Hall of Fame / Reds - General

Erardi on Dave Parker for HOF (and more)

In today’s Enquirer there is a very interesting article by John Erardi concerning Dave Parker, Erardi’s criteria to make his ballot, and his Hall of Fame selections:

It is Cincinnati native Dave Parker‘s 15th and final year on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot with the 600-plus voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Every year I’ve voted, I have voted for the former Pirates and Reds slugger (he also played in Oakland and Milwaukee) and never questioned myself, despite increased anti-Parker lobbying from my friends in the sabermetric community.

I stand by my vote.

I admit it; I like the comets, especially five-tool comets. And even though I know it’s unsabermetric, I like guys that have their best (or close to their best) years in their championship season(s), which was what Parker did in 1979 for the We Are Family Pirates.

Early in his career, top 10 MVP voting 4 out of 5 years, including winning it in 1978.

For my money – notwithstanding National League MVP votes to the Reds’ Joe Morgan in 1975-76 and George Foster in 1977 – Parker was the best player not only in the NL in the second half of the decade, but in all of baseball. If there was a player I could have picked to start a franchise then, Parker would have topped the list.

For me, that qualifies Parker as a Hall of Fame player – even though I realize I’m in the minority for thinking that way.

During his first five full seasons in the majors, from 1975-79, Parker batted .322 with an average of 23 home runs, 98 RBI and 16 stolen bases per season. He earned back-to-back batting titles in ’77 and ’78 (the year he won his MVP award) and won the All-Star Game MVP in ’79.

Second half of the decade? That’s kind of cherry-picking and when you’re talking about the HOF, you shouldn’t have to cherry pick years/numbers. Why isn’t he in the HOF?

“if he had done anything” in what should have been his near-prime season (ages 29-33, which covers the period of 1980-84), he would be in the Hall of Fame by now. Instead, during that five-year stretch, Parker was little more than what is known as a “replacement player,” sabermetric talk for somebody you can pick up off the waiver wire.

I don’t know if I’d go THAT far, he only had one season where he was below average (1983 – OPS+ of 97). I’m not an expert on Parker’s career, but I’m assuming this is when the cocaine issues/the trial, etc took their toll on him and his career.

So, John explains how he fills out his ballot:

But I look at it this way:

Besides giving points to players who post their best years in their championship seasons, I also give points to players who resurrect their careers from the ash heap – as Parker did in the second half of the 1980s – even when that demise is self-inflicted.

I applaud sabermetricians for trying to remove all forms of subjectivity, but I’m not going to give zero weight to guys who play for World Series’ teams and bounce back from demises.

I just can’t go “pure math” on these guys.

And he did resurrect his career in Cincinnati.

In my opinion, he also should have won the National League MVP award with Cincinnati in 1985, when the Cardinals’ Willie McGee beat him out.

I’ll go to my grave believing that Parker’s involvement in the cocaine scandal of the early 1980s cost him that MVP honor, and has cost him at least another 25 percent on the ballot, for which he’s never received more than 24.5 percent of the vote (75 percent is required for election).

He was an Ironman for the Reds that year, playing in 160 games and leading the league in double, RBI, total bases; he also had an OPS+ of 149, was named to the All Star team, won the Silver Slugger, and was second in the MVP balloting.

He followed it up with a season nearly as good, playing in all 162 games and again leading the league in total bases, again going to the All Star game and winning the Silver Slugger, and coming in 5th in the MVP voting.

Finally, John gives us an early peak at what will probably be his ballot:

I’m five days away from faxing my ballot to New York (it’s due Jan. 1), and I’m leaning toward making this the first year I’ve filled in all 10 blanks on the ballot.

For me, the lock votes are for Parker, fellow Cincinnati native and former Red Barry Larkin, Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammel (if I voted for Dave Concepcion every year, which I did, how can I not vote for Trammel?), and Tim Raines (the sabermetric guys convinced me on Raines a few years ago; basically, he was the NL’s Rickey Henderson).

That’s seven. I’m also voting for the aforementioned Walker because I think there’s a chance he could fall off the ballot this year by receiving 5 percent or less of the vote, and I’d hate to see what happened to Dwight Evans happen to Walker. More years of debate are needed on Walker, who benefited from the Coors Field syndrome.

I’m also voting for first-timer Jeff Bagwell. My sabermetric buddies convinced me on him.

I’m also voting for Murphy because I feel so strongly against the steroids users – if there’s one guy you can take to the bank as clean, it’s Murphy, who did much of his damage in his back-to-back MVP seasons in 1982-83 before steroids took over the game. Yes, he’s a comet, but that’s just me.

By the way, I thought Parker drove in everything that wasn’t nailed down in 1985. In fact, he was second best among the big RBI guys, knocking in a whopping 25 percent of the runners on base. Murphy was an off-the-charts’ 28 percent.

I’m also voting for Fred McGriff, who doesn’t have the slugging numbers of the steroids users who followed him. But I refuse to hold the “not taking ‘roids” asterisk against him.

I admit that I’ve not yet been able to overcome my anti-DH (designated hitter) bias, which is why I’ve never voted for Edgar Martinez. But I’m wavering, and wouldn’t be surprised if I vote for him as soon as next year, when I’ve got some room on the ballot, and the only solid newcomer is Bernie Williams, who I don’t regard as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, if one at all.

As usual when John writes something, it’s not only worth reading, it’s also worth discussing…thanks again, John.

6 thoughts on “Erardi on Dave Parker for HOF (and more)

  1. Why aren’t Lee Smith and John Franco getting the credit they deserve? If they can vote in Sutter—-the most overrated closer in history—-why not Smith, the all-time saves leader? And Franco is the all-time lefthanded closer. The main thing you can hold against him is that he spent most of his career with the Mets, baseball’s equivilent of the Bermuda Triangle

  2. My personal opinion, Larkin, Alomar, Byleven, and Raines are all no brainers to me. I think Bagwell is deserving, but I still have my doubts with him given knowing about Caminiti. I can’t really argue against people feeling like voting Parker, Murphy, McGriff, or Jack Morris although I don’t think I would vote them in. I would have a hard time letting McGwire in before Pete ever gets the chance. He is a group of the known cheaters (although not against the rules, technically), but until Pete gets in, I would not vote for any steroid users.

    Now, relief pitchers and DH’s will never get enough credit. Relief pitchers are just seen as guys who aren’t good enough to start and DH’s are seen as guys not good enough to field. Again, my personal opinion, I think that like them or not, they are just as important to a team as any other player, therefore the best of their position should make it. With that reasoning, Smith, Franco, and Martinez are no brainers.

    I would still love to see Davey make it(via veterans committee), but he will always be seen as the fifth best player on the team and it will be held against him, which is a shame. Had he been on a different team, he would already be in.

  3. I think the word “fame” is an interesting and hopeful term that has been completely misunderstood. The Hall of Excellence or The Hall of Two Deviations Above the Norm more closely encapsulate the current-day arguments. I think Parker offered something that was exciting, something that made him famous. He was a rare bird, and to me is the type of player I’d like to see in Cooperstown. It would be interesting to read his plaque. I don’t see it for Fred McGriff. The numbers don’t do it for me. Jack Morris, yes, because of the role of the 1991 World Series Game 7. I think maybe Dale Murphy because of the role of TBS in spreading him to the country at the time of a key media advancement. I think it leaves Concepcion on the outside, unfortunately.
    Something greater than greatness is needed for me.

  4. Bill, I’m going to have to disagree with you about Parker’s 1986. He was mediocre, at best. A 117 OPS+, with zero speed (1 for 7 stealing), 18 GIDP, and pretty lousy defense (“Cobra Snap” or no).

    When a slow corner outfielder finishes 5th in the MVP voting with an 807 OPS, I have a hard time believing (as Erardi writes) that the voters were biased against him.

    Even his superficially-impressive 1985 is sapped by his league-leading 26(!) GIDP, and the fact that 24 of his 52 walks were intentional. Yes, he was “feared” ($.25 to Jim Rice), but the IBB are probably due more to fact that Alan Knicely (727 OPS), Cesar Cedeno (644), and Buddy Bell (679) batted behind him all year.

  5. @vermilion red: You’re taking “fame” hyper-literally, which leads you down a path toward Mark Fidrych, Vince Coleman, Kirk Gibson, and each and every member of the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

  6. I think the 70-80s are going to be a bit under-represented in the hall, mostly as too many of the stars for one reason or another lost too much time perhaps because of injuries or lifestyle issues and didn’t put up the counting numbers. The ones that are there, are pretty much all there for the most part with a couple of exceptions.

    Dave Parker was definitely great at his peak and honestly I have a hard time believing that Jim Rice or Andre Dawson were much better than the Cobra overall. It all comes down that Parker doesn’t have a signature figure like 3000 hits, which would have stamped his ballot and he didn’t play in Boston or Chicago during his peak which adding in the Pittsburgh cocaine scandal is going to keep him out. Parker definitely had the tools though, killer attacking swing and his arm was great at one point. One of my first baseball memories is the amazing throw Parker had in the 79 Allstar game.

    The Cobra was one of my favorites as a little kid. Hard to argue with getting Rijo in that Parker trade, as he was pretty much one of the key guys in the Reds winning it all in 90, but it would have been cool to get Jose and somehow kept Dave Parker moving him to first base.

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