- Dale Murphy (OF) - .265 BA, 2111 hits, 398 HRs, 1266 RBIs, 7 All-Star games, 2 MVP wins, 2 other top 10 finishes, 5 Gold Gloves, 15th in career strikeouts. This is Murphy's 12th year on the ballot, and unfortunately Dale has been hovering under 15% since the first three years on the ballot. What causes voters to change their mind over time? I think, though they would probably deny it, writers are subjective as any of us, and I think Murphy has been hurt by a number of things, some of which I've mentioned under other candidates. For one, writers tend to remember the last couple of years of his career, which were by the standards he set earlier, horrible. After the last of his All Star years in 1987 (in which he hit .295-44-105, not as big a peak over earlier years considered the offensive power generated that year...look at Dawson's year, for example), he slumped to .226-24-77, and never hit above .252 or more than 24 HRs again. But before that slump, he was one of the most feared hitters in the NL, along with Schmidt. Secondly, the first three years of him being on the ballot coincided with the boom-boom years of McGwire, Sosa and Bonds, and everyone loved the home run hitters. Once the scandals started arriving, I think we (and they) became skeptical about all power hitters. Finally, as more recent players arrive on the ballot, Murphy's statistics (earned in a more difficult era) get compared to the newer players, and they don't stand up. What the voters will do: I think he'll slip a little further away from the Promised Land again this year, down to 9%. What the voters should do: He's 15th in career strikeouts among hitters, shouldn't that count for something?
- Dave Parker (OF) - .290 BA, 2712 hits, 339 HR, 1493 RBIs, 154 SBs, 7 All Star Games, 1 MVP win, 5 other Top 10 MVP finishes, 3 Gold Gloves. Look at Dave Parker's career - isn't it obvious when his focus went away from baseball and onto cocaine? He went from "Cobra" to "Bloodhound"...his MVP win came at age 27, not surprising since batters usually peak at that age. He faded a bit the following year, and the next five years were a wasteland before finally leaving Pittsburgh for Cincinnati. He returned to form at age 34, but time was against him. As a result, he most likely falls short of election. But what if he had avoided drugs in the middle of his career (1980-84)? Let's fill in the missing stats...
1980: .302-27-99 (+ 30 hits)
1981: .292-21-86 (+ 55)
1982: .292-30-101 (+ 102)
1983: .284-31-98 (+ 3)
I'm assuming a couple of things:
1. The injuries were related to the cocaine.
2. The power stayed during those years, including the two just before it came back.
So what do we end up with for career stats? 83 more HRs, 413 RBIs, 190 more hits, which means: .294 BA, 2902 hits, 422 HRs, 1906 RBI's. Hello, Hall of Fame, Mr. Parker....in 1997.
- Tim Raines (OF) - .294 BA, 2605 hits, 170 HRs, 980 RBIs, 808 SBs, 7 All Star Games, 2nd Rookie of Year, 3 Top 10 MVP finishes. Let's be honest: power hitters get more credit than speed guys, and players in big markets get more credit than those that play in..., I don't know, maybe Montreal. Finally, Tim Raines made the mistake of having his career entirely overlapped by the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of the game, and maybe one of the top 5 hitters of all-time (just ask him sometime). But let's look at facts - Tim Raines is 5th in career stolen bases, and has the best SB percentage of any of those near him in numbers (84.3%). In addition, combined with his walks reached base almost 4000 times, surpassed by only 33 players eligible for the Hall. (Completely lifted from ESPN) But let me go a bit further: Raines lost a significant part of the 1981 season to the strike, and wasn't able to go to spring training in 1987 due to the collusion (didn't resign with Montreal right away, and no one offered him a contract). That was his best year (OPS and OPS+), yet only played 139 games. Throw in 1994's strike, Raines missed over 100 games out of his control. Yet the same thing that plagued Murphy affects Raines as well, as by the time Tim Raines got to play in a spotlight, he was ten years into a steady, slow decline, and was nothing but a part-time player. But when he was at his peak...wow. What the voters will do: a couple vote increase from last year. What the voters should do: Elect him this year, rather than waiting until 2020 like I get the feeling they will before they realize how great a player he was.
- Shane Reynolds (P) - (114-96), 4.04 ERA, 1403 K's, 1 All Star game, 1 Top 10 Cy Young finish. I don't think I need to add to what has been said by his statistics above. Tim Kurkjian just ejaculated over Shane's career.
- David Segui (1B) - .291 BA, 1412 hits, 139 HRs, 684 RBIs. Not sure what to make of Segui's inclusion on this list. Is he the Mike Jackson of players? David only had one season where he had more than 500 ABs, and never made an All-Star game, never won a Gold Glove, or received an MVP vote. I think it is interesting to note that Segui admitted to taking HGH, and steroids while playing with the New York Mets...and we can look at his stats to see what affects it had. Just using OPS+, which compares his offensive output to the rest of the league (and eliminating park affects etc.), Segui had his best season in Montreal at age 30...which isn't that big a surprise, since power peaks in a hitter between ages 27-32. What I find significant is that Segui's second best season happened in 2001. At age 34. In Baltimore. Wasn't Baltimore one of the big steroid users' home later...and before (though Brady Anderson's 50 HRs has yet to proven to be caused by anything else than his dashing good looks and hip facial hair)? What the voters will do: I'm baffled - usually everyone on the ballot gets at least one voters to submit a "yes" for them. Segui has used steroids...does the old standard apply? Over/under on votes: 1.5. What the voters should do: Take the under.
- Lee Smith (P) - (71-92), 3.03 ERA, 478 Saves, 8.7 K/9 IP, 7 All Star games, 4 Top 10 MVP finishes. Remember the good old days when a team's best reliever was brought in with the game tied? When they would pitch more than 100 innings a year? Yeah, I barely do as well. Lee Smith held the all-time career saves record until Hoffman and Rivera went past him a few years ago. This would be more impressive if: a) it was a statistic kept before 1969, which it isn't, and: b) the role of the closer didn't morph into what it is today (a one-inning performer) in the late 1980s. Which brings me back to Edgar Martinez...others wanted to compare Martinez to a reliever (i.e., Gossage), I think it's time to compare him to a more appropriate one. Smith. The save was adopted as a statistic by MLB in 1969; the designated hitter was adopted by the AL in 1973. Lee Smith was the greatest beneficiary of the changing managerial styles that led to elevated saves, while Martinez was the beneficiary of a changing managerial style that suggested a DH wasn't just for aging power hitters who couldn't play the outfield or field at first base anymore. And just like Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez will be passed by other DHs who did it better, based on how they are being utilized. What the voters will do: 40-50% of them will continue to vote for Smith. What the voters should do: Rename the Rolaids Relief Man Award the Lee Smith Award, and watch his percentage of supporters grow.