What do Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and Fred McGriff all have in common? Well, among other things, if you read my article from last Wednesday, you know that they were the last three players I voted for on my Hall of Fame ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. In that article I promised I would present my rationale for voting for each of the three in a future article.
The future, at least on this topic, is now. To spice things up a bit I thought this was an excellent time to get Pen Polls rolling again after a holiday-related hiatus. After reading my thoughts and those of a few fellow MLB writers from the FanSided team, you will have a chance to pick – by way of a poll – which of the three you think is most worthy of being elected to the Hall of Fame.
Since he was the first of the three players in question to make his major league debut, I will kick things off with Dave Parker. Cobra’s debut came in 1973 with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 21st. His time in the majors was short lived however as he went back to Triple-A after hitting a single in his one pinch-hit at bat. On July 12th Parker was in the Pirates lineup again, and this time the at bat signified the end of his time in the minor leagues. He finished the year with an OPS+ of 111 in 54 games for Pittsburgh. It was the first of his 10 consecutive seasons with an above average OPS+ and part of a run where he managed that feat 13 out of 14 years. The only outlier was his 1983 season where he was just below average offensively with an OPS+ of 97.
All told in 19 season he finished with an OPS+ below 100 just 3 times. One of those was the already mentioned 1983 season. The second occurred in 1987 when his OPS+ checked in at 92. The final “subpar” season came in 1991. His OPS+ that year was 81. It was Parker’s final season and he was 40 years old.
There is no doubt that he was consistently above average over the course of his long career, but being slightly above average doesn’t merit induction into the sanctity of the MLB Hall of Fame. It doesn’t hurt his case, but let’s rewind a bit.
Let’s go back to 1975. Dave Parker was entering his 3rd major league season. He was 23-years old on Opening Day with a grand total of 127 games of major league experience under his belt from the previous 2 seasons. That year he hit 0.308/.357/.541 with an OPS+ of 148 and finished 3rd in the MVP voting behind the Reds Joe Morgan and the Phillies Greg Luzinski.
In a 5 season stretch from 1975 to 1979 Parker would receive MVP votes and won the NL MVP award in 1978. He was well on his way to a Hall of Fame worthy career but things got a bit off track with his usage of cocaine. There is no doubt that his addiction cost him in terms of his career resume, but that is in part why I voted for him.
I voted for him not only because he was an incredible baseball player, but because he was an incredible baseball player who went through a turbulent time, faced his demons and pulled himself back from the abyss. As I mentioned above he did all of this will still remaining, at worst, an average major league hitter.
In 1985 Dave Parker was again receiving MVP votes and finished second to Willie McGee. Five seasons had passed between his 140 OPS+ season in 1979 and his 149 OPS+ season in 1985 and yet, improbably at age 34 he was back on the map as a star player once again. The following season he would again finish in the top-5 in MVP voting. Though his 1986 season was not nearly as strong as the one that preceded it, he still led the NL in total bases that year with 304.
All told, after 19 seasons (1973-1991) Dave Parker retired with a career OPS+ of 121. His slash stats in 10,184 plate appearances were 0.290/.339/.471. He finished his career with 524 doubles, 75 triples, 154 stolen bases and 339 home runs. It’s worth noting that when he hung up his spikes, his 339 career home runs actually meant something.
He was the 1978 NL MVP, a 7 time All-Star, won 3 Gold Gloves and 3 Silver Sluggers. Parker played 11 season with the Pirates and another 4 with the Reds before becoming a nomad. He spent the 1988 and 1989 seasons with Oakland and the 1990 season with Milwaukee. In 1991, his final season, he played 119 games with the Angels and 13 with the Blue Jays.
In 1975 he led the NL in SLG (0.541). In 1977 he led the NL in H (214), 2B (44) and BA (0.338). In 1978 he led the NL in SLG (0.585) and TB (340). That year he also led all of baseball in BA (0.334), OPS (0.979), OPS+ (166) and IBB (23). In 1979 and 1990 he led the NL in sacrifice flies with 9 and 14 respectively. In 1985* he led the NL in 2B (42), RBI (125), TB (350) and IBB (24). In 1986 he played in all 162 games and again led the NL with 304 TB.
*Fairness in conversation, Parker also led the NL in GDP (26) in 1985
Now I know that in a lot of ways Dave Parker doesn’t match up statistically with other players already enshrined in Cooperstown. He also doesn’t match up with a number of players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame including Fred McGriff and Dale Murphy. Still – for me at least – there is something great and noble about Dave Parker’s career. It is easy to look at his final resume and wonder what could have been if he’d avoided the temptation of drugs. I look at his career and marvel at what he accomplished before, during and after his involvement with cocaine. I look at his career and see an exceptional athlete and an exceptional talent who was among the best in the game during two different periods of time half a decade apart. I vote for Dave Parker based on a combination of his statistical contributions and the notion that the journey is the reward. Cobra’s journey even as a kid made me take notice of him as a player.
Of course his legendary throw – actually one of two he made in the 1979 All-Star game – sure doesn’t hurt his case.
Sadly this past ballot was Parker’s 15th and final chance to get elected by the BBWAA. He’ll now have to sit and wait and hope that he will get his Hall of Fame ticket punched by other means.
For the cases on Dale Murphy and Fred McGriff I turn to the thoughts of Justin, John and Evan.
Justin Klugh, Lead Writer – That Balls Outta Here:
Dale Murphy was the ’80s. When you were keeping your legs warm or throwing the neighborhood’s sexiest baby shower/coke party, Dale Murphy was getting two consecutive MVP awards (faster than anyone had before him) and rarely letting his OPS flirt with anything under .820. Okay, so maybe not the entire ’80s – Dale was most effective from 1980-1987 -but I think I’m presenting a better argument than “You know, if you remove the eight best years of Dale Murphy’s career, he’s not very good.”
Plus he was indestructible. That’s got to help his stock a little. He played every game from 1982-85, while filling his closet with Silver Sluggers (4) and Gold Gloves (5). I mean, sure, he did show up for the party about a decade early; had he been around later, he would have borne witness to the Braves’ tyrannical grasp on the National League. Instead, he had to settle for a single playoff appearance/instant elimination.
He also made a habit of making children’s dreams comes true twice as hard as necessary. When a little girl lost all her limbs after stepping on a power line, Dale went to see her before a game against the Giants.
“After Murphy gave her a cap and a T shirt, her nurse innocently asked if he could hit a home run for Elizabeth. “I didn’t know what to say, so I just sort of mumbled ‘Well, O.K.,’ ” says Murphy. That day he hit two homers and drove in all the Braves’ runs in a 3-2 victory.”
Well, he may not get into the Hall of Fame, but he’s definitely not going to hell. And he refused to be interviewed unless fully clothed.
John Parent, Lead Writer – Motor City Bengals:
I wish I could speak intelligently on the careers of the three players listed, but unfortunately for me, I missed most of the greatness of Dave Parker and to a lesser extent, Dale Murphy. Just a glance at their numbers show players who were obviously among the game’s elite, but watching an old Parker patrol right for the Reds just isn’t the same as it would have been seeing him dominate while playing for Pittsburgh. Sure, Parker was still a very good ballplayer while in Cincinnati, but I knew him probably more for what Marge Schott said about him than for his actual on-field exploits.
Murphy is a player that had a handful of tremendous seasons, but fell victim to injuries later in his career. The result was a player that perhaps doesn’t get his due as one of the all-time greats. In the 80s, there were two players that stood above everyone else in the National League; Murphy and Mike Schmidt. If you don’t think those two should be mentioned together, you’re fooling yourself. While Schmidt has the 500 home run club (back when that used to really mean something) and a total of five MVP awards, Murphy was saddled by a poor Atlanta team for most of his career. Despite that, he still won back-to-back MVP awards himself. In the early days of cable TV, the Braves truly were “America’s team” as they were the only team being broadcast on any given night, thanks to their owner, Ted Turner, and his Superstation TBS. As a boy, I can recall watching those terrible Braves teams, but despite the lack of talent around him, it was easy to see the star that Murphy was. His career had a tremendous peak, but that peak was too short for him to ultimately get in to the Hall. By the time he had moved on to Philadelphia and Colorado, the greatness was gone. But for a time in the 1980s, Murphy had only one peer, and that was Schmidt.
For McGriff, I was able to see his whole career, but if you saw even one season he played, you may as well have seen all of them. That’s certainly not a knock of the Crime Dog, either. McGriff was consistent if he was nothing else. He was a player in the steroids era, but his greatness pre-dates the offensive boom of the 90’s. McGriff lead the league in home runs twice, besting the American League in 1989 with 36 and leading the NL in 1992 with 35. To put that in perspective, in those two seasons, McGriff hit a total of 71 home runs, or the same amount that Barry Bonds hit in one season.
McGriff wound up with 493 homers and 1,550 RBI. He never hit more than 37 home runs in any season, but for a 15 year stretch, McGriff averaged 31 homers and 97 RBI. That includes two strike-shortened seasons in 1994 and 1995.
McGriff’s biggest problem, much like Parker and Murphy, is that his career numbers have gotten overshadowed by players from the Steroid Era. Just one year after he lead the AL in homers, Cecil Fielder hit 51 in a season and from that point forward, it was routine to see several players with more than 40 in any given year. For that reason, the Crime Dog doesn’t seem to get the respect he deserves in retrospect. He may not have ever been considered the best first baseman in either league, even once during his career, but he was always named within the first few guys when that conversation took place. In my book, McGriff is a Hall of Famer, no question about it.
Evan Riney, Lead Writer – Climbing Tal’s Hill:
Fred McGriff should be in the hall of fame ahead of Dave Parker and Dale Murphy not just because he put up better numbers or helped the Atlanta Braves win their only championship under Bobby Cox. Fred McGriff should be in the hall of fame because he showed what many couldn’t under the cloud of performance enhancing drugs. McGriff was the definition of consistency in a time when a 20-homerun hitter hitting 50 homeruns was celebrated.
McGriff was included in MVP voting 8 consecutive seasons from his 24 year old season in 1988 to 1995 when he was 31. During this span he was in the top ten in MVP voting 6 consecutive times, he hit 0.287/.386/.538, and compiled an OPS+ of 151. Most impressively, he averaged 34 homeruns a year while never hitting more than 37 or less than 27 (he hit 27 in 144 games in 1995 which was the only season during this period he failed to reach 30). McGriff is 26th all-time with 493 career homeruns. For his 19 year career, the Crime Dog hit 0.284/.377/.509 with an OPS+ of 134. His career WAR is 50.5. Compared to Dave Parker’s 121 and 37.8, and Dale Murphy’s 121 and 44.2. Dale Murphy won back-to-back MVP awards and Dave Parker was an excellent hitter but of the three, Fred McGriff stands out the most.
So now it’s your turn to weigh in.
Which of these three players is most deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame?
- Dale Murphy (43%, 31 Votes)
- Fred McGriff (38%, 27 Votes)
- Dave Parker (19%, 14 Votes)
Total Voters: 72