Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 1, 2006
BASEBALL: No on Dawson

Why am I not surprised that Phil Rogers, one of the deans of the old-time know-nothing sportswriters' club, wants Andre Dawson in the Hall of Fame? Much of this article is devoted to pumping up Dawson's grit and character and attacking steroid users, neither of which is much relevant to the question. And, like all sportswriters who disdain statistics, Rogers can't resist cherry-picking some stats of his own:

No eligible player has ever collected as many hits (2,774) or RBI (1,591) without becoming a Hall of Famer -- a claim that Dawson will almost certainly pass to Harold Baines (2,866 hits, 1,628 RBI) when he goes onto the ballot a year from now.

I think the second part of that pretty well answers the first, no? And this is a valiant attempt to make virtues of Dawson's flaws as a candidate:

With the Cubs, Dawson won a Most Valuable Player award in 1987 and helped his team to the National League East title in 1989, putting an end to the New York Mets' dominance. Even then, we weren't getting the best of Dawson.

We saw him struggle against the San Francisco Giants in the championship series. Only his teammates and peers understood the daily battle he went through to get onto the field with knees that only an orthopedic surgeon could love. He had been born with good ones, of course, and still had them when he left Florida A&M in 1976. He destroyed them playing with reckless abandon on the concrete-like artificial turf at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

Maybe this wasn't as tragic as the irreversible glaucoma that ended Puckett's career in 1995, after 12 seasons. But there's reason to give Dawson the benefit of the doubt in terms of his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Um, Dawson's career was ground down by bad knees. Know how many guys would have better Hall resumes if they hadn't had bad knees? Even with his knees, you take Dawson and I'll take Tony Oliva and we'll see who wins more pennants.

I've been through the case against Dawson before. In a nutshell:

1. Dawson's .323 career on base percentage made him a far easier out than any Hall of Fame outfielder or first baseman:

Dawson's career OBP of .323 isn't just unspectacular, it's poor. In fact, only one Hall of Fame outfielder has a career on base percentage below .353, and that's Lou Brock (.343), who played in the offense-starved 1960s, as did the only two other non-shortstops in the Hall with a career OBP below .340, Brooks Robinson (.322) and Bill Mazeroski (.299), both of whom were also legendary glovemen. (The only two until Gary Carter, that is; Carter's was dragged down at the end to .335). The only Hall of Famers below .350 who got in without playing a key defensive position and playing it well are first basemen Tony Perez (.344) and George Kelly (.342); I've argued before that Perez was a mistake, and Kelly is the Hall's single most indefensible selection.

The low OBP means a lack of runs; Dawson played 21 years at a slugger's position and wound up 78th on the career runs scored list, and 100 runs behind Dwight Evans . . . Dawson's OBP was above the league average only six times.

2. Dawson was a poor postseason performer:

The postseason should be a big thing for a guy thought of as an inspirational leader. But Andre Dawson in October was hideous, .128 with no homers in two losing efforts in the NLCS. (Dawson hit .300 in the divisional series in 1981, but with no homers and no RBI). In 1981, when Dawson was at his peak - runner-up for the MVP award - the Expos lost an NLCS decided by one run in the last inning of the deciding game. Where was Andre? He didn't drive in a single run the whole series.

3. Dawson's teams often did not show any sign of benefitting from his presence:

Dawson's Cubs teams never won much in part because they got few baserunners and the young players on the team (except Mark Grace) followed Dawson's lead in swinging at anything. Coincidence?

Dawson's Expos teams consistently missed the playoffs despite the presence of an outstanding cast around him, including Gary Carter, Tim Raines and Steve Rogers. Coincidence?

The Cubs finished last [in 1987] with Dawson winning the MVP in the middle of their order. Coincidence?

The year the Cubs did win the division, 1989, Dawson missed 44 games. Coincidence?

The last two franchises Dawson played for were a combined 9 games under .500 in his last season on the roster, and each won the division the next year. Coincidence?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Aw man, that's just cold. Good points, but I think Dawson deserves to be in the Hall based on Batting Average, Homers, Hits, RBIs, good speed in his prime, his fielding prowess, and his rifle arm.

Posted by: Adam Herman at January 16, 2006 5:02 AM

What has happened to ben grieve?
is he out of baseball?

Posted by: pat casey at April 6, 2006 1:38 PM
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