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Chad Murphy argues for his dad, Dale Murphy, to get into the Hall of Fame

Dec 8, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT

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This is Dale Murphy’s final year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot, so his family has embarked on a bit of a P.R. campaign to spread the word about why he should be voted in. You can sign a petition here if you are so inclined. Meanwhile, Chad Murphy, one of Murphy’s eight children, has written letters to various baseball scribes, including ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.

It’s a pretty boring Saturday afternoon so far, so feel free to read the letter in full below and decide for yourself.

********************

An Open Letter to the BBWAA: Making the HOF Case for Dale Murphy, or, The Guy Who Changed My Diapers

Dear ___________,
My name is Chad Murphy. I’m Dale’s oldest son. ‘Tis the season for HOF voting, and this being the last year of my dad’s eligibility, I’d like to begin by reiterating the voting criteria, as per the Hall of Fame’s 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.

Next, let me just list a few of my dad’s accomplishments in his former role as an active MLB player. Here goes:

• Back-to-back NL MVP 1982, 1983 (1 of only 12 players—and the youngest in history at that time—to accomplish this)

• 7-time NL All-Star (top NL vote-getter in 1985 and a starter in 5 of those games)

• 4-time Silver Slugger award-winner

• 5-time Gold Glove award-winner

• 6th player in MLB history to reach 30 home runs/30 stolen bases in a single season

• Only player in history to compile a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in a single season, 1983

• Led MLB in total bases during the span of 1980-1989 (2,796)

• 2nd (only to HOFer Mike Schmidt) in total home runs from 1980-1989 (308)

• 2nd (only to HOFer Eddie Murray) in total runs from 1980-1989

• 1st in total home runs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (308)

• 1st in total RBIs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (929)

• 2nd in total hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (1,553)

• 2nd in total extra-base hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (596)

• Played in 740 consecutive games from 1980-1986 (11th longest streak in history at the time, and 13th today. Only missed 20 games total between 1980-1989)

• Reached base in 74 consecutive games, 1987 (3rd longest streak in Major League history)

• 398 career home runs (19th in Major League history when he retired, 4th among active players)

• 2111 career hits

• 1266 career RBIs

• .265 career batting average

• Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsmen of the Year” Award, 1987 (represented baseball as the “Athlete Who Cares the Most,” along with U.S. gold-medalist Judi Brown King, Kenyan gold-medalist Kip Keino, and others)

• Lou Gehrig Award, 1985 (given to the player who most exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig, both on and off the field)

• Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award, 1988 (given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”)

• Bart Giamatti Community Service Award, 1991

• Jersey number “3” retired by the Braves, 1994

• Inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, 1995 (induction class with Roberto Clemente and Julius Erving. One of only 8 baseball players inducted in the Hall’s history)

• Inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence, 1995 (joining Mike Schmidt, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nolan Ryan, and others)

• Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, 1997

• Inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, 1997

• Inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, 2000 (joining Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron, among others)

• Founder of the IWon’tCheat Foundation in 2005, whose mission is to encourage character development among youth

Next, I really want to dive into his sabermetrics, starting with his JAWS, WAR, and WAR7, and then moving on to his JPOS, WPA, OPS, and—last but certainly not least—the all-important holy quadrinity of VORP, GORP, SCHLORP, and THUNDERCORK.

Oh wait, no I don’t.

Stand down, statistics nerds.

Look, I have no desire to get into some sort of cryptic mathematical argument for my dad’s induction into the Hall of Fame. The numbers are what they are—maybe they’re strong enough for the Hall on their own, maybe not. Whatever. The bigger issue, to me, is this: what happened to three of the criteria listed under the rules for election, namely, integrity, character, and sportsmanship? Gone but also forgotten? No doubt a player’s stats (i.e., “record” and “playing ability”) are a crucial part of the equation, but that’s just the point: we’re talking about an equation here, folks. And we’ve got a serious case of missing variables. Where’d they go, friends?

To be fair, I’ll grant the nerds this: In most cases things like “integrity” and “character” and “sportsmanship” are mighty difficult to quantify. I get that. Other than, say, creating a variable along the lines of “number of arrests for drug possession” or “number of ejections from a game,” 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. Fine.

But hold on, maybe not fine. The character clause isn’t just totally MIA. In fact, it seems to come roaring back into the conversation every so often when certain players are mentioned, as if judging character weren’t so difficult after all. And, mysteriously, this only seems to happen in cases where the point is to keep someone out (see: Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, the ‘Roid Boys). Indeed, then it gets easy: Gamblers? Out! Cheaters? Be gone! Vehement racists? Well, okay, you can stay (lookin’ at you, Cap Anson). Of course, the obvious question here is from whence this biased, one-way application of the character clause?

Here’s one possibility. In psychology there’s a well-known and well-established finding known as the “bad is stronger than good” principle. In 2001, Roy Baumeister and colleagues reviewed a large number of studies and found overwhelming evidence that negative events figure more prominently in our minds—and are hence easier to recall—than positive ones. For example, the authors cite a 1978 study by Brickman and colleagues where they interviewed people who one year previous had either won the lottery (a supposed “good” event) or had been paralyzed in an accident (a bad event). What they found was that the intense negative feelings associated with being paralyzed had not abated a year later, while the positive feelings from winning the lottery had almost totally disappeared and the details of the experience entirely forgotten. The upshot here is that we, as human beings, adapt very quickly to good events, so quickly, in fact, that it doesn’t take long for us to forget those good things completely. And isn’t the uneven application of the character clause perhaps an illustrative example of this quirk in human memory and reasoning? Bad behavior (some of which—e.g., Joe Jackson—happened, er, nearly 100 years ago) appears to occupy a more central place in the minds of voters than the exemplary behavior of players like Dale Murphy.

These two facts—1) the difficulty of objectively quantifying qualitative characteristics about a player; and 2) our deeply-ingrained negativity bias as human beings—have led to a troubling scenario where we either ignore the character clause altogether, or we use it to keep people out, citing their public sins. But let’s be honest: you can’t have it both ways. Either we apply the character clause for all eligible players, equally, allowing for both negative and positive evaluations to count toward a player’s HOF case, or we toss it out completely. If the latter, then say goodbye (probably) to my dad’s HOF chances at the same time you say hello to Mr. Rose and Mr. he-of-no-shoes Jackson. Oh, and might as well roll out the red carpet for Mr. Bonds, too.

As the voting criteria currently stand, however, there’s no doubt that a fair, holistic assessment of my dad’s playing years would reveal that he is exactly the type of player we should want to represent the game of baseball for future generations. As the criteria suggest, HOF membership is not the equivalent of a career-long MVP award; rather, it’s an honor bestowed upon players for the legacies they’ve left behind. In my dad’s case, that’s a dang near unimpeachable legacy indeed.
Chad Murphy

Chad Murphy is a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior at Penn State University and is the oldest of Dale Murphy’s eight children.

*******************

Whether you support Murphy or not — and I tend to think he comes up a bit short, especially with so many strong candidates on the ballot this year — it’s admirable to see his son going to bat for him. There are emotions at play here, so it’s impossible to equate this to a beat writer who argues for a player they covered for their entire career. But is it really necessary to denigrate those who evaluate Murphy’s case on the basis of statistics, especially after he rattles off a list of statistics in his favor? This works against the very case he is trying to make. He should be able to make his argument without resorting to petty silliness and name-calling. It just felt out of place with the rest of his otherwise well-written and thought-provoking piece.

I will say that I want to thank Chad Murphy for inspiring the name of my fantasy baseball team for next season. Look out for the THUNDERCORKS.

UPDATE: As Astros County points out, Jeff Bagwell also had a season with a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in 1999. Oops. (Thanks to Zachary Levine of Baseball Prospectus for the link)

  1. schmedley69 - Dec 8, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    Murphy was one of the best players of the 80’s. He really tailed off dramatically and didn’t have the longevity of some other HOFers, but I would rather see guys who were true stars (even if it was only for 7 or 8 years) get in the HOF than guys like Don Sutton, who played for 20 years and accumulated stats. Plus, he was a great person on and off the field. That should definitely count for something.

    • djpostl - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:16 PM

      I don’t think he or Sutton should get in to be perfectly honest.

      I’m with you where I hate seeing guys who were good/not great but managed to prolong their careers long enough to pile up stats and get in, but there has to be some sense of prolonged greatness too.

      Generally speaking, if someone asks you “is a Hall of Famer?” and you hesitate for more than a second then they probably aren’t.

      It’s not always true but I think most of the time it probably is.

      • schmedley69 - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:38 PM

        Good points. The HOF is very subjective. There is no cut and dry criteria for who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s all opinion. You can’t go by certain milestone numbers (like 500 HR) anymore because of the steroid users. You have to judge players against their peers from their own era. Murphy was right up there with Mike Schmidt and Eddie Murray in most statistical categories from the 80’s, but he didn’t put up the overall career numbers that those guys did.

        Murphy is definitely borderline, but I would vote him in, because to me, as a kid growing up in the 80’s, he was a superstar. When I opened a pack of baseball cards and saw a Dale Murphy card, I was excited. I can’t say the same about some other guys who got into the HOF, like Don Sutton or Bert Blyleven, although they were both very good players in their own right. They just didn’t have the star power in my eyes.

        Dale Murphy is a HOFer in my book, even if he never makes it to Cooperstown.

  2. jjschiller - Dec 8, 2012 at 12:47 PM

    “I can’t imagine Joe DiMaggio was a better all-around player than Dale Murphy.” — Nolan Ryan

    • paperlions - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      You don’t have to imagine it, all you have to do is have witnessed it as fact….you know, because it was true.

  3. blacksables - Dec 8, 2012 at 12:50 PM

    • Only player in history to compile a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in a single season, 1983

    I can make anyone a Hall of Famer if I’m allowed to chery-picked a bunch of numbers.

    Chad Murphy should remember the old Army saying: one aw-shit carries more weight than a thousand atta-boys.

    Alwasys has. Always will.

    • sabatimus - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      Chery (sic)-picked? Do you have any idea how many players would’ve loved to be able to “cherry-pick” such numbers from their own careers? You seem also to be ignoring the massive amount of other stats he posts. I guess those were cherry-picked too, right?

      • blacksables - Dec 8, 2012 at 6:40 PM

        And the only category he lead the league in was RBI’s. Which means he was a very good all around player. I never said he wasn’t. He was one of my favorite players.

        My point was, you can pick any set of numbers and make them mean anything you want.

        Picking a bunch of numbers and saying a good exceeded arbitary levels and claiming its a matter of greatness is silly. It doesn’t prove anything.

        And that was for one season. One season does not make a career.

  4. vallewho - Dec 8, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    No

  5. Detroit Michael - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    In other words, Chad Murray can cherry-pick traditional statistics to his heart’s content, but if someone tries to use the most modern, comprehensive and meaningful statistics, then Chad Murray will call them nerds. Kind of typical for what passes as meaningful Hall of Fame debate from most writers.

    • paperlions - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:07 PM

      So…..um….which side of the Cabrera/Trout MVP debate were you on again?

      • djpostl - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:12 PM

        D’oh!

      • Detroit Michael - Dec 8, 2012 at 8:55 PM

        I was firmly on the Trout side of the MVP debate and it wasn’t close frankly.

      • paperlions - Dec 8, 2012 at 9:13 PM

        Cool. Just checkin’.

  6. djpostl - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Lol, great idea Chad. Insult a large chunk of the voting electorate by lambasting them as “nerds” just because they aren’t the idiot you are and can both use their eyes and advanced metrics to gauge a players worth.

    I loved watching his dad play but I don’t see him as a Hall of Famer.

    He fell off the cliff production wise too early in his career. His last great year was at age 31 and he was done as another other than a mediocre player at that point.

    This isn’t the Hall of Nice Guys Chad, nor is it the Hall of Very Good.

    Your pops isn’t worthy jackass.

  7. mdpickles - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Dale was as clean as it comes. The were some awful Braves teams he played for in his time which might cloud some voters. When you look back at all the cheaters from the era following Murphy, I would vote Dale in before any one of those steroiders.

  8. mrchainbluelightning - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    Cool story Chad…..

    Still not getting it….
    Donnie Baseball isn’t getting in, and neither is your Pops.

  9. jwbiii - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    Dale Murphy’s case is similar to Andruw Jones': Excellent defensive CFs (Jones was better) who had Hall of Fame quality peaks in their 20s (Murphy got the hardware) and faded badly in their 30s. I don’t either one gets in.

    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2012 at 1:43 PM

      I don’t *think* either one gets in.
      But I don’t think much.

  10. randygnyc - Dec 8, 2012 at 2:03 PM

    WTF – “nerds”? That’s some kind of nerve. He’s taken a page right out of the democrat play book, divisiveness.

    • Tim's Neighbor - Dec 8, 2012 at 7:26 PM

      “He’s taken a page right out of the political play book, divisiveness.”

      There you go. I fixed that for you.

      You’re crazy if you think both sides don’t play that game. But, solid point. It is divisive and insulting.

    • kinggw - Dec 8, 2012 at 8:44 PM

      I think both of you are way off. Im pretty sure Murphy’s dig at the sabremetrics crowd is tongue in cheek. Everyone refers to sabremetricians as nerds. Being that Murphy is a PhD student I think the last thing he would be doing is calling someone a nerd as a derogatory term. I believe he was trying to be funny. Throughout his letter there are repeated attempts at humor.There is always someone who doesn’t get it and tries to turn it into something more than it is.

      Randy, since you obviously are still smarting from Nov. 6, maybe you can commiserate with Mr. Burns. Hopefully this clip will make you feel a little better.

    • louhudson23 - Dec 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      @Randy…FOS much..

    • louhudson23 - Dec 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      @Randy…FOS much?.

  11. sawxalicious - Dec 8, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    In the 80’s and (early) 90’s when I was collecting baseball cards, Dale Murphy was a household name and a superstar. It is the Hall of “Fame”, so that criteria should apply. He wasn’t just good for a few years, he had a decade of superior play as a very well rounded talent. As far as I can tell, he was a model citizen, right up there with Gehrig and Ripken. I am going to agree with Murphy’s son, that when you look at the big picture, the totality of circumstances, Dale Murphy is deserving of the Hall of Fame. Granted, he is not in the upper echelon of “First Ballot” HOFr’s, but I think there is a place in Cooperstown for him…he is part of the story of baseball. For all the bad behavior, suspected doping, and other shenanigans we saw in the 80’s, Murphy provides us with an opportunity to see the positive in that decade. I know some people think it’s asinine to use a particular decade to look at someone’s achievements (1980-1989 vs. 1974-1984), but I think that’s how a lot of us baseball fans remember the eras in baseball. Just my humble opinion. (For the record, Murphy was never my favorite player, nor did I have occasion to root for the teams he played on. I am writing this a fan of baseball in general.)

    • honourbound68 - Dec 8, 2012 at 4:31 PM

      Nod. Being a a Dodger fan, I hated seeing DM at the plate with the game on the line. I don’t think he’s a first ballot HOF but he deserves to be in there.

  12. Carl Hancock - Dec 8, 2012 at 2:38 PM

    To whoever said the letter lambasts and insults the voters and calls them nerds, that’s not true. The vast majority of stat nerds with blogs, etc. aren’t members of the BBWA and therefore don’t have anything to do with the voting.

  13. ezthinking - Dec 8, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    Anyone begging to get in shouldn’t be in; especially when you have your son fluff your case so you can make a few extra bucks at autograph sessions.

  14. exibitsman - Dec 8, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    I remember his first year he was a
    catcher. they moved him to center field. after another player was injured. he made some great catches in center field . I think he should be in the HOF

  15. Walk - Dec 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    Best i can figure integrity, character, and sportsmanship only matter if you are trying to keep someone out of the hall not getting them in. Despite the intention of the wording of the clause which had been intended to get a border line player admitted, it did not happen then, i dont think it will happen now. I would love to see murph get in, but if it happens it is going to be a veteran committee vote and not the election by the writers. Best wishes to the murphy family, dale getting elected would be a great honor for both the murphy family and baseball players who played the game the right way despite any temptation that may have come along.

  16. psunick - Dec 8, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    One thing’s for sure: this dude is a heck of a writer! NBC should find him a spot.

    • chc4 - Dec 8, 2012 at 7:21 PM

      He’s a mormon and a Republican so he has no place at NBC.

      • Tim's Neighbor - Dec 8, 2012 at 7:27 PM

        Oh, bravo. Nailed it.

      • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2012 at 8:18 PM

        Comcast lobbies rather hard for conservative measures. I don’t know what their stance on Mormonism is.

  17. jimbo75025 - Dec 8, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    The weird thing here is, as I was reading through this, it struck me how much bad stuff we have seen from athletes (especially football) in the last week-murder/suicides, intoxicated manslaughter, etc.

    What was the worst thing anything can say about Dale Murphy-he was only good for a decade? He played on some horrible teams?

    Sadly, I do not see him getting in-at least elected in. Possibly he will be given the go-ahead by the verterans at some point as I know many respect Murph.

    One thing is for sure, if I took my kids to Cooperstown, I would really rather tell them about Dale Murohy than Barry Bonds along the trip.

  18. auggie1955 - Dec 8, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    Dale Murphy more than exemplified the character, integrity, and sportsmanship that need to be considered in HOF voting. He was a real class act. His numbers did tail off after being traded to the Phillies, but hey playing before Philly fans can do that to you. Murphy belongs in the HOF.

  19. sincitybonobo - Dec 8, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    Watching Murphy’s HOF vote total has been among the most frustrating things I’ve ever seen. He has received fewer votes than Concepcion and Larry Walker in some years.

    When Murph retired, he was not considered as “borderline” candidate. With very little lineup protection, he excelled for a decade. His prime years were spent in ballparks that were much more pitcher friendly and prior to an offensive explosion fueled by juiced players, smaller ballparks, and four additional teams. His numbers must be put in context. A 30/30 season in the 1980s was much more rare than it is today. Five straight Gold Gloves from an outfielder with his offensive prowess is also incredible.

    His decline was steep. But, for just long enough, he was a dominant force in The Show. Character, as stipulated by the HOF, can work against a player. If ever a candidate should get a bump for character, it is Murphy.

    The quotes from his contemporary players regarding his candidacy are also quite telling.

    • jwbiii - Dec 8, 2012 at 8:26 PM

      You know that Fulton County Stadium was known as The Launching Pad, right? The most homer friendly park in the NL until Colorado joined the NL.

  20. bigtrav425 - Dec 8, 2012 at 11:05 PM

    How Dale is not in the HoF and Jim Rice is is a travesty in itself…he deserves to be in,in my opinion and would of voted for him his first go around.i think sincitybonobo had a pretty good case for him

  21. ndrick731 - Dec 9, 2012 at 12:30 AM

    Maybe if Murphy was willing to use ped’s his stats and longevity would be a lot more impressive. As far as modern made up unprovable stats they shouldn’t even be a consideration. I have seen too many guys who these stats say are going to make their team champions that are garbage when it counts. Example A-Rod.

  22. lostsok - Dec 9, 2012 at 3:06 AM

    If “class” were the deciding factor, he’s a no-brainer. Personally, he’d have my vote.

  23. FinFan68 - Dec 9, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    Dale Murphy deserves to be in the HoF. He was always a class act and was one of the best players throughout the ’80s. This is exactly the kind of player that should be enshrined. If he played on better teams and had a couple rings there would hardly be a debate.

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