Cincinnati Reds: Dave Parker belongs in Cooperstown

6 Mar 1997: Dave Parker of the Anaheim Angels sits in the dugout during a preseason game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona.
6 Mar 1997: Dave Parker of the Anaheim Angels sits in the dugout during a preseason game against the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona. /

Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder Dave Parker is among 10 players on the Modern Baseball Era ballot. The Cobra should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Former Cincinnati Reds outfielder and Queen City native Dave Parker is among a group of being considered for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame on the Modern Baseball Era ballot. It’s time The Cobra takes his place among the baseball greats and sees his bust in Cooperstown. The former MVP also had four other Top 5 MVP finishes and won three Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

The numbers speak for themselves. Over the course of 19 seasons, Parker walloped 339 home runs, collected 2,712 hits and drove in 1,493 runs. The Cobra also won the NL MVP award in 1978 when he led the league with in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases.

However, Dave Parker’s numbers only tell half the story. A great deal of Parker’s journey includes a tale of redemption. Following the 1979 season, in which he collected a World Series ring as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, his production took a sudden and unexpected nosedive as the left-handed hitting slugger battled drug problems.

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Since 1975, Parker was one of the most feared hitters in the game. But, from 1980-1983, Parker failed to hit more than 17 home runs or drive in more than 79 runs during the four-year stretch. For a player who entered the 1980 season at 29-years old, Parker should have been entering his prime, but instead was perilously close to playing himself out of the game altogether.

Following the 1983 season, the Pirates had seen enough and let their former star right fielder leave via free agency. Parker left the Steel City ranking among the Top 10 in Pirates history in home runs, RBIs, doubles and slugging percentage.

Hitting the free agent market at 33-years old, with four consecutive lackluster seasons to his credit, many in the game believed Dave Parker was finished. Luckily, Parker and the Cincinnati Reds proved you can go home again.

Signing as a free agent with his hometown Reds on December 7, 1983, Parker, who had put his drug problems behind him, wasn’t the only one in search of redemption. After finishing with the best record in baseball in 1981, the Reds lost 101 and 88 games in the 1982 and 1983 seasons respectively. Even though the 1984 version of the Reds would finish 72-90, there were signs The Cobra was ready to strike NL opponents again.

During his first season in front of the hometown fans, Parker slashed .285/.328/.410 with 16 round trippers and 94 RBIs. Granted it wasn’t the MVP-caliber seasons of the past, but it was a giant step in the right direction. What Parker achieved during the next two seasons is straight out of Hollywood.

The Cobra provided a venomous strike. In 1985, Parker led the league with 42 doubles, 125 RBIs and 350 total bases. Toss in a slash line of .312/.365/.551 with 34 homers and vintage Dave Parker had returned.

Parker would finish second in the MVP race, while winning the Silver Slugger award and earning his fifth of seven All-Star selections. All of this while leading the Reds to a second-place finish in the National League West.

Even though Parker failed to reach the same soaring heights in 1986, he was still pretty darn good. Once again, leading the league in total bases with 304, The Cobra smacked 31 homers and knocked in 131 runs, while finishing fifth in the MVP voting and once again duplicating his Silver Slugger and All-Star success. For a second consecutive season, the Reds would finish second for the division crown.

Parker would leave Cincinnati following the 1987 season in a trade with the Oakland A’s that would bring Jose Rijo to the Reds. Despite only playing four seasons in his hometown, Parker left a a lasting positive impression. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2014.

So how does Dave Parker stack up against the other players on the Modern Baseball Era ballot? Quite well. Parker leads the group that includes Dwight Evans, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Ted Simmons and Lou Whitaker in hits and RBIs. Only Evans and Murphy hit more home runs.

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When it comes to Cooperstown voting, it’s anyone’s guess as to who may be selected from this group. The Cobra, who was destined for Cooperstown by the time he was 28-years old, only to let his personal demons nearly derail his career, has an excellent chance. With any luck Dave Parker’s Hall of Fame career will have come full circle in the summer of 2020.