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Dodgers: The Hall of Fame Case for Fernando Valenzuela

As promised, I will attempt to make the Hall of Fame (HoF) case for former Dodgers star Fernando Valenzuela.

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.

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.

On-Field Performance

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.

Cultural Impact

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.

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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Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

14 Comments

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    • He was the best and most of his losses in first 7 years were by one run or dodgers getting shut out and he didn’t”t choke in post season plus de didn’t”t need relief since most of time he was around 9 innings and was used as pinch hitter too.he could play good defense too.sorry but Kershaw not in his class .healthy Fernando would have won 4 world series the last 4 years that Kershaw failed.

    • Don”t be stupid after his injury he was never the same also too many innings pitched but his first 6 years healthy he dominated over hall of famers Carlton Ryan,Seaver anybody and didn’t”t choke in postseason still up to this date no rookie pitcher has started the season 8 and 0 with 5 by shutout and all of them complete games.Even been over the hill still recover some greatness to pitch a no hitter in 1990.
      S

  1. First, the veterans committee will not vote him in, because his screwball embarrassed them for six seasons. I remember how his rivals laughed at his delivery and his weight. He is in the most important HOF- my heart and mind.

  2. The thing that I remember the most on those games that Fernando Valenzuela pitched, he threw the minimum of 120 to 140 pitches and he had several complete games every year. I believe that the manager Tom Lasorda overused him with the excuse of “Fernandomania” frenzy of those days and that he was only thinking of making the Dodgers richer with the millions of fans that he brought to the park every time he pitched. And in my opinion, Fernando should have pitched another five years easy if it wasn’t because Lasorda didn’t care for the welfare if this great Mexican pitcher that came to the Dodgers from a little town in Sonora, Mexico.

    Thank you.

    • Yes, I totally agree that Fernando Valenzuela should be in the HALL OF FAME 100 percent. No if’s or butts about it!!!

  3. He would have won over 25 wins every year with dodgers last 6 seasons for sure and 5 world series

  4. He was the best and most of his losses in first 7 years were by one run or dodgers getting shut out and he didn’t”t choke in post season plus de didn’t”t need relief since most of time he was around 9 innings and was used as pinch hitter too.he could play good defense too.sorry but Kershaw not in his class .healthy Fernando would have won 4 world series the last 4 years that Kershaw failed.

  5. He also won 21 games in 86 with a fifth place dodger team and was robbed of his second cy young awards given to Mike Scott of the Astros with only 16 wins big time robbery

  6. I agree with the fact that he was overused. This guy was godsend like orel, and Clayton. His screwgi wad unique, his defense won him gold gloves his hitting silver bats. Im not going to speculate, but it is safe to say that he could have averaged 15 wins per season up until 1996, cementing his bid to the hall of fame. What he accomplished from 1980 to 1987 ranks atop any pre steroid performer like Roger Clemens.
    His biggest accomplishment was how he took baseball by storm in a time where the dodger organization was rejected by the Latino community in regards to Chávez ravine. Fernando mania was born and brought not just Mexicans but the whole Latino to dodger stadium. In my opinion only roberto Clemente and Jackie Robinson had a bigger impact not just in baseball , but in all of sports . My dad couldn wait to watch Los Doyers and I could not wait to watch the game with him regardless of who was playing for the Dodgers all because of Fernando Valenzuela

  7. Wow-what horrid reasoning. Why on earth include Bud Selig and Bobby Cox? Morris was a marginal choice propelled by hype-though he won more games than any pitcher in the 1980s. Fernando had three great years and hung around-not enough. Valenzuela falls short in all three of Bill James tests making it only halfway in the most accurate predictor getting 25 of the 50 that indicates a HOF election..and then there is abysmal showing in the actual voting. Just 6.2% in 2003 and 3.8 in 2004. Good pitcher and all that Fernando mania stuff but not HOF. Baseball Reference uses a list of 10 similar players for each major leaguer-none of Fernando’s comps are HOFers. Weak case, asburd argument.

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