely different

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 Murphy2Dale 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).

Jim Rice and Andre Dawson, two other long underappreciated stars of the ’80s, deserved their belated calls to Cooperstown. Oh, to see Murphy join them one day.

7 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

January 6th, 2010
7:52 pm

Murphy’s numbers are borderline to get him in but they are as good as Gary Carter in every area except self-promotion. The late Joe Falls who was a long time baseball writer said his vote always hinged on one thing, was the player a dominant player at his position, in his era, over a number of years. I think Murphy qualifies easily for that.

Bert Blyleven should have been in already but he didn’t get along well with the baseball press and that’s hurting him.

And congrats to Andre Dawson. It’s long overdue. The man was a 5 tool player if there ever was one.

dave

January 6th, 2010
10:29 pm

I think the fact that every pitcher in the NL knew that if they threw him anything low and outside, he’d swing at it, is what will ultimately do him in. Murph could have had his own fishin’ show, the way he swung at that junk. If he’d used a six-foot long bat, he’d be a shew-in for the HoF.

Davo

January 6th, 2010
10:34 pm

“One of my New Year’s resolutions is to blog more often about things other than politics.”

Please. Don’t. There’s enough clutter out there for anyone to find who is willing to look for it. I would prefer you stick to what you advertise; political commentary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s 30-something conservative. Doing otherwise seems unprofessional. Or maybe this is where journalism finds itself in 2010 and I’m just being stubborn.

$.02

The Murph

January 7th, 2010
9:27 am

You batting stance is more Ken Oberkfell than Dale Murphy.

Kyle Wingfield

January 7th, 2010
2:09 pm

Thanks for the $.02, Davo. Don’t worry — I’m not talking about a major shift. Maybe 1-2 “off topic” posts a week. Maybe not even that. We’ll see how the response is. So far…

sam

January 7th, 2010
2:25 pm

dale murphy is a communist!

Smitty

January 8th, 2010
10:20 am

Good writing.

It just doesn’t make sense to me. The guy was dominant at his position, and offensively for a decade–and he was pretty fast on the bases for a big guy.

I hate to cry ‘conspiracy’ but it just seems like an anti-Braves bias at times. If you wore pinstripes or played for Boston, it seems like you have a much better chance of getting the voites you need for the hall.

Sure, a .265 lifetime average isn’t much to write home about, but if we consider Murph in his PRIME in his ERA, for the decade of the 80’s, he is a hall of famer. And he did it without steroids.

I just don’t understand.