Dale Murphy (by Rusty S.)

Back in college in 1982, I had a friend named Melvin, who through the course of human events* came to be known as “Raise Hell Mel.”€ My crowd was enough easily amused that we began to incorporate this concept to various Atlanta Braves, and so begat Raise Hell Claudell, Raise Hell Rafael, Raise Hell Pascual, and, most ludicrously, Raise Hell Dale. The joke is that Dale Murphy was widely renowned as a straight arrow, and one of the nicest guys in baseball and possibly planet Earth. Murphy certainly raised heck with National League pitching, though.

Murphy had cups of coffee with the Braves (undoubtedly decaffeinated) in 1976 and 1977, debuting as a 20 year old catcher. In 1978 he moved to first base and solidified a starting spot, hitting 23 home runs. In 1980, he moved to the outfield, and at 24 his career really began to take off, finishing with 33 home runs and making his first All-Star team.

For the ’82 Braves, Murphy won his first MVP award, hitting 36 home runs with 109 RBIs and winning the first of 5 consecutive Gold Glove awards. In 1983, Murphy won his 2nd consecutive MVP award, again hitting 36 home runs, but this time solidifying his grip on the title with a .302 batting average, .393 OBP, and .933 OPS. He stole 30 bases in 34 attempts, led the league with 121 RBI€™s, and scored 131 runs.

From ’82-€“’85 Murphy had virtually identical seasons, playing 162 games each year, and only marring a streak of 36 homer seasons by hitting 37 in ’85, while maintaining consistent on-base and slugging percentages.

In 1987, Murphy hit a career-high 44 home runs, along with a .295 batting average; this marked the end of his peak. Beginning in 1988 he fell off a cliff, hitting .226, then .228 in 1989. He spent the bulk of the remainder of his decline years with the Phillies, because then, as now, and as it ever shall be, Phillies gonna Phillies.

Murphy is the only person from that era who I remember regularly hit opposite-field home runs. As we know, it was soon to become a different game. Not even 49 plate appearances in Colorado could help Murphy get the two home runs that he needed to reach 400, and he hung it up in 1993, not even making it through May. Murphy remained on the Hall of Fame ballot for the entire 15 years of his eligibility, but never gained more than 23% support.

I wonder how much the 1981 strike hurt Murphy’s Hall of Fame chances? It cost him at least 50 games, and at a minimum he certainly would have gotten the two home runs needed to reach 400. Furthermore, Murphy was not having a great 1981, and for appearances sake, a chance to pad his 1981 stats could have stitched his excellent 1980 season more seamlessly onto his 1982-€“ 1987 peak.

Dale Murphy will be 60 years old in March. Raise some heck, Dale.

* Not literally a course in Human Events.

38 thoughts on “Dale Murphy (by Rusty S.)”

  1. Is Murph still the youngest back-to-back MVP?

    Perhaps after this year that will be a clown question.

  2. Chase Johnson-Mullins
    was originally thought of as one of the dull’uns
    then the hyphen was added
    after most of his stats were conveniently padded.

    …sounds like a great kid in his TC interview.

  3. The Murph is my favorite Brave of all-time. Just a great dude and a great ballplayer.

    My 2nd favorite Braves related story from my childhood is actually a low-light. In a year where the Braves were atrocious (can’t remember as the late-80s Braves were a blur of bad) I went to a doubleheader with my dad, by best friend, and his dad. I, being a stat-oriented fan from the very beginning, didn’t really care too much about the Braves overall record but loved to follow the stats, calculate them on my own, and Dale’s stats were my crowned jewel.

    In the weather forecast, there was a chance of thunderstorms but the chance wasn’t too severe and they were predicted to get both games in somewhere in between or during the spotted showers. My hopes were high. They soon got much higher then plummet to hell’s pit.

    In the first game of the double-header, Dale was putting on a show for the dozens of fans in attendance. By the 3rd inning, Dale had hit 2 home-runs, and collected 5 RBIs. I was ecstatic, talking nonstop to my dad about what his stats were going to be after the game, what he was on pace for in the double-header, and dreaming of Dale’s future MVP trophy at season’s end. This dream came to an ominous end with a quickness.

    As many thunderstorms that pop up in the south, one minute there were blue skies, next there was death staring down at us from above. The rain started and it was absolute madness. It was the most rain I’d ever seen in such a short time. It only lasted about 30 minutes but when it was done, Fulton County Stadium was underwater.

    The double-header was rained out. And because the game didn’t get past the 5th inning, it wasn’t a complete game, Dale’s 2 HRs would not go down in the books, and both games were to be made up at a latter date (this might not be totally accurate as I know they now pick up games at the inning the rainout left off, but I’ve searched hard to find record of this game and have come up empty).

    We lived about 2 hours away from the stadium and I cried nearly the whole way home. Not because of the rainout, rather due to Dale’s 2 dingers not being tallied into his season stats.

    My wife and I have a baby girl. Her name is Murphy Josephine. We picked the name during our hike across the Southwestern part of Ireland, but it was an easy sell to me as it had double significance. I shared our pic of her as a newborn on Twitter with Dale and he got back to me right away and told me how honored he was to share the name with her.

    He was the best player in a gloomy time to be a Braves fan. He’s still one of the best guys to be affiliated with the franchise. He will always be a role-model to me no matter my age.

  4. My wife’s aunt and grandmother worked for Dale Murphy for years. A few years ago I won an autographed jersey from him on Twitter and asked if he remembered them. He was super excited about it and wanted their address. He got in contact with them and they exchange Christmas cards every year.

    The guy is total class.

  5. I suspected K Law would put us #1 after at least mentioning our system at #2 last year (before the Swanson/Blair) trade. It’s a nice consolation for being the worst team in baseball last year.

  6. On the KLaw rankings.

    5 of our guys are in the top 50. Swanson, Albies, Newcomb, Blair, and Allard. Roughly 13, 18, 30, 40, 45.

  7. Edward Said
    said clearly you’ve all that you need
    within your perception
    it matters, perhaps, how now you respond to suggestion.

  8. Let it also be known that Olivera isn’t mentioned as a “prospect” even though by definition he’s still considered one. Interpret as you may.

  9. @12 is hilarious and probably true. We could cobble together a 25-man roster from the scraps remaining unsigned in February and be just as competitive. Their comparison, however, seems based on the implicit assumption that we don’t see a substantial amount of player improvement. Sure, we have a bunch of “unprovens” in our rotation choices, but it only takes 1-2 of those and 1 of the fringe veterans to have a good season to make the rotation decent.

  10. @17 — Although Olivera technically qualifies as a rookie, a lot of outlets choose not to count international imports as prospects/rookies regardless of service time. I haven’t seen many publications listing Kenta Maeda either, and he’s got a significantly more reliable pedigree (injury potential aside) than Olivera.

  11. Emily Bronte
    recently observed in delicto flagronte
    said practice i must
    that scene with Chipper as Heathcliff was a total bust.

  12. @22

    Alex..till very recently you wouldn’t have found a great deal of difference in the retirement ages of successful managers with their baseball contemporaries here. Their hold on their position was pretty absolute, they chose their retirement to entirely suit themselves in their late sixties or a little beyond. Alex Ferguson at Man U is the text book examples of this.

    But times are changing. Bright, young, well educated, aggressive managers from mainland Europe and South America are making their mark and becoming sought after. They offer the promise of fast paced, aggressive football(and, yes, advanced Analytics!!) – hard to defend and a big favorite with the home fans. And as they find themselves an opening in the Premier League and begin to show their worth pressure inevitably starts to grow on the Old Guard to perform or go.

    Wenger’s case is compounded greatly by another factor, a kind of purity you might call it. He arrived twenty years ago with ideas which were then radical – huge emphasis on advanced training techniques, nutrition etc but above all a commitment to youth, the player you took on young and trained up to your standards over a period of years. And he won with that concept, for the first ten years. The second ten has changed the world – the arrival of petro- dollars from Russia and the Gulf States, even now the USA with Kroenke, Lerner, Henry etc.

    Arsenal became a wealthy club themselves with a new stadium producing massive match day revenues. But with his competition at the top throwing huge amounts of cash at star players the pecking order changed irreversibly as Wenger stubbornly, and many felt at the time properly, refused to buy success and said he could do it the old way, the proper way. And we were all rather proud of him back then, our noses a little in the air.

    A ten year drought has changed all that. At 66 they/we are calling for his head. With no little amount of guilt.

  13. AAR at 22,

    I wish I could remember who and where (think it was espn.com) but somebody did a study of field managers / head coaches and how age impacted performance. Went back to 1900 or so on MLB managers.

    Strong strong evidence across sports that peak was between 46 and 56.

  14. I’m sure that it works somewhat similarly to the way that players age: average players tend to age according to a more or less normal curve, peaking somewhere between 26 and 28. But extraordinary players age very differently. They may peak at 20 — as Alex Rodriguez and Mike Trout did — and hold onto that performance for a long time, then age much more gradually. I’d rather have a 65-year old Joe McCarthy than a 46-year old Fredi Gonzalez.

  15. Beautiful winter’s day in central Florida. All that’s missing is baseball, and it’s on its way.

  16. Is there enough data to do a study on the peak years of Cuban players?

    We’re blaming a lot of pitching injuries on the wear-and-tear of the increased adolescent strain. Kids are playing AAU, high school, and other leagues that turn it into a year-round deal. As pitchers break down earlier in their career (kinda like NFL running backs), we’re pointing to that increased demand. It’s as if a 28 year old pitcher in 2016 is like a, say, 31 year old pitcher from 1980.

    So tie this back to Olivera. From what I see, Cuban players aren’t playing year-round, and their seasons seem to be about 50 games a year. So what is the “effective age” of Olivera’s body? Is he a young 30 compared to an American 30 year old player? Would he be, physiologically-speaking, in his prime because of the lack of wear-and-tear?

    I’m honestly tied of talking about and reading about Olivera (really just ready for him to show us who he is), but it’s an interesting date nonetheless.

  17. @27

    agreed…but how do we account for the loss of performance in the creative field where the physical is relatively unimportant. Larkin wrote about 2 or 3 poems after his mid forties and there are many other examples. Roth goes on banging them out into his eighties. Said picked an interesting area to work in.

    And Freddie in his forties? Perish the thought…and yet.

    Coop…stop it!

  18. Listening to daughter and son exchange tales of the woes that attend parenting their respective 15-going-on-16 sons makes me happy that life is behind me.

  19. @25 – “Strong strong evidence across sports that peak was between 46 and 56”. Nick Saban is 64. Whether you love him or hate him, with 4 National Championships in 7 years, the guy has done pretty well for himself after his “prime”.

  20. @24. Arsenal is a favourite team of mine and I think Arsene does not insist on purely developing a team from the ground. He is willing to spend big for Ozil and Sanchez once the stadium debt has been paid off. What he insists on is that he is refusing to overpay for simply above-average players which the other clubs are doing. He would only spend big on the truly elite players. He would insist on that even if there is a glaring weakness which he has to fill in order to have any hope of winning big. That’s what drives fans mad.

  21. @30, Roth is not 80 yet, and he’s retired now, and I think all his best work didn’t begin until about 1985. The stuff from Patrimony and Deception all the way through to his Nemeses books.

    Late bloomer, though. Certainly later than Larkin. Didn’t really get going until his mid-50s.

  22. Kevin Maitan
    has often denied he will play in Japan
    those yens? he’ll do better
    when he switches to Credit Unions throughout Marietta.

    When will he make his ML debut? here’s my odds today..(all Septembers excluded)

    2016…. 6/4
    2017…. 1/3
    2018…. 5/2

    and… even money he signs with our Braves

    cash/gold only please, no cards.

    Disagree? put your numbers up then… careful, i might pounce.

  23. It doesn’t matter who the manager of the Braves will be in 2016, the team will still suck. Fredi may not get his contract renewed after the season is over anyway.

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