Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dave Parker

Claim to fame: Parker broke in with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1973 and quickly emerged as one of the best young players in the majors. In his first seven seasons, Parker won two batting titles, three Gold Gloves, and an MVP. For a time, Parker looked like a surefire first ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and he was included in a book on the 100 best players in baseball history in 1981. Then problems with substance abuse surfaced.

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Parker has made 14 appearances on the Cooperstown ballot for the Baseball Writers Association of America, consistently receiving about 10-20 percent of the vote each year. He has one more shot with the writers coming up in a few months and looks like a future Veterans Committee candidate.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? In May 2009, I included Parker on a list of the 10 best players not in the Hall of Fame. Sixteen months on, there are probably some players I would remove from that list. Parker is not one of them.

At the time I made my list, I wrote about Parker:

This guy’s a Veteran’s Committee pick waiting to happen. If Jim Rice and Orlando Cepeda can get into the Hall, Parker should too. He had better career numbers than those players for hits, doubles, runs batted in, runs scored, and stolen bases. However, just like Cepeda delayed his Cooperstown bid by going to prison for drug trafficking, Parker likely hurt his chances with well-publicized cocaine abuse.

Were it not for the onerous drug issues, which included being a central witness in a series of drug trials in Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s, Parker might have retired as one of the best players since Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. Early in his career, Parker had an all-around game comparable to either man, one of the few ballplayers in his generation who could hit for average and power, field and throw well, and steal bases.

Even with the marked decline in the second half of his career, when he went from regular All Star to serviceable role player, Parker still finished with 2,712 hits, 339 home runs and a .290 batting average. Baseball-Reference.com has four ranking benchmarks for Cooperstown. Parker meets two and falls just short on the other two.

Parker is perhaps a fringe candidate on statistical merit, and that’s where being a minority with a less-than-wholesome persona has likely hurt him with Hall of Fame voters. This kind of thing certainly didn’t help Dick Allen, Albert Belle, Dwight Gooden, or Maury Wills. For some reason, when white players like Dizzy Dean or Rube Waddell debauch, it adds to their lore, though others rarely get this consideration. If a black player isn’t lovable like Kirby Puckett, he’d better have ironclad lifetime stats like Eddie Murray.

Granted, there are plenty of white players with glowing reputations who haven’t been enshrined, such as Gil Hodges, Harvey Kuenn, and Dale Murphy.

Still, I have to wonder.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

0 thoughts on “Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Dave Parker”

  1. I still go back and forth about whether I think he should be in the Hall.

    I recently came across two interesting newspaper articles about him that I found fascinating.

    One, about him throwing out 2 runners in the ’78 All-Star game, keepin’ it a tie game for the NL to win in the late innings. Read it, he apparently didn’t even have to look and still nailed the runner. I wish I could see replay of it!

    The second, is from spring training ’81, where he calls White Sox announcer Jim Piersall a “sick man” in response to Piersall apparently saying Parker looked like a “baby hippo” due to the offseason weight gain. Yikes… gives me an idea why the press began to not like him.

  2. I’m not being objective, or even trying to be on this one. There was just something about the way the guy played the game that I never liked and it had nothing to do with his personality or drug use. I don’t think he belongs and the hall is better for his exclusion.
    Besides, Cooperstown is starting to become more like the football hall of fame that has far too many inductees.

  3. I agree with the comment. If Cepeda is in, Parker should be in. Cepeda had is problems and they made the decision to put him in. At that point they opened the floodgates for other similar players with off the field issues.

  4. The “If one, then…” line of argument should be avoided. The aim should be to enshrine the best candidates next. Electing Parker, who is better than some in the HOF, would be reaching way down in the queue, below the top 50 HOF candidates.

    WAR has Parker ranked #474, tied with Gary Gaetti. Cobra’s not THAT bad, of course, due to his great (but hardly dominant) peak. But basically, he’s Andre Dawson without the speed or defensive value or the good attitude. And to me Dawson is a borderline-in for the HOF, making Parker a pretty clear out.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Good to hear from you. You may have a good point. There’s just something about Parker, at least to me, that makes him seem Hall-worthy. Maybe it’s just the overall perception I have of his talent and accomplishments.

      Let me know if you’d like to guest post one of these some week.

      Talk to you later,
      Graham

  5. Here in Pittsburgh, Parker’s drug problems are long ago forgiven and mostly forgotten. Parker appears at local Pirate events and is well received. But there is no grassroots supports for his HOF election and with good reason. Parker is only marginally ( one MVP) $qualified at best. Even Parker doesn’t seem that enthusiastic about his candidacy. He rarely speaks of it unlike Bert Blyleven whi is forever lobbying on his own behalf.

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