Parker for HOF? Here's why ... and why not

December 4th, 2019

Dave Parker has another chance at the Hall of Fame. The Pirates and Reds great is one of the 10 candidates on the Modern Baseball Era ballot for 2020.

Parker was on the Modern Baseball Era ballot -- which considers Hall of Fame candidates whose primary contributions to baseball were between 1970-87 -- once before, in 2017. He received fewer than half the votes, falling well short of the 75 percent needed for induction. That was after Parker spent 15 years on the BBWAA ballot from 1997-2011, never receiving more than 24.5 percent of the vote (in '98, his second year on the ballot).

But in his prime, Parker was one of MLB's most feared sluggers at the plate and had one of the league's best arms in right field. And he played long enough to amass some impressive counting stats, too. But will those stats, and the memory of that reputation, be enough? Parker will learn his fate on Sunday, when the results will be announced from the Winter Meetings in San Diego on MLB Network at 8 p.m. ET.

Here's how Parker's Hall of Fame case breaks down.

The case for Parker

1. He has the hardware
Pick an award, and Parker probably won it. He won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1978. He was a seven-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glover and a three-time Silver Slugger. Parker won back-to-back NL batting titles. He was the All-Star Game MVP in 1979. And Parker was a two-time World Series champion, with the Pirates in '79 and the A's a decade later. That's a lot of accolades, and a lot of different kinds of accolades, and they were no accident. Parker was an elite all-around player.

Parker showcased that against the best competition. To win the All-Star Game MVP in 1979, he threw out Jim Rice at third base and Brian Downing at the plate. When Parker led the "We Are Family" Bucs to a World Series championship later that year, he hit .341 in the postseason and .345 against the Orioles in the Fall Classic, while also throwing out the go-ahead run at the plate in the sixth inning of a one-run win in Game 2.

2. At his best, he ranked among the best
Check out Parker's numbers from his 1978 NL MVP Award-winning season for the Pirates: 30 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 117 RBIs, an MLB-leading .334 batting average and .979 OPS, an NL-leading .585 slugging. The year before, he'd led the NL with a .338 batting average and 215 hits.

Parker closed out the 1970s with a five-year peak run from '75-79 in which …
• His 345 extra-base hits trailed only Hall of Famers Rice and Mike Schmidt.
• His 942 hits ranked sixth behind Pete Rose, Steve Garvey, Rice, Rod Carew and George Brett.
• His .321 batting average ranked second to Carew, his .532 slugging percentage ranked third behind George Foster and Rice, and his .909 OPS ranked third behind Foster and Rice.
• He led the Majors with 72 outfield assists, ahead of Dwight Evans and Dave Winfield.

3. He has numbers that stand up
Parker retired after 19 big league seasons as a .290 hitter, with 2,712 career hits, 940 extra-base hits, 339 home runs, 1,493 RBIs, 154 stole bases and 143 outfield assists.

There are 26 right fielders in the Hall of Fame. Parker would rank 15th out of that group in hits -- ahead of, for example, recent strong-armed inductee Vladimir Guerrero (2,590). He'd rank 10th in extra-base hits, 11th in homers and 13th in RBIs.

Parker's 143 outfield assists, meanwhile, are tied for eighth-most of any player to debut in the divisional era (since 1969).

Among all Hall of Famers, Parker would rank just outside the top 50 in hits (right behind Lou Gehrig), 44th in RBIs (right behind Guerrero) and 38th in extra-base hits (just ahead of Eddie Mathews and Ivan Rodriguez).

4. He persevered
Parker's pinnacle was his 1978 MVP season and '79 World Series run, the early part of his career, when he looked like he was on the path to surefire all-time greatness as Roberto Clemente's successor in right field in Pittsburgh. All of that was nearly derailed by injuries, weight gain and off-the-field issues during the early '80s. But Parker revitalized his career after signing with his hometown Reds in December 1983.

In Cincinnati, Parker returned to star form with back-to-back top-five NL MVP Award finishes in 1985 and '86, including a runner-up finish in '85, when he belted a career-high 34 homers and led the league with 125 RBIs. Parker's last All-Star season was in '90, at age 39 with the Brewers, 13 years after his first with the Bucs. He won his final Silver Slugger Award that year, too.

The case against

1. He didn't hit the milestones
Parker's career numbers are very good, but are they really Hall of Fame-worthy? He's not in the 3,000-hit club. He didn't reach 400 home runs. He wasn't a career .300 hitter. Round numbers aren't everything, but Parker doesn't really have that one standout stat or milestone number that screams "Hall of Fame."

2. Cooperstown levels
Wins Above Replacement is far from a be-all, end-all stat for Hall of Fame worthiness. But it's a good quick benchmark of how a player performed over his career, and Parker is pretty far below the typical Hall of Famer.

The average WAR for Hall of Fame position players is 69, according to Baseball Reference. For Hall of Fame right fielders, it's 71.5. Parker's career WAR was 40.1. That's about a 30 WAR difference, which is a lot.

Recent right-field inductees like Guerrero (59.4 WAR) and Tony Gwynn (69.2) easily exceed Parker. So do Parker's outfield contemporaries who were elected, like Andre Dawson (64.8), Winfield (64.2) and Reggie Jackson (74.0). But Parker does have the edge over 2019 Today's Game inductee Harold Baines (38.7).

3. Was he elite for long enough?
Parker's resurgence with the Reds was impressive, but does it get him to the Hall? As good as he was in 1985 and '86, and as a 39-year-old in '90, Parker's stardom might have been too sporadic once his late-'70s run was over.

Parker had four seasons with a .900 OPS or higher; only one came after the 1970s. He had six seasons hitting .300 or better, and five seasons slugging .500 or better; only one of each came after the '70s. Four of his five highest extra-base hit totals were in the '70s, as were each of his four highest stolen base totals.

It's not that Parker was unproductive after that amazing half-decade for the Pirates. But the majority of his career came after that one sustained superstar run. Did he have Hall of Fame consistency?