It seems like he would have been elected based on the voters preferences in recent years (I have been analyzing voting patterns and what I write below will be based on that-scroll down to see these studies). But first I want briefly to discuss the sabermetric case for or against.
Garvey had 279 career "Win Shares" (WS), the Bill James stat which incorporates all phases of the game. That tied him for 222nd place all-time among all players and pitchers through 2001. Not bad, since about 200 guys are in the Hall. But this is marginal.
His career TPR or "total player rating," from Pete Palmer, editor of the Baseball Encyclopedia was actually -6.1. That means that if an average first baseman had played instead of Garvey, those teams would have won 6.1 more games during his career. Most of his seasons were negative and his best was only +1.2.
But the baseball writers who vote don't necessarily take sabermetric stats into account. The analysis I have posted recently used more conventional stats. In one model I used logit analysis to predict the probability of any player getting elected. That model had career AVG, seasons with 100+ RBIs, ALLSTAR games, career plate appearances (PAs), MVP awards, a variable for world series performance, being in the 3000 hit club and a positional adjustment for being a catcher. That model gave Garvey a 94.7% probability of being elected to the Hall of Fame. The model itself was 98.9% accurate
Another logit model (also 98.9% accurate) had the following variables:
The variables after Career HRs are positional adjustments. The WSIMP is for world series play. This model had Garvey's probability at 64.8%. Tony Perez has 52.6% and Jim Rice has 10.6% and both are in the Hall.
Another model simply predicted the % of votes received in the first year of eligibility. This model took into account MVP awards, a variable for world series performance, being in the 3000 hit club, ALLSTAR games, being in the 500 HR club, being in the 500 SB club, Gold Glove awards and career PAs. It predicted that Garvey would be named on 48.9% of the ballots in his first year while he actually got 41.6%. His predicted 48.9% is more than what was predicted for the following players who did eventually make it:
Ryne Sandberg -0.460
Kirby Puckett -0.418
And Garvey's actual first year % of 41.6 is higher than that of Rice (29.8%) and very close to Carter's 42.3%.
So from 3 different regressions, it looks like Garvey had the stats or qualifications to make it in, based on what the voters seem to like.
It is also very easy to find some impressive achievements that would go on Garvey's plaque, if he ever made it. They include:
-5 100 RBI seasons
-.294 career AVG
-batted over .300 7 times
-had 200 or more hits in a season 6 times
-1974 NL MVP
-batted .319 in 5 World Series
-batted .356 in 5 league championship series
-batted .393 in 10 all-star games
-won 4 Gold Glove awards
-2 time MVP of the all-star game
-2 time MVP of the league championship series
-finished in the top 5 in total bases 7 times
-set a NL record by playing 193 straight games without committing an error
-set a ML record with his .996 fielding percentage at first base.
-played in 1,207 consecutive games, an NL record and 4th longest overall
He also has 2.46 Career MVP Shares which is the 55th best total. An MVP share is what % of the total possible points a player got in the voting in a given year. A first place vote is 14 points, 2nd place 9, 3rd, 8points, etc. A guy might come in 5th but if he had 40 points out of a maximum of, say, 400, he gets a .10. Garvey's high rank here means the voters liked him when he played, alot more than they liked other players. He finished in the top 6 in MVP voting 5 times.
Baeball Reference lists the Hall of Fame Monitor for which they say:
"This is another Jamesian creation. It attempts to assess how likely (not how deserving) an active player is to make the Hall of Fame. It's rough scale is 100 means a good possibility and 130 is a virtual cinch. It isn't hard and fast, but it does a pretty good job. Here are the batting rules."
Garvey gets a 130 which is 104th best among position players. Now this is a very complicated point system with so many points for this or that. But this shows that Garvey fits the statistical profile of the kind of player the voters very much like to put in the Hall.
So why isn't he in? I found some theories.
The Baseball Page said, among other things, the following:
"In the 1980s it became clear that "Mr. Dodger" was far from wholesome. Several paternity suits and a tell all book from his ex-wife tarnished his image irreparably. Where he once was considered a candidate for state or even national office, Garvey became a leper, destined to host game shows and infomercials (really).
He had the reputation as a selfish, egotistical player. The media didn't like him as much as it seemed. His "Mr. Dodger" persona was created by Dodger PR and a few well-placed friends in the press. More than a few teammates quickly tired of Garvey's habit of staying in front of the camera or microphone.
In August of 1978, Garvey took offense to a comment made by teammate Don Sutton and the two men ended up wrestling their way across the visitors' clubhouse in Shea Stadium. The fight cemented a bitter feud between the two men and it damaged Garvey's reputation in the league.
He aged quickly. By the time he was 31-32, his skills were rapidly diminishing. He would have benefited from a day off here and there, but he didn't do it."
Chris Jaffe over at the Harball Times had an interesting article called Hitler. Stalin. Garvey. Here is an exerpt:
"There was always a sense he was a fake. With the Dodgers, he got in a big fistfight in the clubhouse with teammate Don Sutton. He had a nasty divorce in the early 1980s. When he started to get hit with paternity suits, though, his reputation was shattered.
In some ways, though, it's even deeper than that. Our society can forgive—or at least cease baiting—a hypocrite, provided he asks for some degree of atonement. Jim Bakker wrote his book, I Was Wrong, for instance.
Garvey hasn't done that."
Jeff Sackmann also has an interesting article called Steve Garvey Gets No Respect
Update Dec. 3, 2010: I did a follow up post in July, 2010. Click here to read it.