Philadelphia Phillies v Atlanta Braves

Chad Murphy argues for his dad, Dale Murphy, to get into the Hall of Fame

42 Comments

This is Dale Murphy’s final year of eligibility on the Hall of Fame ballot, so his family has embarked on a bit of a P.R. campaign to spread the word about why he should be voted in. You can sign a petition here if you are so inclined. Meanwhile, Chad Murphy, one of Murphy’s eight children, has written letters to various baseball scribes, including ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.

It’s a pretty boring Saturday afternoon so far, so feel free to read the letter in full below and decide for yourself.

********************

An Open Letter to the BBWAA: Making the HOF Case for Dale Murphy, or, The Guy Who Changed My Diapers

Dear ___________,
My name is Chad Murphy. I’m Dale’s oldest son. ‘Tis the season for HOF voting, and this being the last year of my dad’s eligibility, I’d like to begin by reiterating the voting criteria, as per the Hall of Fame’s website:

5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Next, let me just list a few of my dad’s accomplishments in his former role as an active MLB player. Here goes:

• Back-to-back NL MVP 1982, 1983 (1 of only 12 players—and the youngest in history at that time—to accomplish this)

• 7-time NL All-Star (top NL vote-getter in 1985 and a starter in 5 of those games)

• 4-time Silver Slugger award-winner

• 5-time Gold Glove award-winner

• 6th player in MLB history to reach 30 home runs/30 stolen bases in a single season

• Only player in history to compile a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in a single season, 1983

• Led MLB in total bases during the span of 1980-1989 (2,796)

• 2nd (only to HOFer Mike Schmidt) in total home runs from 1980-1989 (308)

• 2nd (only to HOFer Eddie Murray) in total runs from 1980-1989

• 1st in total home runs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (308)

• 1st in total RBIs from 1980-1989 among all Major League outfielders (929)

• 2nd in total hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (1,553)

• 2nd in total extra-base hits from 1980-1989 among Major League outfielders (596)

• Played in 740 consecutive games from 1980-1986 (11th longest streak in history at the time, and 13th today. Only missed 20 games total between 1980-1989)

• Reached base in 74 consecutive games, 1987 (3rd longest streak in Major League history)

• 398 career home runs (19th in Major League history when he retired, 4th among active players)

• 2111 career hits

• 1266 career RBIs

• .265 career batting average

• Sports Illustrated’s “Sportsmen of the Year” Award, 1987 (represented baseball as the “Athlete Who Cares the Most,” along with U.S. gold-medalist Judi Brown King, Kenyan gold-medalist Kip Keino, and others)

• Lou Gehrig Award, 1985 (given to the player who most exemplifies the character of Lou Gehrig, both on and off the field)

• Roberto Clemente Man of the Year Award, 1988 (given to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”)

• Bart Giamatti Community Service Award, 1991

• Jersey number “3” retired by the Braves, 1994

• Inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, 1995 (induction class with Roberto Clemente and Julius Erving. One of only 8 baseball players inducted in the Hall’s history)

• Inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence, 1995 (joining Mike Schmidt, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nolan Ryan, and others)

• Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, 1997

• Inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, 1997

• Inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame, 2000 (joining Phil Niekro and Hank Aaron, among others)

• Founder of the IWon’tCheat Foundation in 2005, whose mission is to encourage character development among youth

Next, I really want to dive into his sabermetrics, starting with his JAWS, WAR, and WAR7, and then moving on to his JPOS, WPA, OPS, and—last but certainly not least—the all-important holy quadrinity of VORP, GORP, SCHLORP, and THUNDERCORK.

Oh wait, no I don’t.

Stand down, statistics nerds.

Look, I have no desire to get into some sort of cryptic mathematical argument for my dad’s induction into the Hall of Fame. The numbers are what they are—maybe they’re strong enough for the Hall on their own, maybe not. Whatever. The bigger issue, to me, is this: what happened to three of the criteria listed under the rules for election, namely, integrity, character, and sportsmanship? Gone but also forgotten? No doubt a player’s stats (i.e., “record” and “playing ability”) are a crucial part of the equation, but that’s just the point: we’re talking about an equation here, folks. And we’ve got a serious case of missing variables. Where’d they go, friends?

To be fair, I’ll grant the nerds this: In most cases things like “integrity” and “character” and “sportsmanship” are mighty difficult to quantify. I get that. Other than, say, creating a variable along the lines of “number of arrests for drug possession” or “number of ejections from a game,” it’s not exactly clear yet how to go about measuring those attributes. As a consequence, this so-called “character clause” does a real number on our quest for objectivity, which makes us uneasy. And so it makes sense that collectively we’ve emphasized the part of the voting criteria that is easier to measure and largely beyond subjective interpretation, namely, on-field statistics. Fine.

But hold on, maybe not fine. The character clause isn’t just totally MIA. In fact, it seems to come roaring back into the conversation every so often when certain players are mentioned, as if judging character weren’t so difficult after all. And, mysteriously, this only seems to happen in cases where the point is to keep someone out (see: Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, the ‘Roid Boys). Indeed, then it gets easy: Gamblers? Out! Cheaters? Be gone! Vehement racists? Well, okay, you can stay (lookin’ at you, Cap Anson). Of course, the obvious question here is from whence this biased, one-way application of the character clause?

Here’s one possibility. In psychology there’s a well-known and well-established finding known as the “bad is stronger than good” principle. In 2001, Roy Baumeister and colleagues reviewed a large number of studies and found overwhelming evidence that negative events figure more prominently in our minds—and are hence easier to recall—than positive ones. For example, the authors cite a 1978 study by Brickman and colleagues where they interviewed people who one year previous had either won the lottery (a supposed “good” event) or had been paralyzed in an accident (a bad event). What they found was that the intense negative feelings associated with being paralyzed had not abated a year later, while the positive feelings from winning the lottery had almost totally disappeared and the details of the experience entirely forgotten. The upshot here is that we, as human beings, adapt very quickly to good events, so quickly, in fact, that it doesn’t take long for us to forget those good things completely. And isn’t the uneven application of the character clause perhaps an illustrative example of this quirk in human memory and reasoning? Bad behavior (some of which—e.g., Joe Jackson—happened, er, nearly 100 years ago) appears to occupy a more central place in the minds of voters than the exemplary behavior of players like Dale Murphy.

These two facts—1) the difficulty of objectively quantifying qualitative characteristics about a player; and 2) our deeply-ingrained negativity bias as human beings—have led to a troubling scenario where we either ignore the character clause altogether, or we use it to keep people out, citing their public sins. But let’s be honest: you can’t have it both ways. Either we apply the character clause for all eligible players, equally, allowing for both negative and positive evaluations to count toward a player’s HOF case, or we toss it out completely. If the latter, then say goodbye (probably) to my dad’s HOF chances at the same time you say hello to Mr. Rose and Mr. he-of-no-shoes Jackson. Oh, and might as well roll out the red carpet for Mr. Bonds, too.

As the voting criteria currently stand, however, there’s no doubt that a fair, holistic assessment of my dad’s playing years would reveal that he is exactly the type of player we should want to represent the game of baseball for future generations. As the criteria suggest, HOF membership is not the equivalent of a career-long MVP award; rather, it’s an honor bestowed upon players for the legacies they’ve left behind. In my dad’s case, that’s a dang near unimpeachable legacy indeed.
Chad Murphy

Chad Murphy is a PhD candidate in Organizational Behavior at Penn State University and is the oldest of Dale Murphy’s eight children.

*******************

Whether you support Murphy or not — and I tend to think he comes up a bit short, especially with so many strong candidates on the ballot this year — it’s admirable to see his son going to bat for him. There are emotions at play here, so it’s impossible to equate this to a beat writer who argues for a player they covered for their entire career. But is it really necessary to denigrate those who evaluate Murphy’s case on the basis of statistics, especially after he rattles off a list of statistics in his favor? This works against the very case he is trying to make. He should be able to make his argument without resorting to petty silliness and name-calling. It just felt out of place with the rest of his otherwise well-written and thought-provoking piece.

I will say that I want to thank Chad Murphy for inspiring the name of my fantasy baseball team for next season. Look out for the THUNDERCORKS.

UPDATE: As Astros County points out, Jeff Bagwell also had a season with a .300+ batting average, 30+ home runs, 120+ runs batted in, 130+ runs scored, 90+ bases on balls, and 30+ stolen bases in 1999. Oops. (Thanks to Zachary Levine of Baseball Prospectus for the link)

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
9 Comments

Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
22 Comments

ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: