January 8, 2009

Remember the "Athlete"?

***Claiming that “Donnie Baseball” made him do it…here’s JB’s take on a certain someone on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot.***

I have an unfortunate addiction to fixating on anything that comes across the TV with a scoreboard.

Golf, tennis (preferably women’s, for obvious reasons), badminton…doesn’t matter. Hell, if I come across MTV and the “Real World/Road Rules Challenge” is on…I want to know who wins in the gauntlet.

This past weekend, I stumbled upon the Under Armor All-America High School Football Game.

I started seeing listings for this guy rated THIS by that service and this guy rated THAT by this service…blah, blah, blah. What intrigued me the most was seeing several players with a position listed as “ATH”. It stands for “ATHLETE”, which apparently means the individual is far too talented to be listed at just one position.

As I watched several 18 and 19 year-old boys do sack dances and stand over the Blue Chip QB they just hammered, I reminisced about an “ATH” I loved during my youth.
He was drafted in the first round by an MLB team and gravitated to become the face of the franchise. He was drafted as a CATCHER (I know…“ATHLETE” and “CATCHER” in the same paragraph, but give me a second here), but was far too talented to ruin his knees and wreck his offense worrying about how to handle a pitching staff.

Though you may have a recent retiree in mind, don’t even think about saying Craig Biggio…"The Murph” was a catcher with entirely too much offensive talent, a cannon arm and a gait like a gazelle to spend his time rotting away behind the plate.

When the Atlanta Braves made Dale Bryan Murphy the fifth overall pick in the 1974 draft, they knew they were choosing a 6’5” 215-pounder out of Portland, Oregon (when do you get to play baseball in Portland…between downpours?) with an unlimited supply of power from the right side of the plate. Only problem…he’s a catcher and the DH rule wasn’t available to the Senior Circuit.

Besides, Murphy was too good to be DH material anyhow.

After spending his call-up in 1976 and 1977 as a backstop, the Braves had a brainstorm. They needed to move this catcher, with tons of offensive potential, a rocket arm and athleticism for days, to a position that was better suited to his tools…first base!

Now a more accurate reason for Murphy’s switch from first to the outfield in spring training 1980 is Bob Horner, the Braves 1978 first rounder (number one overall pick), needing somewhere to play when he wasn’t fighting off groundballs like a hockey goalie at the hot corner or injured.

Again, I am arguing it was because of Murphy’s athleticism…not too hard though. Murphy’s FIVE Gold Gloves (playing mostly centerfield) wins that debate for me.

So let’s get to it, Dale Murphy should be a Hall of Famer.

He destroyed National League pitching in the 80’s. On top of the five, 24K Rawlings, he was a seven time All-Star and was 30-30 in 1983…year two of back-to-back MVP seasons. He very easily could have won two more…one in 1984 (.290, 36 HR, 100 RBI) and again in 1987 (.295, 44, 105) if not for two Cubs.

Two Cubs!

Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson did both deserve it, not disputing that, but Murphy finished ninth and eleventh in voting respectively in those years. Guys named "Wallach" and "Cruz" finished ahead of him in voting and in ’84 he beat Jody Davis in voting by just 3 points.

Come on…Jody Davis?!? The guy on top of trophies had a better batting stance than him.

How does Murphy stack-up with some current Hall members?

Let’s put him up against two…one a catcher, one a center fielder (irony intended). “The Murph” scored more runs, had more hits and homers than the catcher and won as many MVP awards. The center fielder…Murphy had 2 more MVP awards than him.

Is Murphy better than Johnny Bench and Duke Snider? Probably not.

Does he belong in the same class? Absolutely.

He unfortunately did not have the benefit of playing for, and winning World Series titles like Bench and Snider did. He played in Atlanta when they were shitty at best and he was most, if not all, of what they had.

As I drifted back into consciousness to some wide receiver from the State of Florida committing LIVE, on the spot to the Gators (what a shocker), I longed for the days of a true “ATH.” Like when a 1983 Dale Murphy Topps card made my day when I got one in a pack.

As I recalled the stale flavor of baseball-card-pack bubble gum, I thought to myself what I thought then…“The Murph” sure smells like a Hall-of-Famer.

BallHype: hype it up!

1 comment:

Brian J. Bushaw said...

If I had a pack of '83 Topps in front of me right now...I'd still eat the twelve pieces the gum had broken into. Can it be any worse than when I did the same thing in 1990?