Dave Parker and the Hall of Fame

What happened to being the "Game's Greatest Player?"

Dave Parker hit a career .290 with 339 home runs and an OBP of .339.

Last year, his eligibility on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame ran out after fifteen years of not having 75% or more of the votes.

The Cobra was the first $1,000,000 man of any sport in North America – the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, and not even the MLB had payed anybody one million dollars prior to the 5-year, $5,000,000 contract Dave Parker signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in January of 1979.  The Pirates fans were upset about the contract, and that’s a hell of an understatement.  According to Kent Tekulve, Pirates fans threw “nuts and bolts and bullets and batteries” at him, resulting in him having to wear a batting helmet in right field that only caused more objects to be hurled his way.

More after the jump.

But the contract was more than deserved.  In 1978, Parker lead the league in batting average and slugging percentage, with numbers of .334 and .585 in those categories, respectively.  While he didn’t lead the league in on-base percentage, he also lead the league in on-base plus slugging (OPS) with an OPS of .979.  He was so feared by pitchers that he was intentionally walked 23 times, which also lead the MLB.  He won the NL Gold Glove award for right field due to his absolute cannon of an arm.  He won the NL Most Valuable Player award.  So why isn’t he worth a million dollars to you?

Despite throwing batteries at Dave Parker, I’m pretty sure that Pirates fans were happy with his .310/.380/.586 slash line in 1979 with 25 homers.  Oh yeah, and that entire World Series thing.  But we all know that 2 seasons do not make a Hall of Fame career, so let’s look at his career numbers.

Parker hit a .290 average over his career, with an OBP of .339 and a slugging percentage of .471.  His .290 average is 15% higher than the MLB average of .275, his OBP  is about on-par with the average OBP of .340, and his slugging percentage is 12% higher than the MLB average of .420.  Award shares, a statistic invented by Bill James, tracks the percentage of votes a player gets for awards over their career.  If you unanimously win an award, getting 100% of the votes, your award share will be 1.00.  If you get 20% of the votes for an award, your award share is 0.20.  Adding those statistics up for Dave Paker, his career award share is 3.19, which is twenty-eighth all time, first for a player who is not in the Hall of Fame who is/was eligible (Pete Rose doesn’t count).  The next closest award share of a player who is NOT in the Hall of Fame is Jeff Bagwell, with 2.89 career shares, thirty-fifth all time.

While award shares may be a flawed statistic considering awards are truly subjective, it’s nearly impossible to argue that  Parker shouldn’t be in the Hall, at least statistically, by looking at his Hall of Fame statistics.

An average HOF player will have a Gray Ink statistic of 144.  Dave Parker’s number is 145.  An average Hall of Famer will have a Hall of Fame Monitor statistic of 100.  Parker’s is 124.

So why isn’t he in the Hall of Fame?  Well, to be brutally honest, he should be.  Josh Hamilton, if he will have Parker’s numbers when he retires, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame despite drug and alcohol issues, just like Dave Parker.  Parker’s cocaine addiction and cocky attitude are keeping him out of the Hall.  But the Hall of Fame is for the game’s premier players, not its premier personalities.  If that was fact, Ty Cobb wouldn’t be in Cooperstown, especially after attempting to strangle a groundskeeper.  Parker still has a chance to have his name put on a plaque in the Hall of Fame and enshrined in greatness forever if he is approved by the Veteran’s Committee, but he won’t be.  It’s a shame that such a great player will not be remembered 50-100 years from now due to drug issues instead of being remembered 50-100 years from now because how how much of an awesome baseball player he was.


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