Dec 8, 2012, 12:32 PM EDT
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
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 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)
Sep 16, 2014, 5:47 PM EDT
Teixeira initially played well after returning from an April disabled list stint, but he’s been a mess since the All-Star break while hitting .179 with 43 strikeouts in 42 games.
Sep 16, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT
In a real game. Not a simulation.
Sep 16, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Springer followed up his slow start by homering 20 times in a 59-game span, but the 24-year-old outfielder last played on July 19.
Sep 16, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT
And though he calls MLB a “social institution,” he’s content to punt to the courts when it suits his interests.
Sep 16, 2014, 4:26 PM EDT
Sep 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT
That should guarantee him around $15-16 million for 2015 should he accept it.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Strasburg’s lack of lineup and bullpen support have kept his win-loss record from properly reflecting how well he’s pitched during the past two seasons with a 3.18 ERA and 421 strikeouts in 385 innings.
Sep 16, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT
Which makes absolutely no friggin’ sense at all.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Greg Morhardt served as a national cross-checker for the Angels and “pegged Trout as a future star while most teams shied away.”
Sep 16, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Five days after a fastball to the face sent him to the hospital with multiple facial fractures and dental damage Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton posted a before-and-after picture to show how much he’s improved.
Sep 16, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
But will they make some noise in October?
Sep 16, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
And a pretty great home run call by always underrated Cubs announcer Len Kasper (as long as you’re not a Reds fan).
Sep 16, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
Carlos Beltran won last year. Who gets it this year?
Sep 16, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Levine has been the Rangers’ assistant GM since October of 2005, serving as general manager Jon Daniels’ right-hand man during the most successful period in team history.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
The Angels starter pitched well last night, but felt some discomfort at the end of his stint.
Sep 16, 2014, 12:16 PM EDT
He has some time on his hands. At least he’s putting it to good use.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:40 AM EDT
Man, Waffle House. You really missed the boat here. And now we all have to suffer with this boring, corporate name.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:25 AM EDT
One of the few dudes who has been hitting for the Yankees is now on the shelf for the year.
Sep 16, 2014, 11:03 AM EDT
Big Papi took some time yesterday to remind his detractors that, yes, he did deserve that contract extension.
Sep 16, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT
Less than two weeks of this left, you guys.
- And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights 34
- MLB suspends Jonathan Papelbon seven games for incident during Sunday’s game 42
- VIDEO: Jacob deGrom begins game with eight straight strikeouts to tie MLB record 11
- Bud Selig says MLB and players union will meet this week about domestic abuse policy 8
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights 67
- Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas to command $100 million? 30
- Bruce and Brett Bochy make MLB history 33
- Settling the Score: Saturday’s results 17
- Chris Davis suspended 25 games for amphetamine use (92)
- A few thoughts about the discrimination lawsuit against the Mets (91)
- Giancarlo Stanton diagnosed with multiple facial fractures and dental damage (91)
- Bud Selig can’t remember the last domestic violence incident in Major League Baseball (88)
- A couple of initial thoughts on the Chris Davis suspension (83)