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Dale Murphy - Atlanta Braves

Dale Murphy – Atlanta Braves

Will Dale Murphy ever make it to the Hall of Fame? I’m thinking not. He was on the ballot for 15 years and didn’t make it in 2013.  He is now off the ballot.

I’m always kind of optimistic. Not really frustrated, I think because my percentage hasn’t really been knocking on the door, you know? I think if it’d been at 60 percent for five years, it might be different. I know my percentage is pretty low and you need 75. And I’m not really close. To be honest, I thought my percentage would be higher over the years. It hasn’t been high. I tend to feel like I’ll get a bump this year. There’s been some talk about guys that played in the ’70s and ’80s, that there might be some revisiting of their careers [by voters], and I have some people that have been supportive. So we’ll see. I appreciate the support and I try to stay optimistic. ~~Dale Murphy

Dale Murphy first appeared on the writers’ ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999, the earliest possible year of consideration. He has failed to gain election, joining late New York Yankees outfielder Roger Maris as the only Hall of Fame-eligible recipients of multiple MVP awards not in the Hall. His failed candidacy has drawn particular notice due to his reputation as a clean-living player whose career was immediately followed by baseball’s scandal-plagued “steroids era”.

Baseball writer Rob Neyer feels that the former MVP’s candidacy has been hurt by a career that “got a late start and suffered an early end.” Stuart Miller, baseball writer for the New York Times, also notes the “sharp decline” in production that plagued Murphy after the age of 31 in arguing, “Players who were great for a short time do not receive much [Hall of Fame] recognition.” Finding “one of baseball’s best players in the 1980s” to be “undervalued,” Miller nonetheless writes that the Brave great “is typically considered a ‘close but no’ guy.”

Bill James, father of sabermetrics, says of Murphy, “It certainly wouldn’t offend me to have him in the Hall of Fame. I just wouldn’t advocate it.” James’ “current metric for Hall induction was 300 Win Shares (a complex mathematical equation weighing what players contribute to their team’s victories)….” Murphy stands at 253 Win Shares. James ranks eight Hall of Famers below Murphy.

However, others contend, “Murphy’s incredible nine-year run in Atlanta was every bit as good as anyone else during his era.” Neyer notes that the explosion of power during the steroids-fueled era that began after Murphy’s retirement may have caused Murphy’s numbers to pale in comparison for many voters. Some have argued that Murphy’s reputation for clean-living may encourage voters to “look more favorably on what Murphy did without using performance-enhancing drugs.” (Murphy weighed in on the steroids issue in asserting that career home run leader Barry Bonds “without a doubt” used performance-enhancing drugs.) Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski has endorsed Murphy as an “emotional pick . . . a larger-than-life character who signed every autograph, spoke up for every charity and played brilliant baseball every day for mostly doomed teams.”

Nonetheless, though he continues to earn the requisite 5% to remain on the ballot, Murphy averaged only 13.6% average over the first twelve years of voting. (Election to the hall requires 75%.) In the first decade of his eligibility, he “peaked at 23% in 2000 and fell to 11.5% in 2009.” Moreover, as writers may only vote for ten players each year some have argued that the candidacy of stars from the 1980s—such as Murphy, pitcher Jack Morris, and outfielder Tim Raines–will become imperiled as a wave of more recently retired players with more statistically impressive credentials become eligible in the 2010s. Noting his low vote totals, Murphy has said, “Since I’m not that close [to election] … I don’t think about it that much.”