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Chris Gay: Murphy deserves a spot in the Hall of Fame

Posted: July 12, 2017 - 2:04am

For many years, I wrote about Ray Guy and his Pro Football Hall of Fame plight.

Few things were worse than having to ask the greatest punter ever about his chances of getting enshrined only to see voters deny Guy the opportunity time and time again. Then. in 2014, it finally happened. On his eighth try as a Hall of Fame finalist, Guy finally got the call. It was a miracle that many people made happen. Perseverance, as they say, finally paid off.

Whenever I think about Dale Murphy, I think about Ray Guy. If the former Thomson resident can get inducted into the Hall of Fame after all these years, why can't The Murph?

This could be a big year for the former Atlanta Braves slugger. Well, it already is in a way. Last month, he opened Murph's restaurant, which is located at The Battery Atlanta, adjacent to SunTrust Park.

Forget about food for a moment. This could be a big year for Murphy in another way. Last year, the Baseball Hall of Fame revamped its Veterans Committee process, setting up four different committees: Early Baseball (1871-1949), Golden Days (1950-1969), Modern Baseball (1970-1987) and Today's Game (1988 and later).

In 2016, the Today's Game committee selected Braves executive John Schuerholz and Bud Selig, the former baseball commissioner. This year, the Modern Baseball Committee steps up to the plate and will select 10 nominees in October. Two months later at Major League Baseball's winter meetings, the 16-person committee will take a vote. To be inducted into the hall, a former manager, player or executive needs at least 12 votes (75 percent).

Murphy never got the respect he deserved from the baseball writers, never getting enough votes. Now, he has another chance. While it won't be easy, Murphy's odds have significantly improved.

The Modern Baseball Committee takes nominees whose careers peaked during that era. There are some players who deserve to be inducted, like pitcher Jack Morris, a 254-game winner who also claimed three World Series titles with Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto.

And don't forget the Detroit double-play duo of shortstop Alan Trammell and second baseman Lou Whitaker. They were great players who also deserve to get the call.

And let's not forget Augusta Chronicle sports editor John Boyette's favorite player, Steve Garvey, a 10-time All-Star.

And then there's Murphy, the greatest outfielder of the 1980s. Only two players hit 300 or more home runs in the 1980s: third baseman Mike Schmidt (313) and Murphy (308). Both of them recorded 929 RBI in the 1980s, while only one other player (first baseman Eddie Murray) had more. In other words, Murphy had the most homers and RBI of any outfielder in the 1980s. Let that sink in.

Of all the outfield sluggers from the 1980s, no one had more homers or RBI during the decade. Murphy had more than Jim Rice. More than Andre Dawson. More than Dave Winfield. All three are in the Hall of Fame. Now it's time for Murphy to join them in the hall.

Murphy also won two MVP awards in the 1980s. Winning one MVP award means you had a great season. Winning two or more means you are a great player. And the Hall of Fame should add another great player, one who also earned five Gold Glove awards and four Silver Slugger awards.

In 1985, Murphy won the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, which is given to a player who best displays character and integrity like Gehrig. The Baseball Writers Association rules for election state: "Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team(s) on which the players played." Integrity and character, the opposites of steroids and cheating. (Hat tip to John McGrath of The News Tribune for pointing that out in a January article.)

What if Murphy had cheated, and taken steroids and extended his career? What if he had hit 500 home runs instead of 398? While the numbers would've looked better, Murphy never tried to take advantage of the game. That's something he should be respected - and rewarded - for.

Another feat: In 1982, Murphy also made an appearance in the elite 30-30 Club, when he recorded 36 homers and 30 stolen bases. He became just the sixth player at the time to pull off the feat.

While Murphy did most of his damage between 1980-88 during his 18-year career, some sports writers and other baseball nerds argue his period of impact was too brief. But didn't great Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax only have six great seasons? Was that not brief? Koufax was absolutely brilliant during that 1961-66 run, winning three Cy Young Awards and making six All-Star Game appearances. Yet his career numbers aren't anything eye-popping. (And yes, I absolutely believe Koufax deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.)

I'm not arguing against Koufax. Instead, I'm arguing for Murphy. Great guy. Outstanding player. It's time to make him immortal. Do what's right, Modern Baseball Committee. Induct Dale Murphy into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Don't tell me Murphy doesn't deserve to be there. We could argue that Rice doesn't have fantastic career numbers, either. We could argue about Chicago third baseman Ron Santo, a nine-time All-Star who didn't win an MVP award, getting inducted into the hall by the Veterans Committee. There's several other players we could argue about.

Instead, let's argue for a deserved player who should be in Cooperstown, N.Y. Murphy was the greatest outfielder of the 1980s. He has the numbers to back him up. His fault? He played for mostly terrible teams in Atlanta. It's not his fault he never played in the World Series. Besides, had he put up the same numbers playing in Boston, Chicago or New York, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

In a few months, the Modern Baseball Committee will release its list of 10 nominees. Here's hoping The Murph is on the initial list and later gets elected.

It's time for Dale Murphy to get his due.

 

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