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.
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.
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?