LOS ANGELES -- Steve Garvey was a 10-time All-Star, a Most Valuable Player, a four-time Gold Glove winner, a two-time All-Star Game MVP and a two-time MVP of the National League Championship Series. But he’s not in the Hall of Fame and is one of the most polarizing candidates in
LOS ANGELES -- Steve Garvey was a 10-time All-Star, a Most Valuable Player, a four-time Gold Glove winner, a two-time All-Star Game MVP and a two-time MVP of the National League Championship Series. But he’s not in the Hall of Fame and is one of the most polarizing candidates in the game’s debate between old-school views and modern analytics.
In 15 years on the Baseball Writers' Association of America Hall of Fame ballot from 1993-2007, Garvey received a high of 42.6 percent of the vote and a low of 20.5 percent, never seriously approaching the 75 percent threshold for election. Now 70 and a cancer survivor, Garvey has been bypassed three times by the Veterans/Modern Era committees.
But consider this from Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda: "Steve Garvey is a Hall of Famer in all ways, as far as I'm concerned. He exemplified the words 'role model,' he was a great hitter, a great ballplayer."
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THE CASE FOR
• If the definition of fame is the state of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements, 10 All-Star appearances should qualify, including Garvey’s write-in election in 1974, when he was the game’s MVP and went on to win that season’s NL MVP. He had four top-10 finishes for NL MVP, including one runner-up.
• No Dodger excelled in the limelight better than Garvey. He went to the World Series four times with the Dodgers (winning in 1981) and once with the Padres. At one time he held the NLCS record for home runs and RBIs. He hit .356 in 90 NLCS at-bats, .319 in 113 World Series at-bats and .393 in 28 All-Star Game at-bats. His postseason OPS was .910.
• He was an ironman: 19 Major League seasons including the NL record streak of playing in 1,207 consecutive games.
• Offensively, Garvey was a hitting machine who led the NL in base hits twice. He hit .300 seven times when that really meant something, had 20 or more home runs six times, 100 or more RBIs five times and 30 or more doubles seven times.
• Defensively, Garvey was such a liability as a Minor Leaguer that the Dodgers tried him at third base and the outfield before he finally settled at first base to hide an erratic throwing arm. Nonetheless, he became a short-hop specialist and went on to win four consecutive Gold Gloves while playing in an infield that was together for 8 1/2 seasons. He held Major League records among first basemen for 159 consecutive errorless games in a season and 193 consecutive errorless games in a career. He led NL first basemen in putouts six times, fielding average five times, total chances five times and double plays once.
THE CASE AGAINST
• Detractors point out that Garvey fell well short on the Hall of Fame “automatic” benchmarks of his generation, specifically his lack of 3,000 hits (he had 2,599) and 400 home runs (he hit 272).
• He never excelled in the categories that matter for WAR, with only two top-10 finishes, peaking at seventh – despite a high-leverage slashline of .335/.369/.505.
• He never won a batting title or led a league in home runs, RBIs or runs scored. He rarely walked and never slugged more than .500.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.