I get tired of having to write articles like this. Call me biased, but this goes way beyond bias. I was a kid in the 1980’s, in Oregon. The Seattle Mariners were irrelevant. The Atlanta Braves were too for the most part, but all of their games were on WTBS and their star was a back-to-back National League MVP award winner from Portland, Oregon.
I copied his batter’s box routine, wore #3 any chance I got – and continue to do so to this day – and worked as hard as I possibly could to try to be like him. I told you, I’m biased. But I still don’t understand how a back-to-back MVP award winner could receive such little consideration for the ultimate enshrinement.
His 398 home runs fell just short of what was long thought to be the magic number for induction of 400, prior to the Steroid Era inflating numbers and pushing that magic number to 500. But take a closer look at the numbers, and it’s hard to argue against his induction.
In the decade of the 1980’s, only one player had more home runs than Murphy – Mike Schmidt – and only one player had more RBIs than Murphy – Eddie Murray. Both men are in the Hall of Fame. Now, I understand fully that a statement like that alone, does not warrant Hall induction.
Injuries derailed Murphy late in his career and that is one of the main reasons he failed to garner enough support among Hall of Fame voters over the course of his 15 years of eligibility.
Even so, Murphy posted six seasons with a WAR of 5 or higher, including two seasons of over 7 (1983 & 1987). His career WAR of 46.2 ranks 223rd all time, ahead of Hall of Famers Roy Campanella, Pie Traynor, Bill Mazeroski, Hack Wilson, Red Schoendienst, among others. His 1197 runs scored ranks 179th all-time, just behind Hall of Famer Joe Medwick (1198) and just ahead of the likes of Hall of Famers Willie Stargell (1194), Yogi Berra (1175) and Orlando Cepeda (1131).
Back to the MVP argument. Only 30 players in the history of the game have won an MVP award multiple times. Taking the three active players (Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols) and Barry Bonds with his seven awards out of the conversation for a minute – because if it weren’t for the steroid conversation, Bonds would have been in the Hall already – only three of the remaining 26 players are NOT in the Hall.
The knock against Maris (12 seasons, four-time All-Star, one Gold Glove and a single-season HR record) was that his career wasn’t long enough. The knock against Juan-Gone (17 seasons, three-time All-Star) was he couldn’t stay healthy and an implication of steroid use by MLB’s biggest self-serving whistle-blower, Jose Canseco. The biggest knock against Murphy (18 seasons, 7-time All-Star, five Gold Gloves and not even a whiff of steroid suspicion) was the inability to stay healthy late in his career, as well as his .265 career average.
But let’s examine that average for a minute. Murphy was often times the best player on the worst team in the National League. If a team could pitch around Murphy, they could win a game. But would the .265 average really be that big of a black eye in the Hall?
Here’s a list of Hall of Famers with lower career batting averages than Murph: Gary Carter, Ozzie Smith, Joe Tinker, Bill Mazeroski. Hell, even Mike Schmidt only batted two points better than Murph, but had more homers. Mazeroski is an interesting person to compare Murphy to. If you ignore Murphy’s last two seasons (1992 and 1993), in which he played in a combined 44 games and had barely over 100 at bats, Murphy played through his age-35 season for a total of 16 years. Mazeroski also played through his age-35 season for a total of 17 years. Look at these comparisons.
Murphy: 2111 hits, 398 HR, 350 2B, 1266 RBI, 161 SB, .346 OBP, 121 OPS+, 46.2 WAR
Mazeroski: 2016 hits, 138 HR, 294 2B, 853 RBI, 27 SB, .299 OBP, 84 OPS+, 36.2 WAR
In fact, the only thing Maz beats Murphy in is Maz had seven Gold Gloves to Murphy’s five.
So why is it that Maz is enshrined in Cooperstown and Murph still buys a ticket to get in? So when the Veteran’s Committee meets again to cast their next ballot in 2017, my hope is that they take a long look at the career of Dale Murphy. Look at what he meant to the game, what he meant to the city of Atlanta and what he stood for, in a time when drug use was running rampant. Mr. Clean kept it honest, kept it true. And THAT should be rewarded.