It today’s intersection of sports and real life, former Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres first baseman Steve Garvey has announced that he is running for Senate in California. He is running for the seat that was held by Dianne Feinstein, who passed away two weeks ago.
This is amusing to me in large part because, back in the heyday of Garvey’s playing career, the charismatic, media-savvy first baseman used to be frequently mentioned as a future senator, as in this SI story on his move from the Dodgers to the Padres, which said that “Steven Patrick Garvey, past superstar, present franchise and future senator from California, has always been too good to be true.” Or this story from October, 1984, when, after a big playoff game by Garvey for the Padres, a teammate said “I think our future senator picked up a few votes tonight.”
Personal scandals late in his playing career put the kibosh on those hopes at the time, but Garvey — who will be 76 when the winner of the 2024 Senate election is sworn in — has apparently decided that enough time has passed for him to pursue his goal. And of course, he throws in a couple of sports references in his announcement.
In terms of his playing career, Garvey had a nice eight year run where he was named to the All Star team each year and got MVP votes, including winning the MVP in 1974 and finishing second in 1978. He was a key contributor to the great Dodgers teams of the mid- to late-70s, and during his playing career, he was a media favorite who was portrayed as a sure-fire future Hall of Famers.
Garvey had just a career 38.0 bWAR, though. Despite being a consistent .300 hitter with 200 hits a season, he didn’t have a ton of power and didn’t draw many walks, which limited how much value he could offer as a first baseman. As a result, while he had a solid run as an All Star caliber performer — in that 8 year stretch, he accumulated 30.7 bWAR, including a 5 year run at 22.8 bWAR — he didn’t really come that close to being a Hall of Famer. The JAWS methodology at B-R has Garvey 51st all time among first basemen, between George Scott and Harry Davis, and he trails, among others, guys like Dolph Camilli, Mark Grace, Bill White and Anthony Rizzo.
Nevertheless, he got significant support from the Hall of Fame voters early on, picking up 41.6% of the vote in his first year of eligibility and topping out at 42.6% of the vote in his third year of eligibility. For a certain generation of sportswriter, Garvey not being voted to the Hall of Fame is still a travesty.