HOWARD MEGDAL: Don’t get me wrong: Dale Murphy had a terrific career. But ultimately, he had only an eight-year run during which he played like a Hall of Famer, and absent those eight years, wasn’t close to an elite performer. As a whole, that puts him behind a number of players who aren’t in the Hall of Fame, either.
From 1980-1987, Murphy won two MVPs, five Gold Gloves, and posted a 140 OPS+ in center field. However, that is bookended by 1976-1979 (1160 plate appearances, 95 OPS+) and 1988-1993 (2658 plate appearances, 96 OPS+). The lion’s share of the time beyond his peak, incidentally, he didn’t play center field, limiting his value further.
The problem with those surrounding years isn’t that they weren’t Hall of Fame-level. It is that they were barely worth anything at all- a total of 2.6 wins above replacement over those 10 seasons! That’s a lot of near-worthless baseball being played. It means that more than half the time, Dale Murphy was essentially replacement-level during his career.
For me, that’s too much poor performance to land him in the Hall of Fame. He stuck around, but it cost his teams dearly.
CHRIS PUMMER: To remove a player’s eight best years and say that without them he’s not a Hall of Famer is a silly argument. Nobody is a Hall of Famer without their best eight years.
Eight years is nearly a decade, which is a sizable stretch of time to be among baseball’s best players. Dale Murphy was that good for that long.
I don’t really think Murphy’s peak is the problem. Though some people only consider his peak to be from 82-87. They see that poor strike year in there (1981), so assume he was not at his peak there.
That’s sort of unfair. If you look at that season, he did have one of his worst batting averages, and as a result his power and OBP were down. But knowing what we do about how BA can be fluky, I think it’s better to credit Murphy’s peak from 1979-87, encompassing that off season, plus the two terrific ones he had the year before.
During that span, they guy had an OPS+ of 138 while mostly playing centerfield, and playing damn near every game those seasons. Over an eight-year span, that’s a pretty fine peak, even with the bad year thrown in there. Which wasn’t really that bad of a year, because it was still a 101 OPS+ from a CFer.
Obviously the problem with Murphy is that he fell off the cliff after that. He went from having more than 6,000 PAs with an OPS+ of 132, two MVPs and five gold gloves through the 1987 season, to having fewer than 3,000 more PAs with an OPS+ of 96 the rest of the way. Which might have been fine if he were still a CFer, but he was mostly a right fielder after 1986.
Throw out the one bad year in there, and Murphy still had eight great seasons.
I don’t think Murphy should be punished for fading fast, not any more than someone should be rewarded for hanging around. To be sure, Murphy’s case is still borderline. But I think he’s still among the 10 best players on this year’s ballot, which makes him worthy of a vote.