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Steve Garvey, Tommy John and a closed Hall of Fame

They get another chance to enter now, though I’d still be surprised if they make it.

Both hung around on the Baseball Writers Assn. of America ballot for the maximum 15 years of voting, though falling significantly short each time.

Both are on the Hall of Fame veterans committee ballot. They’re on there with George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin, Marvin Miller, Pat Gillick and six other former players. Winners will be announced Dec. 6.

Certainly, it’s easy to make a case that both Steve Garvey and Tommy John deserve to be in the Hall.

Garvey was an All-Star 10 times, won four Gold Gloves, was a National League most valuable player, a two-time All-Star game MVP, a two-time NL Championship Series MVP, set the NL record for consecutive games played, had a career .294 batting average, had at least 200 hits in six seasons and was a winner with both the Dodgers and Padres.

John is 26th all-time in victories and shutouts, eighth in games started, 20th in innings pitched, 50th in strikeouts, was a four-time All-Star, had a career 3.34 earned-run average and was the NL comeback player of the year after he teamed with Dr. Frank Jobe on revolutionary elbow surgery that was named after John. He pitched for 26 seasons.

The problem for both, however, is that it wasn’t so difficult to make a case against them.

Argument against Garvey: He hit 272 career home runs, a respectable number, but not elite for someone who played a corner position. His career on-base percentage was only .329. His numbers were very good, but not truly exceptional.

Argument against John: His numbers were largely the product of his lengthy career. He’s 18th in career losses. Never won a Cy Young. Not really a dominant pitcher.

Whether you agree or disagree with either side, the larger problem for both is that frustrating moving line to determine who is truly Hall worthy and who is not.

As a BBWAA member, I voted for both. There were times early in their eligibility, however, when I did not. The problem often became, "Well, if I vote for him, then I have to vote this guy and that guy." And pretty soon your list is expanding to the point where it’s no longer an exclusive club.

Compare these career stats for first basemen:

Player                    Avg.   HR     RBI      Runs    Hits     SLG     OPS
Steve Garvey         .294    272   1308    1143   2599    .446    .329
Al Oliver                .303    219   1326    1189   2743    .451    .345
Don Mattingly        .307   222    1099   1007    2153    .471    .358
Orlando Cepeda      ,297   379    1365   1131    2351    .499    .350
Will Clark               .303   284    1205   1186    2176    .487    .384
Cecil Cooper           .298   241    1125   1012    2192    .466    .337
Edgar Martinez       .312   309    1261   1219    2247    .515    .418

Of these players, only Cepeda is in the Hall of Fame.

Cooper, Clark and Oliver never lasted past their first ballot. Martinez returns to the BBWAA ballot next January, and will be joined by John Olerud. Mattingly will be on for his 11th year. Oliver is on the veterans ballot along with Garvey.

If you vote in John, how can you not vote in Jim Kaat (283 wins, 3.45 ERA), Frank Tanana (240, 3.20), Jack Morris (254, 3.90) or Bert Blyleven (287, 3.31, fifth all-time strikeouts)?

Somewhere you have to step back. Somewhere you have to draw that vague line and determine how elite a player has to be.

And thus far, most determined that Garvey and John finished their careers just below that line.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Comments () | Archives (14)

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I think that you need to take into consideration the times in which these excellent and deserving players both performed. Garvey was a dominant player that led many teams to the world series over his career. And, there was not a more coveted pitcher then TJ during his career. They were both superstars in their eras. I for one, would love to see all the great players listed above honored.

Garvey got forced out of the game by San Diego. Their former GM admitted collusion. If Garvey had played just two more years, he would have the stats to be a lock for the hall of fame. He also missed a big part of two seasons due to injury and the player lock-out shortened season. I say, let him in.

(I would not vote for Tommy John, however).

It seems to me that very few elite Dodgers have made the HoF in recent years.

How about Gil Hodges?

40+ yr dodger fan here and I absolutely do not see how anyone could vote Garvey into the HOF as an individual. Maybe on the basis of the longest tenured infield core in the history of MLB. But as an individual player, he was not HOF material.

I never remembering him go on a tear and carry the team for a week or more like Cey could. Never could he come through in the clutch like Reggie Smith or even Dusty Baker...hell, even Bill Russell inspired more confidence in the clutch, he could not steal a base with a map and a 3-second head start.

He did have what seemed to be a beautiful swing, but it was completely ridged and stiff. Anyone who watched him impotently flail away at every down and away breaking ball during the last 5-ish years of his career would understand. Either a pathetic looking K because he could never adjust his swing or a Juan 'The Au'pair" Pierre style dribbler to the right side for a double play. Top that off with the fact he was only great with the glove at first, ask him the throw the ball anywhere and just might as well let the runner take an extra base. But he could pick-it at first no doubt.

Also the the 2nd half of his career it seem like every time he has a chance he hit into rally/game killing double plays.

Nope, other than maybe for the number if illegitimate kids around the league he was nothing special. Add to it the way he was given preferential treatment over the whole Don Sutton altercation, I can never forgive him for that, apparently all Sutton did was tel the truth...and was then ridden out of town on a rail.

TJ? Nope he wasn't HOF material either. One of the few claims to glory for him was he owned TBRM. Heck, all TJ had to do was toss his glove out on the mound and the BRM in their heyday just rolled over and played dead.

Again TJ as a solid guy out there and I felt the Dodgers gave him up too easily but such is life.

RE: Garvey
It is no secret that many folks throughout the baseball world considered Garvey's good guy personality that of a first class phony.
It is also no secret that some of those who vote for the Hall of Fame inductees hold grudges against those potential inductees they don't care for.

Garvey has the overall package and is above the very good first basemen you listed because of his all-star games, various MVP awards, key player on multiple World Series teams, best or among the best at his position throughout his career/era.

Your points on John's longevity have merit. He's 50/50 for me, though wish he could get in. But I certainly think Blyleven, Kaat and Tanana are better than 50/50 and should be in. They were great on what were sometimes 'mediocre at best' teams.

Best thing in the case for all of the above is that as far as we know, all played the game clean - no Mitchell reports, no sudden growth, etc.

There are those in the MLB Hall of Fame who seem if not unworthy then not as worthy some others... likewise those on the outside desiring enshrinement who do not just the same.

Steve Garvey & Tommy John fit this latter category, my opine.

Penalizing John for length of career would seem punishment for perseverance his, especially when what he had to overcome is considered; also seems petty. That said, he may not ever make it. I would place TJ just ahead a modern day Xerox, Jaime Moyer.

Garvey on the other was more 'memorable' than he was great. After an brief flurry a group consisting Hodges, Larker, Fairly & Parker, one guy filled the spot 1st base for almost a full decade. He hit .300 or better 6 of 7 seasons aft becoming a starter yet finished his career with 7 straight sub - .300 seasons. No crime... but no bust just the same.

To his credit, his stats were produced in an era of legitimacy unlike the latter days. Just the same, while he was a very good player when considered vs the MLB norm his time, when he he is measured vs the very best 'ever', he falls a bit short HOF.

Conversely, beggars not being able to choose 'stead dream circa 2010, LA could use Garvey and John; would be major upgrades the baseball rabble current dudgers...

Garvey was my favorite player. I have been a dodger fan since 1977. But he is not a Hall of Famer

Dodgers that belong in the Hall of Fame: Gil Hodges & Maury Wills.

Biggest crime in baseball: Roger Maris is NOT in the Hall of Fame. But Garvey has a chance? Oh, please!

Koufax Fan is absolutely correct, the only two Dodgers who belong in the Hall of Fame are Gil Hodges and Maury Wills. In fact, the Dodgers should bend the usual club rules and retire three jerseys, even though these men are not yet in the Hall, and may never get to make it: Hodges, Wills, and Fernando Valenzuela. It would be nice for Wills to get to enjoy this in his lifetime, and likewise for Hodges' widow.

Steve Garvey is without question a Hall of Famer. He was the dominant first baseman of his era, and came up with big hit after big hit in crucial situations. Garvey played during a time in which pitching dominated the league, and had to hit in two of the toughest "hitters" parks, Dodger Stadium and Jack Murphy. Had he played two more seasons without contract collusion, he may have reached 3000 hits and close to 1500 RBI. He also missed half a season due to player strike. Garvey set a NL record for consecutive games played, won a NL MVP, two All-Star MVP's and a NL Division MVP. He appeared in 13 All-Star Games(NL was 13-0)and won 4 Gold Gloves. Garvey also had 200 hits 6 times and hit .300 6 times as well. He deserves the Hall!

Steve Garvey a rock at first base, and a clutch hitter. When a play or a hit was necessary Garvey would come through. But, that was not enough for the media, for they like always root around for dirty laundry, and stick their nose where it never should go. Why isn't Garvey in hall of fame, simply because of adultery, for though he was a better than average hitter, he was an exceptional first baseman, and I never saw a better arm at first base.


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