SALT LAKE CITY —Evaluating Dale Murphy's chances of making the Baseball Hall of Fame reminds me of when I was about 7, and wanted a Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniform for Christmas. Weird, especially since I wasn't, you know, Canadian.
It's not like it was a realistic expectation; no company that I knew of made children's uniforms. I just figured since Canada was close to the North Pole, maybe …
But my mom started steering me in a different direction early in the holiday season, saying Santa probably wouldn't have access to such things. Gradually I began to realize I was hoping against hope.
Such is the case with Murphy, the former Atlanta Braves outfielder whose final chance at the Hall of Fame will be up this week when the voting concludes. The honor won't happen unless a miracle occurs, or he is eventually enshrined by the Veterans Committee. This is his 15th and final time on the regular ballot. Last year he received 14.5 percent of the vote, whereas 75 percent is needed.
As Dudley Do-Right, the cartoon Mountie, said to Nell Fenwick, "This is Canada, Nell. Things are real up here." And this is America, where things are real too. Those pointy-heads in the press box aren't going to vote Murphy into the Hall. A production decline at the end of his career and some overall debatable stats have rendered him an unlikely prospect for the Jan. 9 announcement.
I'm certain Murphy won't lose sleep over it, though his kids might. They've mounted a media campaign to get him elected. If that fails, he could still get in someday via the Veterans Committee vote, which seems a good way of rewarding those who should have made it in the first place.
Several experts have produced complicated stat formulas that indicate Murphy doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame. They present his numbers compared to players both in and out of the Hall. But the voters are sportswriters, not mathematicians. If complicated formulas are so important, why not have the faculty of MIT choose the inductees?
I just know Murphy is a two-time MVP, a seven-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner, and one of only three multiple-MVP winners not in the Hall. I also know that from a pure sense of star power he should be in there. He hit more home runs in the 1980s than any other major leaguer except Mike Schmidt. He has the game's 13th-longest consecutive games streak (740).
This year Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are up for the Hall, too. They won't get in, but for different reasons. They're all suspected steroid cheats. Murphy never used anything more performance enhancing than Wheaties, yet still hit 398 homers.
The Hall of Fame says voting shall be based on stats and ability, as well as sportsmanship and character. As his kids have noted, if the Hall can ban players based on bad character, they should also include players based on good character.
This is where it gets tricky. If being a good guy were the main factor, Bob Uecker might be enshrined. But Murphy wasn't just everything a role model should be; he terrorized pitchers for a decade. It's not like he was a one-year wonder or a light-hitting utility man.
I was once in the Braves clubhouse with Murphy and Henry Aaron in the offseason and watched them exchange pleasantries. It was obvious Aaron had immense respect for Murphy, personally and professionally. I suspect that's another reason why the Veterans Committee will someday vote Murphy in the Hall. The players know who could play.
I'm not disregarding the baseball writers who vote. But they've never tried staring down Murph with two out and two on. Burt Blyleven and Don Sutton did — and they were on this year's Veterans Committee. So was Phil Niekro, who played with Murphy. I hope those types of ex-players are on the committee again next time his name comes up, so they can help vote him into the Hall.
I never did get my Mountie uniform, by the way. But I was OK with that. I got an astronaut helmet instead. Sometimes Plan B works out just fine.
Dale Murphy bio
Born: March 12, 1956, Portland, Ore.
Drafted: 5th overall pick in 1974 draft, Atlanta Braves
Honors: Youngest player to win back-to-back MVP awards (1982-83), named to NL All-Star team seven times, four Silver Slugger awards and five Gold Gloves.
Career: Retired in 1993 after a career with Braves (1974-1991), Phillies (1991-1993) and Rockies (1993).
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