Hall Of Fame Continues To Elude Steve Garvey


MLB.com’s Barry Bloom recently posted an opinion piece calling for Steve Garvey’s election to the Hall of Fame. In his column, Bloom essentially pointed to Garvey’s long career and his performance in the post season, specifically for the Padres in 1984, as he recounted Garvey’s thoughts about his famous NLCS Game Four home run.

The column got me thinking, which led to some research.

Garvey, who played for 19 years, set the National League record for most consecutive games played (1,201), was a 10-time All-Star, had 200 or more hits six times and had five seasons of 100 or more RBI. He hit .338 in 55 post season games, including .400 in the 1984 NLCS, was the 1974 MVP and was a four-time Gold Glove winner. He finished his career with a lifetime .294 batting average, had 2,599 hits, hit 272 home runs and drove in 1,308 RBIs.

However, the Hall of Fame has not been especially kind to first basemen. Of those who played in the majors, only 25 have ever been elected and only five have been enshrined in the last 28 years. Those players are Willie McCovey, Rod Carew, Orlando Cepeda, Tony Perez and Eddie Murray.

In an effort to compare Garvey statistically, I looked at how Garvey’s career compared to those five’s Hall of Fame credentials in some basic categories.

Garvey finished with a career slash line of .294/.329/.446. Murray, Carew and Perez had more hits than Garvey. McCovey, Murray, Cepeda and Perez hit more home runs. Murray, Perez, McCovey and Cepeda all drove in more runs. Carew and Cepeda had higher lifetime averages than Garvey.

For sabermetric fans, all five Hall of Famers had higher career on-base percentages. All but Rod Carew had higher slugging percentages. Perhaps most importantly, based on WAR, Garvey was never considered his team’s best player.

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When considering the statistics mentioned above, the picture becomes a little clearer. In comparison, Garvey’s only statistically significant claim comes when his lifetime batting average is compared to the five Hall of Famers.

To be enshrined in the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA), which is the traditional way a player is elected, the player must be named on at least 75% of the voters’ ballots. Players are no longer eligible if they are named on fewer than 5% of ballots or have been on the ballot 15 times without being elected.

To his credit, Garvey appeared on the ballot 15 times. Yet, he never garnered more than 42.6% of the vote. In 2007, his last year of eligibility, Garvey only received 21.1% of the vote.

Is Steve Garvey a Hall of Famer? One item that absolutely deserves more merit, and isn’t always mentioned, is his consecutive game streak, which still stands. It is also important to note two other often overlooked items. First, teams Garvey played on finished with losing records only three times, two of which came with the Padres. The other is Garvey’s post season performance. The two-time NLCS MVP hit .417 in the 1981 World Series. He hit four home runs and drove in seven in the 1978 NLCS. In 1984, he  drove in seven runs while helping the Padres reach their first World Series. His slash line was .338/.361/.550.

Garvey was a great player. No question. The fact that his credentials are still mentioned speaks to that. And he may still be elected to the Hall of Fame via the Veterans Committee. Time will tell.

Based on Hits

1. Eddie Murray 3,255

2. Rod Carew 3,053

3. Tony Perez 2,732

4. Steve Garvey 2,599

5. Orlando Cepeda 2,351

6. Wille McCovey 2,211

Based on HRs

1. Willie McCovey 521

2. Eddie Murray 504

3. Orlando Cepeda 379

4. Tony Perez 379

5. Steve Garvey 272

6. Rod Carew 92

Based on RBIs

1. Eddie Murray 1,917

2. Tony Perez 1,652

3. Willie McCovey  1,555

4. Orlando Cepeda 1,365

5. Steve Garvey 1,308

6. Rod Carew 1,015

Based on Career Batting Average

1. Rod Carew .328

2. Orlando Cepeda .297

3. Steve Garvey .294

4. Eddie Murray .287

5. Tony Perez .279

6. Willie McCovey .270

Based on On-Base Percentage

1. Rod Carew .393

2. McCovey .374

3. Eddie Murray .359

4. Orlando Cepeda .350

5.Tony Perez .341

6. Steve Garvey .329

Based on Slugging Percentage

1.McCovey .515

2. Orlando Cepeda. .499

3. Eddie Murray .476

4. Tony Perez .463

5. Steve Garvey .446

6.Rod Carew .429