Monday, January 12, 2009

Hall of Fame Reaction

There were no surprises when the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its Class of 2009 today: All-time stolen base and runs scored leader Rickey Henderson made it in on his first ballot, Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice made it in on his last, Andre Dawson and Burt Blyleven need to wait another year or two (three tops), and the jury is still out on Lee Smith, Jack Morris, Tim Raines and Mark McGwire.

Especially given the weak crop of HOF-eligible newbies over the next three years (more on that later), Blyleven and Dawson - who received 67 and 62.7 percent of the 75 percent vote needed for induction, respectively - are virtual locks for election by 2012 (Blyleven's final year of eligibility). Judging from voter precedent, we can also expect to see Lee Smith (44.5 percent) and Jack Morris (44 percent) make a strong run at it on the next few ballots, with Tim Raines (22.6 percent) also seeing a big bump in recognition now that his prime competition for the spotlight while he was a player, Rickey Henderson, has been enshrined.

But the player I'm most curious about is former Atlanta Braves slugger Dale Murphy (pictured above). Now that Rice has made it in, Murphy shouldn't be far behind. A look at the statistics:

J.Rice: 8225 AB, .298 AVG, 382 HR, 1451 RBI, 1249 R
Murphy: 7960 AB, .265 AVG, 398 HR, 1266 RBI, 1197 R

Yes, the difference in batting average is glaring, but the peripherals speak to Murphy's favor. Rice played on a powerhouse Boston squad that included three fellow Hall of Famers - Carl Yastrzemski, Dennis Eckersley and Carlton Fisk - as well as perennial all-star Fred Lynn and three-time all-star Dwight Evans. Murphy was part of a limp Braves lineup that featured Hall of Famer Phil Niekro in the rotation, but little more than Gary Matthews, Sr. and Bob Horner helping with the offense. Want to talk about the difference a team makes? Still, Murphy won two league MVP awards to Rice's one, and five Gold Gloves to Rice's none.

How dominant a force was Murphy in the '80s? No player in all of baseball had more total bases that decade, only Mike Schmidt hit more home runs, and only Eddie Murray had more RBIs. Both Schmidt and Murray are Hall of Famers.

Yet Murph only received 11.5 percent of this year's votes (62 of 539), and hasn't topped 15 percent since getting 23.2 percent in 2000.

Did I mention that he also won a Roberto Clemente Award, given to the one player each year who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team"? Can someone please tell me what I'm missing here? He's got four more years of eligibility - if he doesn't make it into the Hall, it will be an atrocity.

A few more notes from this year's ballot...

*Rickey Henderson's 511 of 539 votes gave him the 13th highest percentage of any Hall inductee (94.8). I'd love to hear the arguments of the 28 who didn't feel him worthy.

*The fate of Tommy John, having failed to get in on his fifteenth and final ballot, is now in the hands of the Veterans Committee, who seem to be more sympathetic to the notion that the Hall of Fame should not only include the elite players, but also the biggest names. While his stats don't merit his inclusion, he's a legend in that he's had a surgery named after him, so odds are in his favor. After the Veterans take care of Gil Hodges, of course, who is the only player to land on at least 60 percent of the ballots, yet never get enshrined.

*The following players didn't receive the five percent of votes necessary to retain their eligibility next year: Mark Grace (22 votes), David Cone (21 votes), Matt Williams (7 votes), Mo Vaughn (6 votes), Jay Bell (2 votes), Jesse Orosco (1 vote), and Ron Gant, Dan Plesac and Greg Vaughn (no votes).

2009 National Baseball Hall of Fame Vote Totals

And, finally, a few notes on the upcoming Hall of Fame classes...

I don't see any of these guys as Hall of Famers. I understand the arguments for Martinez, but I view him much the same as Don Mattingly at the plate. Yes, Mattingly only had six great years to Martinez' seven, but if I'm not endorsing Mattingly with his nine Gold Gloves in ten years, Martinez shouldn't get in as a designated hitter.

It wouldn't surprise me if he didn't get in on the first ballot, but he deserves to get there. He was the class of his position for a decade, and one of the best 1B of the modern era.

I'm leaning towards no with Bernie. He's a great Yankee, and arguably the epitome of all-around players, but he was never the elite at his position. He only started one All-Star game in his 16-season career (he was named to five), and only finished in the Top 10 of MVP voting twice, finishing seventh in 1998 and tenth in 2002. He was great, but definitely not one of the greatest to ever play the game.

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To look back at my preview of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 ballot, click here.


Adam Bernard said...

Bernie is one of the few yankees I can say I honestly liked. He was so consistent day in and day out and played a fantastic center field. Unfortunately, he probably doesn't belong in Cooperstown. He does, however, belong in whatever HOF the yankees have.

Bags should definitely get in, and I agree Edgar shouldn't based on the fact that he was a DH. If he gets in and Keith Hernandez is still sitting on the outside looking in it will only prove the idea that Hall voters only reward power numbers. (PUT KEITH IN!)

If Tommy John ever makes it in that wing of the Hall of Fame will immediately get hit by a tornado requiring a kind of reconstruction never attempted before. It will be wildly successful and they will name all future building reconstructions of that type after him.

PS - The word verification code Blogger has given me for this post is "pasted" and for some reason I find that funny.

Andrew said...

I see your point on Murphy, unfortunately I don't think he is as much a shoe in as he should be. Your point is true, Murphy was a dominant player for a decade - but so was Rice and that took 15 years to amount to something. If Murphy is in it's only on the basis of defense. ONLY on the basis of defense. I'm not saying I agree with the voters, but the gold gloves are the only factor separating the two. I just hope 5 is enough to get him in... And if it is, is it possible Mattingly's not far behind? And with Donny Baseball following Murphy in, isn't it easier to let Edgar Martinez into the Hall?

Oh what a tangled web we weave...

But the real travesty in this entire HOF mess is Bert Blyleven. It's not even about catching a break at this point, it's about R-E-S-P-E-C-T Berty!!! Respect the man, respect the numbers, respect the beard.

meanz said...

Love the article, but Dennis Eckersley was a bust at the time, and you are leaving out ROY Fred Lynn, who along with Yaz and Jim Ed were incredible.

Yes, Murphy should warrant more attention with the MVPs, but the AVG. in crushing.

And the whole DH thing needs to go away. With the exception of an Ozzie Smith, these inductions have more to do with offensive and pitching numbers than fielding percentages.