COMMENTARY | Hands down, Dale Murphy is my favorite baseball player of all time. I'm not alone. In fact, I'd guess there is not another non-Hall-of-Fame player so beloved, talented, remembered and admired. It'd be an interesting poll, but I think there's a good chance he'd be voted favorite Brave of all time.
I have never before believed he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame. His stats were great for a short period of time, but his performance drop-off was too severe. The trade to the Phillies was personally devastating, but I later had to admit it opened the door for the Braves' turnaround.
This year is Murphy's last year of eligibility, and I've changed my mind.
If baseball has a Hall of Fame, Dale Murphy should be in it.
My reversal started with a Facebook post of a friend and fellow Braves fan asking to share a petition to get the two-time MVP into Cooperstown, and ended today reading both an open letter from his son, Chad, as well as strong analysis by AJC energizer bunny beat reporter David O'Brien.
One reason I think he may have a chance, as Chad points out, is that this vote comes in a year that writers are expected to be judging players on integrity over stats.
Barry Bonds. Roger Clemens. Suspected performance-enhancers who have huge Hall of Fame numbers but may fall short because voters want to send a message.
Enter Chad Murphy, who titles his open letter, "Making the HOF Case for Dale Murphy, or, The Guy Who Changed My Diapers."
Chad Murphy reiterates the following voting criteria, pulled from the Hall of Fame website:
"5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played."
No need to recite stats for Murphy. I think we all know he was an elite player -- one of the best ever -- for a short period of time in the early- to mid-'80s. This argument of borderline stats with unquestioned and elite character gets him in.
As O'Brien puts it: "If integrity and character are going to keep out of the HOF the most accomplished hitter (Bonds) and most accomplished pitcher (Clemens) most of us will see in our lifetimes, then integrity and character should be enough to put Dale Murphy over the top."
The problem with voting Murphy in based on his character elevating those borderline stats is that it hasn't been the practice in the past. And how would you weigh it? Is it just one more stat to consider -- he was .945 of a "great guy" vs. someone who was .765 of a "great guy." What other "great guys" have been overlooked on the Cooperstown doorstep? It's not perfect.
Chad Murphy addresses that. (BTW: The open letter is a very well-written argument, and it's kind of cool to see a son make an impassioned yet fair argument for his dad. My favorite line: "Stand down, statistic nerds").
Says Chad Murphy: "I'll grant the nerds this: In most cases things like 'integrity' and 'character' and 'sportsmanship' are mighty difficult to quantify. I get that … it's not exactly clear yet how to go about measuring those attributes. As a consequence, this so-called 'character clause' does a real number on our quest for objectivity, which makes us uneasy. And so it makes sense that collectively we've emphasized the part of the voting criteria that is easier to measure and largely beyond subjective interpretation, namely, on-field statistics."
Chad's right. Dave O'Brien's right. Still, my hunch is that Dale Murphy probably won't make it. But wouldn't it be a nice little victory if he does. You could vote him in on his numbers alone and still be OK.
But the Lou Gherig Award. The Roberto Clemente Award. His No. 3 jersey retired. And many, many years after a "borderline" Hall of Fame career, Dale Murphy still has so many fans rooting for one of the nicest guys in all of sports. He doesn't need the Hall as much as the Hall needs him.
Especially this year.
Mike Benzie has covered sports and features for major online media organizations as well as several newspaper across the Southeast. He has followed the Atlanta Braves closely since 1982, the year Dale Murphy won his first MVP award.
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