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HMMY: Dale Murphy

Last week, we started a new feature here at the Joe Peppy Tone Baseball Roundup, a little something we call “How Many More Years.” We began with Nomar Garciaparra … the idea is to look at players who are near Hall of Famers and ask the question: How many more years would he have needed to cross the line and be inducted in Cooperstown?

Today’s player: Dale Murphy.

Murph was one of the iconic players of his time — my time as a young baseball fan. There were several reasons for this. One, he played in Atlanta when that was really the only team in the South. There was no baseball in Florida then, no baseball in Washington either, and so the Braves were the team for the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and probably Tennessee too. That was something like 25 million people in the 1980s, and if they were baseball fans they were probably Braves fans.

And if they were Braves fans, they were DEFINITELY Dale Murphy fans. He was really the only option, though I know there were some Rick Mahler fans wandering about.

The second reason, of course, was Ted Turner. His Superstation WTBS broadcast Braves games nightly in the Wild West days of cable, and that meant everyone across the country was bludgeoned with Atlanta baseball whether they wanted to be or not. Ted Turner broadcast with his own particular flair and arrogance; he had the gall to call the Braves “America’s Team,” even though they were basically dreadful and had been for years.

But that America’s Team thing stuck because Turner knew the first rule of publicity: “If you say anything enough times, you won’t get everyone to believe you but you will get enough people to make you a few bucks.” When the Braves were pretty good in 1982, Sports Illustrated even called them America’s Team on the cover.

Anyway, while the Braves were surely not America’s team, Dale Murphy kind of was America’s player. He was a power-hitting outfielder who stole bases won Gold Gloves and signed every autograph. I’m not sure he ever was on the cover of a Wheaties Box, but every picture he ever took LOOKED like it was the cover of a Wheaties box.

And that leads to the third reason Murphy was an icon — he was widely regarded as the nicest guy in baseball. Everyone knew that. He won on Sports Illustrated covers in back-to-back summers, first in 1982:

 

Then on Independence Day in 1983:

Steve Wulf wrote the story in the second of those magazines and led with these four words: “Nice guys finish first.” He wrote how Murphy doesn’t drink, smoke, chew, cuss and how his favorite movie was “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He wrote that Murphy’s one public screw-up was getting caught doing 35 mph in a 25-mph zone … because he was late for a speech to a Church group.

Of course, Murph was embarrassed by all that stuff, kept insisting that he had plenty of real flaws, kept begging people not to hold him up as some sort of paragon of virtue. But when people want to believe in a hero, they want to believe all the way. Murph was celebrated like few players have ever been. He did his best to hold up his end.

From 1980 to 1987 — eight seasons — Murphy hit .284/.374/.517 with 264 homers. He won two MVP Award and five Gold Gloves, and while he was probably not the best player in baseball (Rickey Henderson and Mike Schmidt were pretty far and away the best) he was just a notch below and right there with Gary Carter and Robin Yount and George Brett and Andre Dawson and Tim Raines and other Hall of Famers. He posted 42 wins above replacement in those eight seasons; had he found another 18 or so WAR in the rest of his career, he would have likely been a slam dunk Hall of Famer.*

*I am NOT using WAR here as a Hall of Fame gauge but as a reference point. What I mean is that had Dale Murphy had 18 more WAR, that would have meant enough home runs, RBIs, runs, hits, stolen bases and other things to push him over the top. There’s a subtle difference there I hope gets across. I’m not saying that 60 WAR should be a benchmark for the Hall of Fame. I am not saying that “This guy had 60 WAR, he should be a Hall of Famer,” is a good argument. I am saying that someone with 60 WAR is worth looking at pretty closely because he surely had a fantastic career with enough accomplishments to be a very serious Hall of Fame candidate.

Those eight years were more or less all that Murphy had, though. He did hit 20-plus homers in five other seasons, but his batting average was so low in those years, he struck out so much, that he didn’t really add all that much overall value. Murph was a big man, and he played more than 1,000 games in centerfield after coming up as a catcher. His body just wore down too quickly. He became a terrific player at 24, stopped being a terrific player at 32, and Hall of Fame standards are unforgiving.

You could make the fair argument that Murphy had as good a career as his contemporary Jim Rice, who was elected to the Hall of Fame. They had roughly the same number of terrific years. Their career numbers are similar enough. But it really isn’t a compelling argument — there are probably a dozen outfielders who were roughly as good or better than Jim Rice, including his teammate Dwight Evans. Rice was elected because his story, his strengths, his impact on the game compelled 75% of the voters to vote for him.

Dale Murphy, despite his own marvelous story, could not do the same.

So how many more good years would Dale Murphy have needed to convince those voters that he was a Hall of Famer? Well, one more good year would have pushed him well over 400 home runs; that is something that might have pushed a few more votes in his corner. But I think, if we’re being honest, I think Murphy’s best bet would have been FIVE hundred home runs. With 500 homers he would have been a first ballot, slam dunk Hall of Famer.

In 1990, when Murphy was traded from the Braves to Philadelphia, he was 34 years old. At the end of that season, he needed 122 homers. How likely was he to get that? Well, it would have been hard but not impossible; 38 players have done it. Dave Parker did it. Harold Baines did it. Dave Winfield, Fred McGriff, Graig Nettles, Eddie Murray, Carlton Fisk, and Brian Downing all did it. Murphy in his prime was as good as any of them.

And Murphy probably wouldn’t have needed 500 homers to be elected over time — 450 homers would have probably gotten the job done. If he could have put together just one more 30-plus homer season and then found a way to scrap and claw his way for another 25 or 30 homers in the rest of his career — well, it didn’t happen. Murphy only had 20 home runs left in his bat. He tried in 1993 to play a bit for Colorado, maybe hit a few balls in the high altitude air there and just get to 400 homers. But he couldn’t do it.

I voted for Dale Murphy to the Hall of Fame a few times because I believe that while he was a borderline candidate, hey, if we’re going to consider character when NOT voting for Hall of Famers, we should certainly consider the good character of guys like Murph, who represented baseball with class and style. But I think to get to 75 percent, he needed one more great season and then a couple more hang-around seasons.

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50 Responses to HMMY: Dale Murphy

  1. shagster says:

    I don’t see the comment string. Hm.

    Murphy was and is everything you said. I do think he was a HoF for same reasons you voted. But one you missed describing. Watching him play, Murphy played baseball with an edge. Poster off the field, but on the field he played to WIN. maybe it only came out bc he was on so many miserable teams. Maybe he resented the Braves firing Torre, the only mgr. who got them into regular contention. Whatever it was, Murph played baseball. With an edge. .

  2. SDG says:

    Now I’m wondering who would be on an all good guy team. And whether they’d be competitive with the all jackass team.

    And personally I wouldn’t consider if someone is a good guy when voting for the Hall. MLB, to its credit, does attempt to honor the game’s good guys. There are the Gehrig, Branch Rickey, and Clemente awards and some individual teams give out spirit awards to their nicest player every year. There’s the Buck O’Neil award (although it’s yet to go to anyone whose main contribution to the game was as a player). And all those are great. But for the Hall of Fame, it makes me uncomfortable that sportswriters are trying to look into men’s souls. They judge how good he is at hitting or fielding, not whether they’re the kind of guy who knows what to say to someone having a bad day. How could any writer know this? Remember when they all assured us Steve Garvey was a role model and Ted Williams was a selfish jerk?

    • invitro says:

      There’s just about one 25-man roster’s worth of players who have been in prison for a lengthy stretch, and I suppose that’s the all-jerk team. Good guys — I think Musial gets called that a lot, and Gehrig. I just looked for some articles but didn’t find much on older players. Some recent players that came up multiple times: Thome, Torii Hunter, Griffey, Raul Ibanez.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I think Albert Belle and Barry Bonds would head the list of the all-jerk (non-prison) team. Maybe Jeff Kent. Going back a ways, Rogers Hornsby was pretty much a jerk. And, at least if you believe Richard Ben Cramer, Joe DiMaggio wouldn’t win any nice-guy awards. That’s a pretty good team right there. Williams was a jerk at times, at least to sports writers, but he made up for it in other ways. His service in the military (almost getting shot down in Korea)and plugging for Negro League players at his HOF induction ceremony would certainly move him off the jerk list. Some would say that Mantle was often a jerk to fans, especially when he was drinking, which was most of the time. Eddie Mathews got into tons of fights off the field, again, resulting from drinking.

        • Sadge says:

          Would Ty Cobb be the captain?

          • Matthew says:

            Yes! Hal Chase would be throwing games at first base, Hack Wilson would be drinking in the outfield, and Billy Martin would be fighting Leo Durocher to see who managed. Maybe Lefty Grove pitching.

    • Pat says:

      Oh, I did this once—a full starting roster of two teams of the all-likeable and all-unlikeable players. I don’t remember where I wrote it down, but I recall the teams being pretty competitive, with a slight edge to the unlikeables (having Ted Williams, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will do that). But Gehrig, Musial, Griffey Jr. made the likeables pretty close.

      • SDG says:

        OK, I’m trying this. I don’t think Ted Williams remotely qualified as a jerk so much as a victim of character assassination by dipshit reporters who wanted their butts kissed.

        Good guy team:
        C: Campanella? These days he’s seen as the Goofus to Jackie Robinson’s Gallant, but at the time his image was as a happy, cheerful guy who everyone liked to be around. The Dodgers named their spirit award for him fwiw.
        1B: Tons of options here. Gehrig, Pujols, and Greenberg are all-time inner circle good guys. I’ll pick Gehrig.
        2B: Joe Morgan? Does tons of charity work, spotless personal life, nice to fans. I’ll leave his broadcasting career out of it.
        3B: Ron Santo? He did a lot for people with diabetes.
        SS: Jeter, I guess? That True Yankee Captain Leader stuff the media likes to say about him is stupid, but he does a lot of work in the community and you never actually hear anything bad about him as a person. Does anyone have a better idea?
        LF: Musial
        CF: Griffey? Mays?
        RF: Roberto Clemente
        DH: Edgar Martinez. Or Pujols.
        SP: Walter Johnson, Tim Wakefield, Christy Mathewson, Roy Halladay
        RP: Could go Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera here.

        Jerk Team
        C: I don’t know. Johnny Bench and Benito Santiago have reputations as being dicks to fans, but that’s hardly all-time jerk behaviour. IRod lies about using PEDs like it’s his job. I don’t know. Someone else pick.
        1B: It has to be Anson. I don’t love going to the 19th century, but that’s the literal one thing he’s famous for.
        2B: Hornsby.
        3B: Pete Rose played enough games at 3B I’m putting him here.
        SS: Is it stretching too much to put Scott Speizio here?
        LF: Delmon Young could go here. So could Jake Powell
        CF: Milton Bradley. Or Ty Cobb, the classic choice. (His image as a racist is largely undeserved, his image as an asshole is deeply not).
        RF: Barry Bonds
        DH: Canseco, for reasons that should be obvious.
        SP: Clemens, Eddie Ciccotte (generally regarded as the ringleader of that team), Ugueth Urbina, Juan Marichal
        RP: John Rocker

        Manager? All of them probably.

        Does anyone else want to give this a shot?

        • Brent says:

          Wagner would be your Shortstop for the nice guy team

          • SDG says:

            Yeah, I thought about him, then also Pop Lloyd. He was considered a good guy when he played and then coached youth baseball. I was going to pick him but decided going that far back what do we really know about any of these guys as people.

            I’ve talked myself into it. Lloyd for good guy shortstop.

        • Brent says:

          Yogi would be a good choice for nice guy catcher

        • Brad says:

          I’d nominate Carl Yazstremski. You could platoon him – LF, 1B or DH.

        • Mike Schilling says:

          Bonds didn’t have the arm to play right.

          Also, consider Dave Kingman at 3rd.

        • matt says:

          Bonds played a grand total of 3 innings in right field his entire career, so not sure if he’s the right choice there. I would also contend that he’s a victim of the same sort of character assassination that Ted Williams was, but that’s a separate argument.

          What is not in question is that he definitely was no right fielder. Maybe center, as he did play a few years there while young in Pittsburgh.

          • SDG says:

            Fair enough. I’m replacing Bonds with Ben Chapman.

            I was trying to get a variety of assholes for my asshole team and I was leaning too heavily on racists. Bonds cheated and lied to Congress, as well as the domestic violence allegations. I didn’t put him in here for being standoffish to reporters.

          • wgreenbe says:

            Keep Bonds on! My brother worked for the Pirates when Bonds was there, and tells numerous stories of how badly Bonds treated everyone around him.

        • invitro says:

          You guys need to look up Mel Hall. But maybe I’m thinking of crimes too much. I need a definition… being nasty to fans? Sheffield was nasty to the whole city of Milwaukee, and has a pile of jerky racial whining as well. Is being one of the worst fielders in history jerky? If he was so bad because he wasn’t trying, I think it is. And Rose may have been the nicest player in baseball… at least to his teammates, especially rookies and other young players. And I think the reporters loved him, if that’s worth anything. And while tons of fans hated him, I’m sure that far more loved him. They certainly did when he was an old player and his rookie baseball card was the #2 most-wanted card (after the 1952 Mantle).

          • SDG says:

            My standard for the jerk teams is committed crimes, especially violent ones, and bigotry. Also egregiously messing with standards of fair play.

            It’s actually harder to come up with standards for what makes someone a good guy. I settles on a vague standard of doing work in the community and teammates liking them, or people who’ve made public statements I think meet good-guy standards.

          • invitro says:

            OK then… besides Mel Hall, there are at least a couple of murderers not on your list. A good quick table of baseball criminals: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_professional_sportspeople_convicted_of_crimes#Baseball … I don’t think this table has all the major criminals, but it’s a very good starting place.

  3. Tom Geraghty says:

    Another issue here – what if they hadn’t expanded the strike zone after the homerific 1987 season? Murph hit 44 homers in 1987 – his last really good year (.295/.417/.580). From ’88 through the end of his career in ’93 he hit only .234/.307/.396. Offense generally was way, way down in 1988-1992 compared with where it had been in the mid-1980s. FWIW based on his 29-year old season (1985) and the NL runs per game from ’82 to ’86 Bill James’s Brock2 projects Murphy for 447 homers.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Looking at BBR, 1987 was a bit of an anomaly. Numbers crept up a bit in 85 and 86 and certainly peaked in 87. And definitely numbers dropped off 88-90. I’d say 1991 was pretty representative of where it was before 1987.

      But your overall point about the strike zone changing is an interesting one. They did lower the upper end of the strike zone, which should have benefited the hitter…. but if I recall, they also started calling the wide strike at that time. Offense definitely was reduced that year.

      I do recall that Murphy seemed to flail away at the low and away pitch when he was declining. So your overall point might be a good one. Of course, Murphy’s age could also have been a factor. But I’ve stared at BBR more than once trying to figure out why Murphy essentially fell of the a cliff without benefit of a normal decline. It was very weird for a guy who didn’t suddenly show up out of shape, injured or have any other obvious reasons for a steep decline at a relatively early age for a star.

  4. Mark Garbowski says:

    “The second reason, of course, was Ted Turner. His Superstation WTBS broadcast Braves games nightly in the Wild West days of cable, and that meant everyone across the country was bludgeoned with Atlanta baseball whether they wanted to be or not.”

    First year out of law school I worked on a 3-way litigation where one of the opposing parties was Turner Holdings or whatever. Nothing to do specifically with TBS. Dismal case to work on and one day we’re idly chatting about how to end it faster, while winning of course. Another young guy with a dry wit says “We should sue Turner for fraud.”
    “Fraud?” we scoffed. “We have no claim for fraud.. On what basis could we sue for fraud?!”
    “Well,” he said, “Turner calls it a Super Station but all they do is show those terrible Braves games.”

  5. Marc Schneider says:

    I was a huge Braves fan in those days and Dale Murphy was certainly one of the top two or three best players in baseball for several years-and, of course, a nice guy-but my feeling is that, in general, the HOF should be for players who were great over a long period of time. As Joe said, Murphy basically did nothing outside the 7 or 8 year period and, to me, that’s not enough. There are exceptions, such as Sandy Koufax, but he was dominant over a short period of time in a way Murphy was not.

    I can’t vote someone in the Hall for being a nice guy because that’s what someone is supposed to be. It’s not as if Murphy made some incredible contribution off the field, such as helping to integrate the sport, a la Branch Rickey. Pee Wee Reese probably would have deserved something like that (if he wasn’t in anyway.) Murphy was just a very nice guy. I can’t see putting him in the Hall just because he is a decent human being and I can’t see keeping someone out because they are jerks. There are certainly much worse players that are in the Hall so it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to go in, but, IMO, Murphy just doesn’t meet the standard.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I’ve tried squinting really hard at the numbers and playing up his two MVPs in my mind to try and make him a HOFer. The two MVPs is VERY impressive. But I still couldn’t get there.

      • SDG says:

        Eligible layers with 2 MVPs and not in the Hall: Maris, JuanGone, Murphy. Everyone else is not only in (or going to be) but is regarded as an all-time, inner-circle great. (Hal Newhowser is borderline but that was a historical quirk due to WW2).

        I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on the Hall on defining great players. Murphy had a long, productive career. Braves fans adore him. He has nothing to be ashamed of. What’s getting in the Hall going to give him besides a higher price for his autographs?

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Agree. There is no disgrace to not being in the Hall of Fame. Murphy was a terrific player. It’s like being the third astronaut in the command module who didn’t get to walk on the moon; it’s still pretty cool what he did. Of course, the thing is there are guys in the Hall who weren’t as good, largely because they were cronies of someone or were overhyped (Jim Rice).

        • Patrick says:

          “I think sometimes we put too much emphasis on the Hall on defining great players”

          Well put, agreed.

          “Murphy had a long, productive career. Braves fans adore him. He has nothing to be ashamed of. What’s getting in the Hall going to give him besides a higher price for his autographs?”

          This isn’t really relevant to the question of if he deserves to be in (he doesn’t, IMO). Look, by all accounts, Mike Mussina doesn’t seem all that concerned if he’s in the Hall. He’s gone back to his hometown, he coaches high school sports, and keeps a low profile. I’m sure he wants to be in, but by all accounts, he’s doing just great. Him getting into the Hall of Fame isn’t going to really “give” him any more than it would give Murphy. He still deserves it.

        • invitro says:

          “What’s getting in the Hall going to give him” — Whatever it is, it’s a minuscule fraction of (the sum of) what it would give his fans. So what it gives him personally is not important, I think.

          • SDG says:

            Retiring numbers is how we honor players that the fans love. (Murphy is the only non-Hall of Famer to have his retired in ATL). Or statues. Or bobblehead night. Or throwing out the first pitch. The Hall is for the best players.

            Do you want Murphy to be another Jesse Haines 50 years from now?

          • invitro says:

            I don’t know if Murphy should be in the HoF, although I don’t think there’s anything wrong with putting an occasional fan super-favorite in if their stats are one or two great seasons short. I was just answering your point: denying him the HoF because you don’t think it would mean much to him is a very poor reason.

    • David Granger says:

      I agree with you, Marc. Murph is definitely “Hall of VERY Good”…but just misses out on the HOF. Atlanta Journal sportswriter Furman Bisher always said that the best Hall of Fame argument for Murphy was that his stats got him close, and his character and class should put him over the line. I agree that that’s probably the best argument in his favor.
      It just killed Murph that he didn’t have a normal decline…he just took a nose dive. He had some shoulder problems that developed in the late 1980’s, and then he hurt his back. And any kind of back problem is almost always the end of the line for anyone in those “torsion” sports (baseball, tennis, golf) where you have to twist your body.
      Murph was an outstanding player for several years, and a pretty good one for a few other years…but I’m a “Small Hall” guy, and I think that he just misses out on the Hall of Fame.

  6. Scott says:

    In my view both of the players profiled (Murphy and Nomar) should be in the Hall. Too often, it has become a Hall of Very Good for a long time, placing an emphasis on career milestones (500 HR, 3,000 hits, 300 wins, etc.) over peak-level performance and impact on the game. In essence, players are being penalized for not packing on average to below average seasons in their early and mid thirties (when they are likely overpaid for past performance). This will come up in the immediate future when Johan Santana and Roy Halladay will have trouble getting traction among the voters.

    • Rob Smith says:

      While I get the comparison between Santana and Halladay, I think Halladay will get in pretty easily, if not quite on the first ballot. Santana has only 139 wins and a shorter career and a shorter peak. Halladay had a 16 year career, a solid 10 year peak and 203 wins. I know wins shouldn’t be a big part of it, but 139 wins is not even in Dave Stieb territory. And remember, you have people who don’t think Koufax was a HOFer because of the short career and only 165 wins.

      • Scott says:

        Koufax is part of my point. I’d like to see someone make the argument that Don Sutton and Tom Glavine and John Smoltz belong in the Hall, but not Sandy. I have similar views towards Dizzy Dean, he clearly should be in (and is). Santana should have won MVPs in ’04 and ’06, as well as the Cy Young in ’05; his career is full of black ink. He is a great comp for Koufax, Dean and Three-Finger Brown.

        But all starters, both will have issues, especially when no-doubt choices like Schilling and Mussina languish for years and when boarderline cases like David Cone and Kevin Brown drop off the ballot after one try. I remember baiting a friend whose a Yankees fan that I wouldn’t vote for Rivera until his teammate Cone was elected… I was only partly joking.

  7. Bryan says:

    Through Age 31 season for Dale Murphy and his contemporaries(-ish) elected by the BBWAA with 1000+ games played in the OF by that age:
    *
    Dave Winfield: 284/354/478, 1568 Hits, 236 HR, 164/73% SB, -8.3 dWAR
    Jim Rice: 303/353/524, 1804 Hits, 304 HR, 53/63% SB, -5.4 dWAR
    Andre Dawson: 280/326/476, 1575 Hits, 225 HR, 253/75% SB, 8.0 dWAR
    Tim Raines: 298/387/428, 1761 Hits, 101 HR, 685/85% SB, -4.6 dWAR
    *
    Rickey Henderson: 293/403/441, 1762 Hits, 166 HR, 936/82% SB, 7.8 dWAR
    Tony Gwynn: 328/382/434, 1699 Hits, 53 HR, 246/71% SB, 1.1 dWAR
    Kirby Puckett: 320/357/466, 1602 Hits, 123 HR, 100/63% SB, 2.7 dWAR
    Dale Murphy: 279/362/500, 1555 Hits, 310 HR, 145/71% SB, -6.6 dWAR
    *
    Rest of career for those 8:
    *
    Dave Winfield: 281/352/471, 1542 Hits, 229 HR, 59/62% SB, -15.5 dWAR
    Jim Rice: 286/349/443, 648 Hits, 78 HR, 5/63% SB, -3.2 dWAR
    Andre Dawson: 279/320/490, 1199 Hits, 213 HR, 61/72% SB, -7.2 dWAR
    Tim Raines: 285/382/419, 844 Hits, 69 HR, 123/83% SB, -4.8 dWAR
    *
    Rickey Henderson: 261/399/391, 1293 Hits, 131 HR, 470/79% SB, -11.1 dWAR
    Tony Gwynn: 351/396/489, 1442 Hits, 82 HR, 73/74% SB, -9.3 dWAR
    Kirby Puckett: 314/366/501, 702 Hits, 84 HR, 34/65% SB, -3.9 dWAR
    Dale Murphy: 234/307/396, 556 Hits, 88 HR, 16/62% SB, -0.8 dWAR
    *
    Winfield’s base stealing drops off but the hitting split is quite similar, his dWAR is the worst of the bunch but his 3000 Hits and 7 Gold Gloves gets him 84.5% on the first ballot. Dale falls 889 Hits short of 3000 and gets 874 Hits in the 5 highest hit seasons of his career.
    *
    Rice gets elected but as Joe points out plenty of people besides Dale Murphy can match his career and having a Jim Rice career probably gives you around a 10% shot at the Hall of Fame.
    *
    dWAR and 8 Gold Gloves are in agreement that young Dawson was a great outfielder and he maintains his batting line for another 1184 games after his Age 31 season to get 77.9% of the vote on his ninth ballot. Even if Dale has a back half of his career like Hawk he doesn’t have the Stolen Bases. Rickey is obviously even further out of reach of Dale.
    *
    Raines sneaking in last ballot thanks to Jonah Keri and others provides a potential template for Dale getting inducted. Model citizen with 2 MVPs, 5 Gold Gloves and 398 HR vs 808 SB and Cocaine. Dale 19.3, 23.2 and Raines 24.3, 22.6 have very similar results in their first two elections, Mattingly debuts on the ballot 28.2, 20.3 in Dale’s 3rd and 4th year who gets 18.1 and 14.8. By Dale’s 5th year he trails Dave Concepcion and Parker and finishes behind both Daves until those players drop off the ballot after 15 years. This is the hardest part of any “X more years” argument, the voting patterns can defy any reasonable explanation.
    *
    Whether it should or not Gwynn’s .351 BA starting from his Age 32 season and .338 career BA is basically all Gwynn needed for election. Basically Gwynn is no more relevant to Dale’s HoF chances than Rickey.
    *
    Kirby poses the question of how many fewer years did Dale Murphy need to play to get elected. If Dale Murphy has a broken jaw and then glaucoma at 32, only plays for the Braves and wins 7 more games in the 1982 playoffs he might well have gotten elected. Voters might have given Dale credit for all the Hits and Homers he was obviously going to get if it wasn’t for his career ending injury.
    *
    Consider that 24 players debuted in the 1970s and had 1500+ hits by the end of their Age 31 season. Only 9 of those players finished with 2500+ hits (Molitor, Murray, Brett, Yount, Winfield, Henderson, Dawson, Raines and Buddy Bell) and Jim Rice is 10th, while 8 finished with fewer hits than Dale (Greg Luzinski, Claudell Washington, Gary Matthews, Carney Lansford, Cesar Cedeno, Gary Carter, Garry Templeton and Chris Chambliss). Keith Hernandez, Willie Wilson and Willie Randolph end up with 100 fewer hits than Dale.
    *
    The other 2 players are Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Wonder how many more good years those 2 players needed to be elected by the BBWAA.
    *
    Information provided by Baseball-Reference.com Play Index.

    • Sonny says:

      Lot to read there. I think you hit on something with Puckett and the “how many fewer years did Dale need to play to make it” question. I thought Puckett was a good player, but I’m not convinced he was a slam dunk HOF as he was perceived to be. His career seemed to really be winding down, but perhaps he strings together another 3-4 years and gets close to some of the big milestones.

      If Dale had encountered the scenario you present at about 32 or 33, it might have turned out different for him.

      • SDG says:

        Something I’ve noticed – players whose careers were cut short by a specific injury are viewed more favourably by Hall voters than those who just got ground down (Puckett, Koufax, Dean vs Mattingly, Murphy and Valenzuela). I’m sure there are valid psychological reasons why. (And yes, I think Munson gets in eventually).

        My theory is it’s because we have a tendency to assume how things are is how they’ll always be. And we like narratives.

        • Patrick says:

          This is absolutely true. Dale Murphy is in the Hall if he has to abruptly retire after the 1987 season, because we’d mentally fill in better numbers for him the rest of the way.

  8. invitro says:

    ‘His Superstation WTBS broadcast Braves games nightly in the Wild West days of cable, and that meant everyone across the country was bludgeoned with Atlanta baseball whether they wanted to be or not. Ted Turner broadcast with his own particular flair and arrogance; he had the gall to call the Braves “America’s Team,” even though they were basically dreadful and had been for years.’ — I guess I’m being too sensitive, but this is tone-deaf at best and offensive at worst. Not everyone was privileged enough to live or near a big city as a kid. I and my friends & family were ecstatic to be bludgeoned with the Braves on TV, since it was the only way we could see our favorite NL teams & players regularly (or, if you were dumb enough to have a non-glamour favorite NL team/player, like me, at all). I’m sure there were millions, tens of millions, of baseball fans across the country who couldn’t care less about the Braves, but were still very thankful that Turner put them on the air.

    And “America’s Team” was daring, but I think it was true… the Braves were the team for millions of fans in “flyover country” that were not in a MLB market. Don’t get me wrong though… I know those people are generally deplorable and don’t really matter. 🙂

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I grew up in the Southeast but didn’t have cable until I got out of school. So I didn’t really see the Braves in their really dreadful years of the 70s. A lot of people, though, learned to love the Braves on TBS; Turner used to rebroadcast the games in the middle of the night and lots of insomniacs welcomed that. And it is silly to say people were “bludgeoned with Atlanta baseball whether they wanted to be or not.” Unless Turner was causing people’s TVs to switch to TBS, I don’t think anyone was forced to watch Braves baseball. You might as well say we are bludgeoned with PBS whether we like it or not. When I started working, I would come home, put something in the oven for dinner, pop in the shower, get out, have dinner and watch the Braves. It was great. What’s the problem? They had a couple of good years in the 80s with Murphy but even when they were bad, watching Skip Carey and Ernie Johnson Sr. was fun.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Joe also made the point that there didn’t used to be Florida teams or even a Washington team, leaving Atlanta with the entire Southeast. Well, it’s still pretty much that way. There are no teams in any of the surrounding states, except now for Florida…. and Tampa and especially Miami, are a long way from most places. It’s four more hours of driving to get to Tampa after you hit the Florida border on I75. I still run into fans at the park that came from the weekend from Mississippi, Alabama and all kinds of other places. They are still a regional team. It was kind of sad when the Braves phased out of their TBS days a few years ago towards FSS. But really that didn’t change much. It had been a long time since other channels were broadcasting baseball every day. Really TBS had just become the local/regional channel for the Braves. I doubt that they had much of a national audience any longer.

      One note: Turner only bought the Braves (and the Hawks) because he needed programming for his station. They filled a lot of programming time. He wasn’t a huge baseball fan until it became something that gave him more attention.

  9. Alan Michaels says:

    Joe, Great article! A couple things, back in ’82 or ’83, I remember Sport Magazine running a poll of who the best player in baseball was. The 4 choices were Schmidt, Yount, Murphy and Carter. He was considered, in his time, one of the best players in the game. Secondly, when he retired in ’93, he was widely written about as “future Hall of Famer Dale Murphy”. Somewhere between ’93 and ’99, people’s thoughts of him changed. It didn’t help him that he came on the ballot the same year as Ryan, Brett, Yount and Fisk. Had he not tried for those 2 homers with Colorado, he would have retired a year earlier and had the ballot to himself. I think then he would have eventually been elected. I also agree that the writers are so quick to impose the morals clause on steroid users but they don’t go the other way and refused to vote for a great ballplayer who had no blemishes in his personal life.

  10. SB M says:

    As a Braves fan, one thing that has always made me sad is that Murphy left the team right before they became excellent. How wonderful it would have been to have him on the team in 1991, only in a part time role surely. That worst to first year was really something, and it would have been great to see Murphy contribute to that.

  11. DAVID SIMMONS says:

    Yes, its a shame that Murphy didnt stick around for the Braves’ golden years in the 90s. I think his biggest roadblock to the HOF might have been his lack of post season exposure. and never appearing in a World Series, unfortunately.

  12. Dan W. says:

    Many cable companies in “flyover” country carried TBS and WGN – giving viewers the chance to watch TWO losing baseball teams. Thing is that the Braves and the Cubs had opponents. So one wasn’t just tuning in to watch the Braves or the Lovable Losers. They were tuning in to seem them play the Dodgers, Cardinals, Phillies and Astros. Oh, and the Cubs had Harry Caray.

  13. Tony says:

    Late to the game but wanted to throw out more names for future HMMY! Dwight and Darryl, Jose Canseco, Mattingly, Grady Sizemore, Josh Hamilton, Todd Helton, Andruw Jones… and pitchers with hardware but were ruined by injuries like Johan, Lincecum, Webb, and Saberhagen.

    How about players who are still playing/trying to play but obviously out of their peaks? Joe Mauer (unless he keeps hitting like he has), Chase Utley (maybe the saber-minded voters will vote him in?) and David Wright

    • Bryan says:

      21+ pitching WAR in 3 consecutive years for non-HoF pitchers in the expansion era, only listing each pitcher’s highest:
      *
      29.9 – Wilbur Wood 71-73: 70-50, 2.64 ERA, 1070.0 IP, 5.1 K per 9 IP
      27.7 – Roger Clemens 96-98: 51-26, 2.76 ERA, 741.1 IP, 10.0 K per IP
      24.1 – Roy Halladay 09-11: 57-26, 2.53 ERA, 723.1 IP, 8.1 K per 9 IP
      23.6 – Kevin Brown 96-98: 51-26, 2.33 ERA, 727.1 IP, 7.7 K per 9 IP
      23.5 – Curt Schilling 01-03: 53-22, 3.07 ERA, 684.0 IP, 10.6 K per 9 IP
      *
      23.3 – Teddy Higuera 86-88: 54-30, 3.06 ERA, 737.1 IP, 7.8 K per 9 IP
      23.3 – Johan Santana 04-06: 55-19, 2.75 ERA, 691.1 IP, 9.7 K per 9 IP
      23.2 – Frank Tanana 75-77: 50-28, 2.53 ERA, 787.0 IP, 8.4 K per 9 IP
      22.8 – Clayton Kershaw 13-15: 53-19, 1.92 ERA, 667.0 IP, 10.4 K per 9 IP
      22.6 – Dave Stieb 82-84: 50-34, 3.05 ERA, 833.1 IP, 5.7 K per 9 IP
      *
      22.0 – Dwight Gooden 84-86: 58-19, 2.28 ERA, 744.2 IP, 9.0 K per 9 IP
      21.8 – Kevin Appier 92-94: 40-22, 2.86 ERA, 602.0 IP, 7.2 K per 9 IP
      21.5 – Bret Saberhagen 87-89: 55-32, 3.10 ERA, 780.0 IP, 6.1 K per 9 IP
      21.5 – Mickey Lolich 71-73: 63-43, 3.06 ERA, 1012.0 IP, 6.9 K per 9 IP
      21.0 – David Cone 93-95: 45-27, 3.31 ERA, 655.0 IP, 7.1 K per 9 IP
      *
      Modern pitching volume makes it really unlikely to average 7 WAR per year with only Kershaw meeting the specific criteria of this list among active pitchers. Mussina “only” has 18.1 WAR in a three year run, Lincecum “only” 19.1 and each “only” has 7+ pitching WAR in a season twice. Webb “only” 19.2 and “only” one season of 7+ pitching WAR. Other than the pitchers above only Chuck Finley has 3 (or more) seasons of 7+ pitching WAR among non-HoF pitchers in the expansion era.
      *
      In the end it’s just so much randomness, if Webb comes back from injury and has five more quality years including a 5th place Cy Young finish you can make the argument that he would be a viable HoF candidate, you can also point out that this would give him a career similar to Dave Stieb who got 1.4% of the vote his only year on the ballot. Only 5 Hall of Famers pitched in an MLB game more recently than Wade Boggs, since then they elected 3 pitchers who all have a strong case to be among the 10 best living pitchers along with Smoltz and Glavine.
      *
      305 wins seems to be the key stat for Glavine so that’s 1-2 years for Tommy John to get 12 wins, 2-3 years for Mike Mussina to get 30 and Jamie Moyer needed to win 65 games before turning 30 instead of “only” 34. None of the pitchers you named got 200 wins so that’s a lot of extra years for that route.
      *
      Smoltz might have gotten a significant boost for both starting and relieving, 242 games and 261.1 innings in relief, 154 saves and a 2.41 ERA in those games. 481 games and 3211.2 innings as a starter, 209 wins and a 3.40 ERA in those games. Maybe it impresses a bunch of voters but it’s a guess to draw a conclusion based on the votes for Smoltz and Eckersley. David Wells getting 5 HoF Votes, Kenny Rogers getting 1 and Schilling getting 221 votes on his first ballot didn’t seem to get a boost for being both starters and relievers.
      *
      Option A: The BBWAA waits for the next 300 game winner with occasional interludes when at least 2/3 of voters will want to induct Blyleven, Smoltz, Mussina or Morris once they have been on the ballot long enough.
      *
      Option B: The electorate will adjust expectations based on modern starter workloads and take a closer look at even “only” Buehrle or give much consideration to “only” Verlander or Greinke if they don’t pitch all that well the rest of their careers.
      *
      Option C: The electorate will realize it’s really bizarre for over 2/3 to vote for Hoffman and his 1089.1 innings but then dismiss Johan’s candidacy because he only pitched 2025.2 innings and adjust voting patterns accordingly.
      *
      Information provided by Baseball-Reference.com Play Index.

  14. MikeN says:

    Braves were covered like a local team in Kentucky, along with the Reds.

  15. Randy Monk says:

    Murphy is never credited for having good years in ’79 (was especially good before an injury) and ’80. He had a rotten year in ’81, but with the mid-season strike it was a terrible year for baseball. He then was one of the brightest stars in baseball from ’82 to ’85, and had a big bounce back year in ’87. I’ll admit to being a big Murphy fan, but I believe he is a legitimate HOF.

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