As promised, I will attempt to make the Hall of Fame (HoF) case for former Dodgers star Fernando Valenzuela.
Hey all, my next article for @DodgersNation will make the case for putting Fernando Valenzuela into the Baseball Hall of Fame. If #34 impacted you or your family in regards to your fandom, please respond. Thanks in advance. #Retire34
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) November 10, 2018
His case is not an easy one to take on as his prime was pretty short, and his career numbers are not eye popping. I will be comparing him to some other Hall of Famers; and as someone who is a “big hall” person, I feel I can make the case.
Fernando’s Hall of Fame Candidacy
First of all, Valenzuela was on the HoF ballot for the first time in 2003 and fell off in 2004. He has not yet appeared in any of the special era ballots, but that is his best hope. I think a lot of baseball media not on the west coast forget about Fernando. My short interaction with Brian Kenny seemed to have reminded him.
Valenzuela had a strong 6 years plus had a huge impact
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) August 7, 2016
In terms of player comparisons, over the last 25 years guys like Bruce Sutter, Jack Morris, Bill Mazeroski and Jim Rice have all been elected. I’m not saying that they should not have been elected, but I’m saying that if they are in, then Fernando should be in too. Feel free to click the Baseball Reference links on their names to compare for yourself.
Fernando’s peak from late 1980-1986 was filled with high performance, and historic impact on the game.
Players elected to the Hall of Fame fall into different categories:
- The easy calls with great players like Babe Ruth and Willie Mays
- The players that accumulate stats over long careers, but may never be considered the best of their generation, much like Don Sutton or Bert Blyleven
- Players popular with fans and media, like a Phil Rizzuto
- And those that played on great teams like Tony Lazzeri, but weren’t considered great on their own.
No matter why or how they got in, they are in the Hall of Fame.
From an on-field performance impact, his historic first 8 starts with 5 shutouts always comes up first. Even his first relief appearances in 1980 are quite a memory.
He was stellar in the 1981 playoffs including his World Series game 3 start. The Dodgers were down 2-0 after the first two games and he pitched a complete game to help the Dodgers win 5-4. He struggled at the beginning and Tommy Lasorda was almost ready to bring in Dave Goltz early, which would have probably put the Dodgers down 3-0 and history would be different. Instead Fernando went the whole way (he probably threw more than 140 pitches) and helped get the Dodgers on the path to winning the 1981 World Series.
Valenzuela was an All-Star in each of his first 6 seasons. In his 1986 All-Star appearance, he tied Carl Hubbell by striking out 5 in a row. He placed in the top 5 in Cy Young voting 4 times in 6 years. He threw 63.2 innings in the post season with an ERA of 1.98.
After struggling with injuries he came back and threw his only no-hitter in 1990. Overuse, along with throwing a screwball, were probably the main culprits of his shortened career. However, it was the screwball that was the main reason for his amazing peak from 1980-1986.
On-field excellence aside, his impact off the field for many people of Mexican and Latino heritage made Fernando so important.
If you click on the tweet at the top of the article you can see how much Fernando meant to them and their families. This article by José M. Alamillo tells his amazing story of how Fernando impacted him. The Alamillo article pointed to another article that states that of the 3.9 million fans in attendance in 2015, 2.1 million were Latino.
There are endless stories of Latino Dodgers fans that talk about how Fernando brought either their parents or grandparents into the Dodgers fandom, and now that fandom continues.
Not mine as much as my Dad's. Came from Mexico in the late 70's, and Fernando made him a baseball fan. Watching the Dodgers is what helped my dad assimilate to American culture, while not losing his own.
— Frank Lopez ?? (@BeisbolFrank) November 11, 2018
Put Him In
When we see managers, commissioners, and front office personnel elected to the Hall of Fame with sketchy contributions to the game, and players like Fernando Valenzuela are not, then something is wrong.
Bobby Cox, Bud Selig,John Schuerholz, Bruce Sutter, Bill Mazeroski, and many others without the qualifications of Valenzuela are in the Hall of Fame. How many of them impacted the fans like Fernando did? One of the biggest problems is that the East Coast heavy media personnel have forgotten about the impact he had and his greatness.
My hope is that the media and the people in charge of the Veterans Committee would re-consider what Fernando Valenzuela did; first as a great player and then as an impact on the fans of baseball. From purely a fan perspective I cannot think of a player since Jackie Robinson that has had a generational draw like Valenzuela. Fernando Valenzuela deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
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