Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 6, 2010
BASEBALL: Dawson Alone

So, Andre Dawson gets into the Hall of Fame and the voters take a pass on everybody else. I literally would not have traded Roberto Alomar, Tim Raines, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin, Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Dale Murphy, Don Mattingly, or Kevin Appier for Dawson in their respective primes - maybe Dave Parker (who was effectively the same player), Jack Morris or Robin Ventura. This is insane.

Dawson will be remembered as ... a winner? For being Rookie of the Year for a 5th place team, MVP for a last place team, hitting .128 career in the LCS with no World Series appearances, having two of the four franchises he played for (the Expos and Cubs) decline the year he arrived and all four improve the year after he left.

I'd do my annual chart of the progression of the balloting, but it's too depressing. This is willful idiocy at its worst. (UPDATE: Craig Calcaterra has a look).

This may be worst day for Hall of Fame balloting since Joe DiMaggio failed to get elected on 1st ballot. (UPDATE: In 1954, Joe D got 175 votes, just under 70%. Rabbit Maranville was elected with 209 votes.)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:19 PM | Baseball 2010 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)

Considering who was passed over for this year, this is truly one of the worst HOF choices since I have been following baseball.

Posted by: steve at January 6, 2010 2:34 PM

Isn't a vote for Dawson not one really for the player but one for a simpler time, back in the good old days when steroids weren't talked about or ignored by the writers (even though players, including probably Dawson, used them)?

Also, Dawson is kind of a tragic hero, doomed to spend the prime of his career in Montreal on that terrible turf, unwanted in free agency (the famous blank check offer), and the struggles of a super athletic player to deal with chronic knee problems. Compared that with Dale Murphy who "just" outplayed Dawson during their respective primes, won some MVP's (and was way better in 1987 when the Hawk won his) and then fell off a cliff for unexplained reasons. All Murphy did was get the max out of his talents, Dawson had the "what if" excuse.

Posted by: Tom at January 6, 2010 2:49 PM

Tim Raines played on that terrible turf, went unwanted in free agency to the point of actually losing playing time, and was far better than Dawson.

I was encouraged by Barry Larkin doing better than I thought he would, to the point where he's now likely to eventually be elected. Not much else good in the results.

Posted by: Jerry at January 6, 2010 3:39 PM

If I only saw Rabbit Maranville's stats, and not the years and teams he played for, I would have assumed that he got elected to the HoF by virtue of having played for the 1927 Yankees.

Posted by: Mark D at January 6, 2010 4:11 PM

What is so strange about Dawson is that he is now in, but Dwight Evans--same position, similar era, and clearly better--never really came close.

Dawson's inclusion (if you take the lowest common denominator approach--which I don't, but many do) could open the doors to so many other marginal candidates from the past--people like Jimmy Wynn, Cesar Cedeno, Vada Pinson, George Foster, Jack Clark, Dave Parker. Now, I don't think those people will get voted in or chosen by the Vet. Com. (and they shouldn't) but anyone making their cases has a much stronger one now.

Posted by: per14 at January 6, 2010 4:39 PM

How does Roberto Alomar not coast into the HOF? Close at just over 73% and is sure to get in next year but still. He's got to be one of the top-10 of all-time. Blyleven just missed. The idea that Lee Smith would get 47% of the vote and Raines 30% is appalling. Guess they were voting on giving up HRs at critical times 'cause Lee was good at that in his Sox days.

Posted by: jim at January 6, 2010 4:59 PM

jim, my all-time favorite Boston sports media story - and there have been some doozies, like Carl Everett calling Shaughnessy the "curly-haired boyfriend" or some of the stories in Montville's book about Ted Williams' antagonists - was after Lee Smith gave up a game-winning extra-inning HR to Alan Trammell on Opening Day 1988, and the Herald's back page headline the next day was "WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR."

Posted by: Crank at January 6, 2010 5:03 PM

Smith's signing was heralded as a major boon for the Sox. We'd had some closers that were, well, perhaps you've heard of Calvin Schrialdi. He struck out a lot of guys (better than 10/9 innings) and got some saves but I swear every HR he gave up was a game-altering shot.

Prior to Smith though through the 80s we suffered the likes of the aforementioned Schrialdi, the insufferable and fat Bob Stanley, the walk-machine Mark Clear, Way Back Wes Gardner and no-name Steve Clear. You would have to go back to 1980 when a 36 year-old Tommy Burgmeier was the main guy (although Stanley still got some saves) when there was anyone we did not feel was likely to give up some soul-crushing HR. Burgmeier had some epic battles with Reggie. Great stuff.

Crank, I don't remember that story but that's a good one. The Boston Sports Media. Gotta love 'em.

Posted by: jim at January 6, 2010 5:34 PM

That's " Steve Crawford." See?

Posted by: jim at January 6, 2010 5:35 PM

Bob Stanley in a tutu in a hotel room during a roadtrip is one of my favorite BoSox-related occurences.

He also deserves credit for throwing that pitch to Mookie Wilson "juuuuuussst a bit inside" 4 years before ex-Hanes spokesman Wild Thing Vaughn.

Posted by: chrisa798 at January 7, 2010 1:04 AM

(before Vaughn threw his outside)

Posted by: chrisa798 at January 7, 2010 1:07 AM

I think it was Rosenthal who called for the BBWA to be disbanded. This vote truely is a joke. Dawson was a good player, but as Crank pointed out, not the best of his era or even one of the best of his era.

I don't think any of the first timers deserved First Ballot election, but Alomar and larkin should make it. That being said, until Blyleven and McGwire are elected there should be no further additions to the Hall, except maybe Rose.

Posted by: maddirishman at January 7, 2010 10:02 AM

Some of these guys who are going to try and come up the percentage poll are going to run into a wall of very clear/clear-ish HOFers in the near future which will surely diminish their chances until that log-jam passes by. Of course there will be the PED questions/character questions with guys like Bonds and Clemens but there is also Maddux, Glavine, Biggio (not saying I'd vote for him necessarily but he does have HOF cred) and several others. For guys trying to go the Blyleven, Rice route there is going to be some lean years in the near future.

Posted by: jim at January 7, 2010 12:01 PM

McGwire? Forget the steroids angle (the only people who care about it are non-baseball fans, sanctimonious sportswriters like Lupica, and fans of teams who want to score cheap points in arguments by pointing out "the cheaters" on rival teams while ignoring or justifying the users on the team they adore).
McGwire was a one-dimensional player, whose one dimension was hitting HRs during an era when everyone was slugging them out of the park (e.g. Brady Anderson hit 50 one year).
I'd vote for Keith Hernandez long before I'd vote for McGwire. And that has nothing to do with steroids or PEDs.

Posted by: Berto at January 7, 2010 12:54 PM

Berto, that is really illogical. Sure, home runs were way up. But he was hitting way more than most everyone else. During the height of the home run craze, he was first in slugging twice and second two times more. If people were trying to elect a Brady Anderson, then you'd have a point.

And he wasn't one-dimensional. He got on base at an awfully high rate. You know, not making outs. The most important thing a player can do. (Something Hernandez did well also, but of course, he never came close to leading a league in slugging or home runs.) Dave Kingman was one dimensional.

Posted by: per14 at January 7, 2010 2:05 PM

Trivia - prior to 1990 (when you start getting the Alomars and Larkins that are just hitting the ballot), what are the only two teams to win the World Series without a Hall of Fame player?

Posted by: Jerry at January 7, 2010 3:13 PM

Berto, you baseball analysis is about as well-considered as your political analysis. First, McGwire didn't just hit home-runs, he did it at a rate greater than any other player in history. He hit more home-runs per at bat than Ruth, Bonds, Williams, and even Brady Anderson. And, as noted above, he also walked quite a bit too, so its not like he was either homering or making outs (like a Rob Deer or Ron Kittle type). To suggest, ped's aside, that McGwire doesn't belong in the HOF is insane.

Posted by: Paul H. at January 7, 2010 3:39 PM

1. No politics in the baseball threads, please.

2. I agree with what a few people have said - McGwire wasn't one-dimensional, he was two-dimensional (HRs and walks).

3. Jerry, I know I looked that one up and have used it previously...lemme think... I believe the 84 Tigers are one of them, despite a battery of guys who are in the gray zone or could've been (Whitaker, Trammell, Morris, Darrell Evans, Parrish, Gibson). Are the others the 81 Dodgers? 88 Dodgers had Sutton during the regular season, but he was not on them in 81.

Posted by: Crank at January 7, 2010 4:15 PM

Yes, the Tigers will probably get Morris and/or Trammell in eventually, but if they don't they'd certainly be the best team ever with no Hall of Famers.

The 81 Dodgers are unlikely to get anyone in, unless Mike Sciosia is elected as a manager, which doesn't really count. They had an incredibly deep roster of very good players who don't quite crack the Cooperstown radar - their entire corps of seventies position players (Yeager, Ferguson, Garvey, Lopes, Russell, Cey, Baker, Reggie Smith, and Rick Monday) and most of their 80s ones as well (Guerrero, Sax, Sciosia, Mike Marshall, Candy Maldanado). And the pitching staff also had tremendous non-HOF careers (Fernando, Bob Welch, Dave Stewart, Rick Sutcliffe, Jerry Reuss, Burt Hooten, Alejandro Pena).

Posted by: Jerry at January 7, 2010 4:52 PM

I know that "if Jim Rice, then..." isn't a valid argument, but at least Dawson was substantially better than Rice. And at least Dawson had strengths to counterbalance his awful OBP - Rice was just a hitter, and not as good a hitter as his rep, at that.

I always thought that Dawson was a typical borderline candidate, or just below that. On a scale of 0 to 10, I would have put him somewhere between 4.5 and 5, 5 being the dividing line between in and out.

Posted by: 94by50 at January 7, 2010 11:10 PM

A reckoning is coming if the BBWAA continues to vote with their heads rammed where the sun don't shine. One of the best insights in Bill James' brilliant book "The Politics of Glory" was that in past eras where the gatekeepers of the Hall repeatedly refused to induct worthy candidates, the result was that the mechanism of induction was seized by the other end of the spectrum, with the result that many unworthy players ended up being inducted along with the ones who had been unjustly delayed in their induction. I'm finding all of the shrill whining about Dawson getting in rather amusing in a sick way--just wait until twenty years from now when Dante Bichette and Juan Pierre are standing at the podium in Cooperstown after the Bizarro crowd stages their revolution. Repent or reap the whirlwind, oh clueless members of the BBWAA.

Posted by: M. Scott Eiland at January 8, 2010 5:23 AM

94by50, I'm not sure that the statement that Dawson was substantially better than Rice is even remotely defensible. Yes, he was better defensively and on the basepaths. However, Rice was a much better hitter. While Rice is not a darling of the sabermetric crowd (to say the least), his career obp is almost 30 points higher than Dawson's. In fact, Dawson only had three seasons in his career with an obp as high as Rice's career average of .352. One of the big marks against Rice has been the home/road spits, but Rice's career ops+ (a park adjusted stat) of 128 is well above Dawson's 119. You may be able to make a valid argument that Dawson's defense and baserunning make up for the offensive gap between him and Rice, but there is no way, given all of the outs Dawson made in his career, that he was substantially better.

Posted by: Paul H. at January 8, 2010 9:49 AM

I think we all can agree that this HOF process really needs to be reformed and voters who leave their ballots blank or don't take their jobs seriously need to be removed.

Posted by: dch at January 8, 2010 10:00 AM

mark D

Rabbit Maranville was elected to the HOF because he was working in some capacity with a Hearst Newspaper in NYC & it lobbied hard for him at the time when he was apparently dying.

He lasted forever but was way below average in the stats of the time & would've been even if he'd played in the 1960s.

At the time of his election he was one of the top 50 or so in total hits (2600+) but his BA & OBP were bad. Real bad. Never hit .300 in a full season.

Posted by: From Inwood at January 8, 2010 9:29 PM

Paul H.,

Glancing over a few things, I kind of agree, but I think that you're overstating things a little. Yes, Rice was probably a better hitter, even in context. You cited their respective OB% and OPS+ - and there's more. According to FanGraphs, Rice had a career weighted OBA of .375, Dawson of .352. Rice created 392 runs above average for his career, Dawson only 266 above average with more plate appearances. Somehow, BBPro credits each player with essentially identical EqAs. I'm willing to go along with Rice being a better hitter.

The question is how much different in value the two were in fielding/baserunning/etc. I think that the difference was more than the aforementioned 126-run difference in hitting value above average. I don't know this; I can't prove it. But an above-average CF/RF against a below-average LF/DH, over very long careers? I'll take my chances. In fact, according to baseballprojection, Dawson was worth 15 more wins over his career than Rice, with a better and longer peak. Baseball Prospectus gives an even greater gap. What data there is on the matter confirms my suspicions, thus my argument that Dawson was, in fact, substantially and meaningfully better. But I have to assume the numbers are trustworthy.

Dawson was my first childhood hero (thanks to living in Chicago in 1987); I might very well be giving him too much credit. It's harder than I thought it would be, but I've sincerely tried to remain objective about his candidacy. I care about the integrity of the Hall (what little it has, anyway), and as a baseball fan, I want to see only the best candidates rewarded with induction. However, I also think that Dawson was better than he's given credit for lately. The overwhelming focus on his disappointingly low OBP to the ignorance of everything else he could do is, I think, clouding people's judgment. Not that his .323 OBP doesn't matter; it most certainly does. But I think it's offset by everything else he did.

Posted by: Jesse (94by50) at January 10, 2010 1:35 AM

I will contend that while sabermetrics have helped people understand the inherent quality of individual players it has also led to judging players inaccurately by defining them by a set of numbers. For instance, while Rice suffers from a ballpark adjustment since Fenway is a hitter's park he, no doubt, was punished by Fenway. He did not possess a "Fenway swing" a la Lynn and Boggs. He rarely hit Manny-esque towering homers. He hit line drives to all fields and in Fenway that results in singles to left and outs to right. The park certainly abetted him in hitting triples. His career average is higher at home but that can be said for 85-90 percent of all hitters simply because you're at home (Mike Cameron being the massive exception to that rule). Dawson likely fails the numbers test in a similar if different way. He was never the hitter Rice was but he was a ballplayer for sure for several years and was certainly punished by the unforgiving turf in Montreal.

I'm not certain either of them are pure HOF guys. Neither had moments that defined their careers and I think that really hurts. However, reducing them to a pile of stats misses the point of what type of players they were.

Posted by: jim at January 11, 2010 9:28 PM
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