To all those “baseball purists” who insist that Dale Murphy did not accomplish enough in his career to deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown, I offer the following proposition: How about we give him Barry Bonds’ spot? Or Roger Clemens’? Or Manny Ramirez’s?
After all, the knock against Murph, who starred for the Braves in the mid-’80s, has always been that his skills deteriorated so markedly during his last few seasons. By the time he was traded to the Phillies, in 1990, he was truly a shell of the two-time MVP Atlantans had come to know and love.
Meanwhile, guys like Bonds and Clemens gained fame and fortune by operating at peak performance far beyond what should have been their primes. Bonds transformed himself, in the second half of his career, from a classic five-tool guy into a home-run machine. Clemens was still throwing in the 90s well after his 40th birthday.
Of course, we now know why. Well, we don’t “know,” exactly, in the legal sense. We have to use the word “alleged,” as in “both men allegedly used performance enhancing drugs,” because neither has actually been convicted of drug use — yet.
Still, I think we’re all pretty certain what went on. If you don’t believe Bonds and Clemens used PEDs, I’ve got a couple of Dallas Cowboys 2012 Super Bowl tickets I’ll sell you.
Now both men, along with Ramirez, are feeling the backlash. Pundits speculate that, because of their alleged cheating, none will be voted into the Hall of Fame. I heard one commentator say recently that Ramirez, despite his 555 home runs and .312 batting average, won’t even be on the ballot.
So let me see if I’ve got this straight. The very thing those guys did to elicit such contempt — attempting to prolong their careers artificially — was something Murphy would never have done. And we’re penalizing him for that?
When Murphy’s name comes up for Hall of Fame consideration, detractors like to cite the well-known numbers: 398 homers and a .265 lifetime average. Just not enough, they say.
Proponents point to back-to-back MVPs, seven all-star selections, five Gold Gloves, and four Silver Sluggers. They argue, correctly, that for a stretch of four or five years, Murphy was the best player in baseball.
But in light of recent scandals, perhaps we ought to be paying more attention to some of his other stats:
Appearances before grand juries: 0
Appearances on tabloid television: 0
Accusations of cheating: 0
Maybe Murphy wasn’t as good a player as even a non-enhanced Bonds or Ramirez. Sadly, we’ll never know.
One thing we do know: Dale Murphy was a pretty darn good ballplayer for a pretty long time. He brought honor to the game of baseball and to the Braves’ organization.
These days, if that doesn’t make him stand out, I don’t know what could.
Rob Jenkins is a free lance writer and college professor who lives in Lawrenceville. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.