Taylor Murphy was sitting in a classroom scrolling through numbers and percentages on his phone when he received a text message from his father, Dale Murphy, who had just then missed out on being voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame for the 15th and final time.
The former Braves great and two-time MVP winner received just 18.4 of the 75 percent of votes needed to be enshrined in the sport’s hallowed museum of its top players, but as Taylor or any one of Murphy’s other seven kids can attest, there was zero bitterness in his written words.
“He thanked us for everything,” said Taylor, the fifth-oldest child in the Murphy clan. “He looked at the positives.”
Murphy, of course, was thanking his children for the well-documented campaign they ran for their father’s Hall of Fame candidacy in the build-up to the voting process. And for the most part, it paid off: Murphy’s numbers increased at a higher percentage than any other player left over from last year’s ballot, jumping up 4.1 points. Some will call that a sympathy vote, others a tribute to a standout career and even others a rise in overall awareness.
Murphy calls it a blessing.
“What my kids did for me helped me with that jump. For it to go up like that really shows how much of a difference they made,” Murphy said in a phone interview. “We’ve been talking all day today since it came out, and they’re obviously disappointed. They just said, ‘What? We can’t believe it.’ But I told them how much it meant to me.”
One of the most dominant players of the 1980s, Murphy concluded his career with a .265 batting average, 398 home runs and seven All-Star appearances. For some — 106 voters, to be specific — that peak was enough. The majority, however, point to his severe drop-off in the 90s (.240 average and 44 home runs in 351 games) and overall lacking in sabermetric evaluations as evidence for his Hall exclusion.
His final year of eligibility on the ballot was a hallmark year by any measure, as controversial stars of the “Steroid Era” — notably Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens — experienced their first years of eligibility. With such a mixing of eras and opinions and voting criteria, Murphy’s accomplishments, as well as others considered his contemporaries did, either fell on deaf ears or by the wayside.
For what it’s worth, though, no player was inducted in this year’s class for the first time since 1996. It is just the eighth time in history not a single standout baseball player will be enshrined in Cooperstown.
Murphy understands. He said so numerous times in numerous interviews on Wednesday.
His kids, on the other hand, are still going to battle for their father (and others like him).
“Overall, disappointed that the Hall of Fame is just kind of a mess right now. Just as a baseball fan I’m disappointed,” Taylor said. “I don’t understand how Biggio didn’t get elected. I don’t understand how nobody was elected. I don’t know how the baseball writers … we’ve given them too much control and it’s become a circus. I feel robbed as a fan and definitely disappointed that my dad got such a low percentage.
“I think it’s ridiculous when writers say, for example with Craig Biggio, ‘Oh, maybe next year he’ll get in. Maybe the year after.’ They won’t vote for him simply on the principle that it’s his first year on the ballot. But the guy has 3,000 hits. And he’s clean and he’s one of the best players of all-time and he’s gonna be in, so what gives them the right to decide that this year is not the year but maybe next year? What can explain the percentage differences throughout the years with my dad? Nothing except this all-knowing concept the writers give themselves. It needs to be changed.”
The one consolation the Murphy kids can take away from their rather successful campaign is that it built momentum into the next phase of their father’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Murphy is still eligible to be inducted via the Veteran’s Committee, which he will become eligible for in a few years. Hope is not lost. For now, it’s just postponed.
“It’s been a great experience,” Murphy said of his 15 years on the ballot. “You know, that doesn’t happen too often, either.