Over the weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates honored the 1979 World Series Championship team on its 40th anniversary. The conversation about that team almost always starts with Willie Stargell, but it doesn’t get too far without mentioning the Cobra, Dave Parker.
Yesterday the class of 2019 was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Dave Parker, clearly in the nickname Hall of Fame, unquestionably deserves a spot in Cooperstown.
Parker and the Class of 2019
This year’s inductees were Mariano Rivera, the first unanimous selection, Roy Halladay, Mike Mussina, Lee Smith, Edgar Martinez, and Harold Baines. It can be argued that Dave Parker was a better baseball player than all of these inductees, minus Rivera. Certainly he is a better player than both of the non-pitching inductees, Martinez and Baines.
Martinez made the Hall of Fame as a DH. First, I’m not a fan of inducting a player who didn’t have to play the field. Parker saved countless runs with his superior defensive play in right field. All Martinez did was swing a bat.
Baines had slightly better offensive numbers than Parker, but again played well over a thousand more games as a DH. While Baines was taking it easy on the bench waiting for his spot in the batting order to come around, Parker was winning gold gloves for his defense.
Rivera was an obvious choice, although being the first unanimous choice shows how ridiculous the voting body has been over the years. Halladay was a legitimate choice, even though his overall numbers aren’t eye popping. I’m ver much “eh” on Mike Mussina, and I think Lee Smith was a fairly big reach. It’s difficult to compare pitchers and position players, but it could be argued that Parker’s body of work trumps all of these pitchers but Rivera.
Next year will be another chance for Parker to claim his rightful spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame. He is down to relying on the Eras Committees, specifically the Modern Era Committee. The Modern Era Committee looks at players, managers, umpires, and executives that greatly contributed to the game from 1970-1987. They will make selections for the 2020 inductions and then again in 2022 and 2024.
Parker by the Numbers
- 2,712 hits(.290 career average)
- 256 doubles
- 75 triples
- 339 HR
- 1,493 RBI
- 1,272 R
- 154 SB
Obviously these are not automatic Hall of Fame worthy numbers, so allow me to strengthen my argument:
- 1 MVP, 5 MVP top 5, 6 MVP top 10
- 2 batting titles
- 3 Silver Slugger awards
- 7 All Star games, including one at age 39, 1 All Star MVP
- 3 Gold Gloves, and arguably should have been more
- Sporting News Player of the Year Award
By comparison, Alan Trammell was inducted by the Modern Era Committee last year. Trammell has almost 350 less hits, 20 fewer triples, over 150 fewer HR, and far less runs scored and RBI. In addition Trammell has one less All Star game appearance, two fewer Silver Sluggers, and no MVP. Trammell does have four Gold Gloves. Despite this evidence, Parker got little consideration last year.
Why no Cobra?
I started watching baseball as a kid in the ‘70’s. I’ll tell you that in his prime Dave Parker was the best right fielder I ever saw play. I’m not sure they used the term “5 tool” player in those days, but Parker was certainly a “5 tool” player. He had power, speed, hit for average, a great glove, and an absolute cannon for an arm.
So what will it take for Dave Parker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame? I’ve given you the stats. There are more players in the Hall than just Alan Trammell that are lesser players.
Dave Parker played the game the right way. He hustled all of the time and would run through a brick wall to win a game.
To that point, after an earth shattering collision with Mets catcher John Stearns in 1978, Parker only missed 13 games with a swollen eye and fractured cheekbone. He sported a football-like helmet upon his return, slumped for a week or two, then went on a tear and won the National League MVP.
Parker has said repeatedly he thinks he should be in the Hall of Fame and would consider it the greatest honor of his baseball career.
So I’ll ask again, why no Parker in the Hall?
Most likely, Parker’s off field personal demons, as well as his chilly relationship with the media hindered his chances with the voting committee. In addition to being the central figure in the 1985 Pittsburgh drug trials, some felt Parker got lazy and soft after signing the most lucrative contract in baseball history in 1978.
It was stunning to see the Pirates sign Parker to the biggest contract in baseball. He went on to help the team win the 1979 World Series, but then he gained weight and his production dipped precipitously. It could be argued that those three years(1980-1982), filled with weight gain and disenchanted fans throwing things at Parker in right field, cost him the numbers that would have secured his place in Cooperstown.
Many forget Parker’s longevity. Parker became a free agent in 1983 and signed with his hometown Cincinnati Reds. He revitalized his career and put those bad moments in the rear view mirror.
Parker was a two time all star with the Reds, then was traded to Oakland in 1987. While in Oakland, he played a very important role on back to back World Series teams, winning it all in 1989. After the 1989 championship season in Oakland, he signed with the Brewers and had one last all star season. Parker wrapped up his career with the Angels and Blue Jays in 1991.
A Final Pitch
In Parker’s prime, some analysts ranked him among the best players in baseball history.
This weekend AT&T Sports, in conjunction with the on field celebration at PNC Park, ran a 1979 remembrance show. During the show video clips with statements from Larry Bowa and Keith Hernandez, two rival players, made it clear both felt Parker was an obvious choice for the Hall of Fame.
Parker was asked during a media scrum how he thinks he and Willie Stargell would have liked hitting at PNC Park. Parker quipped, “I think we would have capsized a lot of boats.”
Baseball author and statistical wizard, Bill James, suggested in his 1994 book Politics of Glory that the danger of the Hall of Fame is when it’s defined by its mistakes rather than successes. Dave Parker is one of those mistakes.
Next year Parker will have another chance. Parker is 68 years old and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. Here is hoping he finally gets his just due while he can still enjoy it.
David Gene Parker was a big, tough man with a larger than life personality. It would be great, and it would be correct, to see the Cobra hiss one more time…in Cooperstown.
Two Cent Takes
~What a treat Saturday night to watch the reunion of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Kudos to the Pirates for always doing a great job with these events.
~Pirates announcer Greg Brown always does a top notch job emceeing these events. He learned from the best in Lanny Fraterre, who it was fun to see/hear in the booth again.
~Everything was a throwback to 1979 from the uniforms to the scoreboard.
Now if I could just feel 12 years old again.
~I want to repeat something from my column from a couple weeks ago. Bryce Harper will never live up to his contract, and nobody else would either.
However, can Phillies fans please quit calling this guy a bum. Yes, he strikes out far too much, but Sunday I watched Harper turn a broken bat bleeder in to a double because he was busting it out of the batter’s box. Thats how Harper plays. Thats called leading by example. Most great ones have that ability.
Like the saying goes, hate the contract— don’t hate the player. Or something like that…
~With only six American League teams and as few as two National League teams that “think” they are out of contention, the trade deadline should be a sellers market.
~Jim Harbaugh would like to know why people are freaking out because he said controversy follows former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer everywhere he goes. Harbaugh said it’s not a bombshell, it’s just the truth.
I rarely agree with a Harbaugh, as in this may be the first time, but he is right. It is why I cringe at the rampant rumor of Meyer coaching USC after Clay Helton flames out this year. As a Trojan fan I want them to win, but I’m not sure I want them to win with him.
~Let me see if I have this straight. In the NFL you can expect a suspension if you smoke a joint, but you will be free and clear if you beat the crap out of a woman or kid. You do you, NFL.
A Penny For My Final Thought…
Golf is just fine.
An Irishman was the favorite at the British Open, and an Irishman won. The only problem is that it was Rory McIlroy that was the favorite, and it was Shane Lowry who dominated the field and won the British Open.
For all you out of shape golfers sick of seeing Brooks Koepka’s biceps, Lowry is your guy.
Lowry and his jelly roll waltzed around Royal Portrush like he owned the place. The ending lacked drama, but provided golf with another great story.
Over at Two Guys Talking my podcast partner Jed Donahue made the assertion that golf was boring and needs to move off the Tiger needle.
There is no doubt Tiger still moves the needle as seen by this tweet shared by Stuart Archibald from Royal Portrush.
Yesterday I got to see first hand the importance of @TigerWoods to the game of golf… an empty range @TheOpen in pouring rain, one man alone practicing on a Wednesday afternoon and just a "few" fans watching… incredible really. Absolute privilege to witness. pic.twitter.com/EMkOCN16Aw
— Stuart Archibald (@stuartarchibald) July 18, 2019
Tiger matters, just like Michael Jordan still mattered when he came back to play for the Wizards. It’s Michael Jordan. It’s Tiger Woods.
If you truly are a golf fan you know golf is in good shape right now. Koepka, Johnson, Rose, McIlroy, DeChambeau, Fowler, Finau, Rahm, Thomas, Cantlay, Schauffele, Fleetwood, and many more are all really, really good at the game of golf. They are all capable of winning major titles.
Ask Tiger how good these guys are. He speaks repeatedly of how tough it is to win these days.
I personally don’t care how warm and fuzzy these guys are, because I enjoy watching them play golf. Therein lies the rub with Jed’s argument. Most sports, aside from football and basketball, have lost the casual fan. If you are just a casual fan then you look for something to draw you to the sport.
I’m a casual tennis fan these days, and that is why I said a couple weeks ago in this column that tennis could use a personality like Nick Kyrgios. I loved watching John McEnroe as a kid. I watched all of the big tournaments because of McEnroe. He had a volatile personality and I knew there was a good chance to see a show in addition to the match. Even though Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic are maybe the best players in history, I don’t watch much because I’m not a serious tennis fan, and these guys don’t have big personalities. They don’t hoot, scream, or slam their rackets. To quote Jed, “they are BORING.”
Just like true tennis fans have enjoyed watching those big three play tennis, true golf fans really enjoy watching this group of young studs(and the occasional fat guy) play golf.
Every sport wants to increase its fan base, and golf is no different. However, if you don’t enjoy this crop of golfers, with a little Tiger sprinkled in, then maybe the sport doesn’t need you after all.
As for me, I’m going to continue watching these guys hit bombs. Right, Phil?
Just my two cents…
Tim Clark is a columnist and editor for PennSports.LIVE, and a wonderful writer of words. He is a lifelong sports fanatic with an eclectic mix of favorite teams including USC Trojans football, Louisville Cardinals basketball, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins in pro sports.