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Gay: Why Dale Murphy should be elected into the Hall of Fame

Posted: November 15, 2017 - 2:28am

If you're an Atlanta Braves fan, write down this date: Dec. 10. That's when we'll know if Dale Murphy finally gets selected for the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Earlier this month, the Modern Baseball Era Committee released the names of 10 candidates eligible for Cooperstown. Nominees must receive at least 12 of 16 votes by the committee (75 percent) to be selected for the Hall of Fame. Results will be revealed Dec. 10.

My hope is that Dale Murphy finally gets elected after being shunned for so many years on the regular ballot. Maybe now, he'll get recognized for the great player he was in the 1980s.

If you grew up watching those (mostly) awful Braves teams, you know just how much Murphy meant to Atlanta, carrying the team with little support. He did so with class, did so with dignity. Steroid-user? Nope. Drug-abuser? Nope. Wife-beater? Nope. As good as he was on the field, Murphy was just as good, if not better, off the field. More on that later.

On the field, he was simply the greatest outfielder of the 1980s. No outfielder had more home runs (308) or RBI (929) during that decade. In fact, only one other player during the 1980s had more homers (third baseman Mike Schmidt) and only one other had more RBI (first baseman Eddie Murray). And Murphy was handicapped by playing for an Atlanta team that had few guys helping him in the lineup. These were the Braves, not the Bash Brothers.

Still, Murphy had more home runs and RBI in the 1980s than Andre Dawson, Jim Rice and Dave Winfield. All three are in the Hall of Fame. Now it's time for Murphy to join them in the hall.

Murphy also earned consecutive MVP awards in 1982-83 - the only outfielder to win two MVP awards in the 1980s. Winning one MVP award can be a fluke. Backing it up with a second MVP award only proves what I've just told you: Dale Murphy was the greatest outfielder of the 1980s.

There have been - and will continue to be - arguments against The Murph. Some of his detractors will say his period of excellence only lasted a short while. The magnificent Dodgers pitcher, Sandy Koufax, was outstanding for just six years in his 12-year career. That short run wasn't held against him when it came time for the Hall of Fame vote.

Murphy had an 18-year career, but it was in the 1980s when he did most of his damage. He joined the elite 30-30 Club in 1982, smacking 36 home runs and swiping 30 bases that season. He became just the sixth player at the time to pull off the feat.

He also was a seven-time All-Star who won five Gold Glove awards and four Silver Slugger awards. Two other awards you won't hear many folks talk about are two of the best ones he could win.

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 Hall of Fame 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." (Credit to John McGrath of The News Tribune for pointing that out.)

Three years later, Murphy won the Roberto Clemente Award, an honor that goes to the player with the best sportsmanship.

What if Murphy lacked character, integrity, sportsmanship? Would those of us who watched him years ago still love him like we do today? What if he had cheated, 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.

Somewhere, there's some baseball geek who will dispute Murphy's numbers. He doesn't have the lifetime WAR (Wins Above Replacement). Or he doesn't have these numbers. Or those numbers. Stop!

Numbers do not always define greatness. Some players you just had to see in person. Still, Murphy has the numbers to prove to he was the greatest outfielder of the 1980s. And he has the awards, too.

The Murph is one of 10 candidates for election by the Modern Era Committee. The others include: Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller, Jack Morris, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell.

There are a lot of worthy candidates on the list. Garvey was a great hitter who made his mark in the postseason for the Dodgers. He was also a 10-time All-Star. He deserves to get in.

Jack Morris won 254 games and won three World Series championships. He was the MVP of the 1991 World Series, pitching a brilliant Game 7 against Atlanta. He deserves to get in.

Cases can be made for every player on this list. I'm making mine for Dale Murphy, the greatest outfielder of the 1980s. I have full faith and confidence the Modern Era Committee is going to get it right and elect No. 3 to the Hall of Fame, where he deserves to be at long last.

If Murphy gets in, he will likely join Chipper Jones in eight months in Cooperstown, N.Y. Chipper, a first-time nominee on the regular ballot, is one of the most outstanding switch-hitters of all-time. He's a shoo-in for election. There could even be a third Atlanta player elected. Andruw Jones, the shutdown center fielder for many years with the Braves, also is on the regular ballot.

It would be absolutely incredible if we got three former Braves inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Honestly, I'll be OK if we just get two - one of them being Dale Murphy, the greatest outfielder of the 1980s.

 

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