Joe Mauer's election to Cooperstown highlights snubs of two 1980's superstars

Joe Mauer was deservedly elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame this week but it begged the question as to why Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy are not in Cooperstown.

Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame catcher Joe Mauer
Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame catcher Joe Mauer / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

Deciding who goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame has to be a tough task. There are so many aspects to take into account. This week, three incredible players learn of their selection -- Adrian Beltre, Todd Helton, and Joe Mauer.

Sometimes a player will get selected and fans can wonder if this player is good enough, why not others? This is not a discussion about players being withheld because of performance enhancing drugs or those who made it in from the same era. That is a much bigger discussion for another time.

Two of the players -- Beltre and Mauer -- were elected on their first ballot, an honor usually reserved for the greatest of the great. In Mauer's case, it was somewhat surprising. It's not that Mauer wasn't deserving. He certainly is, but his overall stats don't measure up to most first-ballot selections.

Mauer won three batting titles as a catcher. He is only one of four catchers to win a batting title, and the only one to win multiple titles. He was the MVP in 2009, and finished in the top eight in voting three other times. He won multiple Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. His resume is filled with worthy accomplishments.

His stats, however, are incredibly similar to two superstar players from the 80's in Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy. Both enjoyed a stretch of at least five seasons of total dominance. The latter won two MVPs and the former won one, with a second place, and two other top seven finishes. Each were perennial all-stars. Both experienced a fairly severe late-career drop-off, as did Mauer. Yet, neither is in the Hall of Fame.

It is impressive how close they were statistically, too.

Joe Mauer, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy career stats are extremely similar

Key Joe Mauer stats:

Hits - 2,123, Runs - 1,018, RBI - 923, 2B - 428, HR - 143, Slash - .306/.388/.439/.827, OPS+ - 124, WAR - 55.2

Key Don Mattingly stats:

Hits - 2,153, Runs - 1,007, RBI - 1,099, 2B - 442, HR - 222, Slash - .307/.358/.471/.830, OPS+ - 127, WAR - 42.4

Key Dale Murphy stats:

Hits - 2,111, Runs - 1,197, RBI - 1,266, 2B - 350, HR - 398, Slash - .265/.346/.469/.815, OPS+ - 121, WAR - 46.5

Murphy had more home runs than the other two combined, but Mauer and Mattingly both hit for a much higher average. Mauer exceeded the others by a decent margin in Wins Above Replacement, but they all had similar OPS+ numbers.

The numbers for the five-year peaks of their careers are also unbelievably similar.

Joe Mauer's key stats from 2006-2010:

Hits - 834, Runs - 428, RBI - 400, 2B - 167, HR - 66, Slash - .334/.416/.491/.907, OPS+ 143, WAR - 29

Don Mattingly's key stats from 1984-1988:

Hits - 1,028, Runs - 502, RBI - 529, 2B - 220, HR - 137, Slash - .332/.376.541.917, OPS+ - 150, WAR - 28.8

Dale Murphy's key stats from 1982-1986:

Hits - 870, Runs - 545, RBI - 524, 2B - 140, HR - 170, Slash - .288/.376/.522/.897, OPS+ - 143, WAR - 26.4

All three players had some great seasons outside of these five-year peaks. Mattingly drove in 113 and hit .303 in 1989. Dale Murphy's 1987 season may have been his greatest as he crushed 44 homers, knocked in 105, was intentionally walked 29 times, and earned a 7.7 WAR. That season was excluded from his five-year peak because he finished 11th the MVP voting that season, while he won it in 1982. He really had a six-year peak. Mauer had fine seasons in 2012 and 2013, when he hit .319 and .324.

One of the strangest aspects in Mauer's career is that he hit 20 percent of his total home runs in 2009 with 28. He didn't more than 13 in any other season, and he only had six seasons with double-digit home runs.

The biggest differences between these three is that both Mattingly and Murphy dropped off precipitously in the last few years, souring the perception of dominating they were at their peak. Mauer's decline wasn't quite as steep. The other big difference is Mauer put up his numbers predominately as a catcher. While Murphy came up through the minors as a catcher, he was an outfielder in the majors, and Mattingly played first.

All three suffered major injuries that caused the big drop-offs. Mauer had concussion issues, Mattingly had back injuries that sapped many of his skills, and Murphy suffered a severe knee injury.

With Mauer's upcoming induction this summer, it is time for those who have a say to revisit the resumes for Mattingly and Murphy. Their numbers are just too close to Mauer's to be ignored. They were arguably the most dominant hitters for their leagues in the mid-eighties and their stretches of excellence were at least five years long, as was Mauer's.

A strong enough case was made to vote Mauer in on his first ballot. A strong enough case could be made for Mattingly and Murphy, even if it is 25 years too late.

Next. MLB Hall of Fame 2024 class announced: Billy Wagner and 2 biggest snubs from ballot. MLB Hall of Fame 2024 class announced: Billy Wagner and 2 biggest snubs from ballot. dark