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Friday, December 30, 2005


Hawk Hawks

Phil Rogers thinks that Andre Dawson should be in the Hall of Fame.

He is wrong. Let's examine why.

If Kirby Puckett is in the Hall, if Tony Perez is in the Hall, if Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith are in the Hall, Dawson needs to be there, too. He's every bit the player any of the other five are -- although, yes, we're comparing apples to oranges in some cases -- but is undervalued because he hit the Hall of Fame ballot in 2002, the year after Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs and Bret Boone drove in 141 runs.

Tony Perez shouldn't be in the Hall. Gary Carter is arguable, but he's a catcher. Ozzie Smith is in for defense and one memorable home run in the postseason. So, yes, you are indeed comparing apples to oranges. The closest actual comparison is Puckett, but Puckett's injury was non-baseball-related, which makes it a special circumstance.

Also, I do not in any way think that Hawk was "undervalued" because of the timing of his Hall of Fame eligibility. Plenty of other guys hit the Hall ballots in the years right after guys on steroids did crazy things. Tony Perez in 2000. The selfsame Gary Carter in 2003. Tons of roided-out people put up crazy numbers in those years, too.

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 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.

No there isn't. It's sad that he ruined his knees. But I doubt anyone will give Nomar Garciaparra "the benefit of the doubt" because he was hit on the wrist by Al Reyes in 1999 and was never the same player. Dawson had knee problems, and it hurt him, but you simply can't take potential or "what-ifs" into account.

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.

It's not good for your cause to point out that another borderline HOFer has more hits and RBI than the guy you say should be in. But whatever. Here are some career stats for Hawk:

HR: 438
SB: 314 SB.

Not bad. But there's a lot of guys who had more.

OBP: a paltry .323.
SLG: .482.
OPS+: 119
RC27: 5.44

He is the very definition of a really good, but not great, ballplayer. By all accounts (I saw him play but don't remember) he was an excellent fielder -- very toolsy and all that. Great arm, fast, big, strong, whatever. But the numbers -- even in the clean era -- don't lie. There are lots of guys with much higher OPS+, for example, who are not close to the Hall. His career SLG doesn't get him within whiffing distance of the top 100 of all time. The 438 HR are good for 32nd all-time, which is obviously really good. But Dave Kingman had 442.

Look -- he was awesome. But he was not HOF calibre. If he hadn't been so injured, I have no doubt he'd be in. But he was injured a lot. So he's out. And for the record, it's not like he had to retire at 34. He played in 21 different seasons.

Dawson, who was such a good athlete that Davey Johnson started him in center field and Eric Davis in left in the 1987 All-Star Game, was the first player to ever put together 12 consecutive seasons in which he finished with double-figure home run and stolen base totals. He piled up 45 extra-base hits in 15 consecutive seasons, becoming the sixth name on a list that included only Henry Aaron, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mel Ott and Honus Wagner.

This is why people hate stat geeks. If you invent arbitrary categories -- even more arbitrary than the ones we use in standard discussions -- you can make an argument for anybody. I especially hate the "consecutive seasons" thing, because it punishes all-time greats who like missed part of a year due to WWII and stuff. Or guys who just had one year where they missed like 40 games due to a freak injury in an otherwise durable career. Or whatever. Also, in this specific case, 45 XBH...who cares? 45? That's 18 HR and 27 2B? You want to hang your HOF hat on that?

On the picture-perfect day he was enshrined into the Hall last summer, Sandberg took time to campaign for Dawson...

"No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson," Sandberg said. "He's the best I've ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team, and it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here some day."

I include this only because I love how bad Ryno is at talking. Look at that last sentence. It's like retarded Dr. Seuss.

Sandberg's comment about "the natural way,'' was, of course, a shot at the Jose Canseco generation of illegally-enhanced, often one-dimensional sluggers. The numbers Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Bonds and others put up from 1997 through 2003 diminished -- at least in reflection during that time -- the career statistics of hitters from the 1980s and early '90s, including Dawson and Jim Rice.

I don't buy this argument either. Rice was a borderline case before the steroids thing exploded. Dawson would have been just as borderline if he had retired in 1994.

Just for kicks: Jim Ed , in 1700 fewer AB, has only 50 fewer HR, and a higher career OBP, SLG, OPS+, RC27, etc. He won an MVP, like Hawk. And I'd still say Rice is at best borderline.

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