#6, 1B, Steve Garvey

Well, having taken a look at the career of Dwight Evans, a player whom I believe should be ‘on the bubble’ for Hall of Fame consideration but fell off the ballot, I decided to look at for a few others.  But not just Red Sox.  Sure, Evans may be a slightly biased pick on my part, but the numbers back it up.  How about a player who, somehow, spanned the limit of his 15 years ballot eligibility before finally being removed.  ‘Mr. Clean’ Steve Garvey.

Garvey played his entire 19 year career in the National League West for two teams; the Los Angeles Dodgers (1969–82) and the San Diego Padres (1983–87).

  •     Games played: 2’332
  •     Hits: 2’599
  •     Average: .294
  •     RBI: 1’308
  •     HR: 272
  •     Runs: 1’143
  •     Base on Balls: 479
  •     OPS: .775

Steve was part of the most enduring infield in baseball history,  alongside third baseman Ron Cey, shortstop Bill Russell and second baseman Davey Lopes, the four infielders stayed together as the Dodgers’ starters for eight and a half years.  He set a National League record with 1207 consecutive games played, from September 3, 1975, to July 29, 1983.  Ironically, Garvey tied the record in his first appearance back at Dodger Stadium in Padre gold.  It is the fourth-longest such streak in Major League Baseball history.

In 1981, at a point in his career when it looked like he would one day rank among the game’s all-time greats, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.

In December 1982 Garvey signed with the Padres for $6.6 million over five years in what some felt was a “masterstroke” to General Manager Jack McKeon’s effort to rebuild the team.  Though San Diego had vastly outbid the Dodgers, McKeon particularly noted Garvey’s value in providing a role model for younger players.  Additionally, Garvey’s “box office appeal” helped San Diego increase its season ticket sales by 6,000 seats in Garvey’s first year.  Sports Illustrated ranked the signing as the fifteenth best free agent signing ever as of 2008.  Led by Garvey, winning his second National League Championship Series MVP award, the Padres won their first National League pennant over the Chicago Cubs in 1984.

  •      2 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Runs Scored.
  •      3 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in HR’s.
  •      6 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Batting Average.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Doubles.
  •      7 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Runs Batted In.
  •      10 times finished in the top 10 in the NL in Hits, leading the League twice.

Garvey appeared on the NL MVP ballot 9 times with 5 times placing in the top 10.  Beating out Lou Brock to win in 1974, he finished 2nd over-all in 1978 behind winner Dave Parker.

10 All-Star Games including 2 MVP Awards.  4 Gold Gloves.  2 National League Championship Series MVP Awards.   The 1974  National League Most Valuable Player Award.  1981 World Series Champion. The 1981 Roberto Clemente Award.

His uniform Number 6 has been retired by the San Diego Padres.

For all his numbers, awards and credentials, Garvey may be yet another player who has been denied entrance to the hall for the personal choices he’s made.  But while the ever-widening HOF issue of PED’s and the choices of players like Big Mac, Palmiero, Bonds, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez are complicated because the consequences of their actions directly impacted their performance on the field and constituted cheating, Garvey’s personal choices effected only himself and thusly dismantled his family life and reputation at the end of his career.

Longtime Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once commented on ‘Mr. Clean’, “If he ever came to date my daughter, I’d lock the door and not let him out.”  He may have meant it in another way.  In the mid to late 1980s, Garvey, in the midst of what he later termed a “midlife disaster,”  engaged in a series of simultaneous romantic relationships and fathering of children with multiple women that led to him being the subject of national ridicule which most likely diminished his credibility in the eyes of the world’s most perfect voters, the BBWAA.  After all, players who were of less than honorable reputation off the field would never be allowed into the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.  Suspected murderers, members of the KKK, legendary carousers, alcoholics or adulterers would never get the prized bronze plaque… right Ty Cobb?  Too extreme?  Okay, we’ll ask Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle or Wade Boggs.

So is his omission from the Hall a punishment for his moral weakness or sarcastic revenge for his ‘Mr. Clean’ image being heartily tarnished?  Which ever it may be, the Veteran’s Committee, to date, has apparently agreed.


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