Andre Dawson was the only member to be enshrined into the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday leaving behind seven more deserving baseball players.
For Dawson, I do not believe he is a hall of famer, but I at least get his case unlike last year's inductee, Jim Rice. Baseball players have three areas to excel: offense, defense and base running.
Dawson has eight gold gloves. What does that mean? It means he was probably a good or great defensive player for some of the earlier seasons. As people often write, the horrible turf in Montreal took a toll on his knees and ruined his great defensive range. I will buy that because after 1983, he did not steal more than 20 bases in a season (more on that in a second). Four of his eight gold gloves came after 1983, which were likely due to reputation--see Rafael Palmeiro winning a gold glove in 1999 despite playing 28 games on the field. Unfortunately, we don't have much to go by statistically.
Much like defense, Dawson put up some nice stolen base numbers early in his career. Overall, he had 314 stolen bases and 109 caught stealing. He was successful stealing bases 74% of the time. After 1983, however, he was a non threat on the base paths, topping off at 18 stolen bases in 1986.
Dawson ended up with nice career counting stats. He had 2,774 hits, 503 doubles, 98 triples and 438 home runs. Dawson's slash stats are .279/.323/.482. He had a career OPS+ or 119, but posted an OPS+ of 122 in 11 seasons with Montreal Expos and an OPS+ 125 in six seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
Jim Rice was selected to the Hall of Fame last year based on the notion of fear. Instead of hearing logical reasons for his candidacy (there weren't many), voters started campaigning his ability to strike fear into opposing pitchers. Recently, I have seen articles about Andre Dawson being a feared hitter.
Dawson is one of the rare baseball players who has a nice slugging percentage but could not get on base. His on base percentage is anorexic to say the least. Lou Brock had the previous low for on base percentage for an outfielder at .343. Dawson is .020 lower! Let's flip that around and say that for every time he went to the plate, he made an out 67.7% of the time. On base percentage is all about not making outs, which is the objective 99% of the time when a batter is at the plate. Not making outs is done two ways, taking a walk or getting a hit. When he did get a hit, he made it super productive, but he just didn't get enough hits to make his overall production hall of fame worthy. Dawson put up some nice stolen base numbers early in his career and persumably had a few years of good to great defense mixed in with some, most likely, average to below average years. Considering the fact that he played in the outfield and not shortstop, second base, third base or catcher, I would not have elected him into the Hall of Fame. With everything considered, he is one of those guys that is borderline, however, when the border was moved south last year because of Rice, he is someone who makes it.
The Fall Out:
Even though I would not use my pretend vote on Dawson, I can see the argument because he did some really good things. The thing that strikes me is that there were other candidates who were much better. If I was told that only one person made the Hall of Fame this year, I would have said, "Oh, Roberto Alomar." If I were told to keep guessing, I would have thought Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire, Barry Larkin or Edgar Martinez. I think all six are clearly hall of famers, though, I can see arguments against McGwire, Larkin and Martinez. I do not understand how Dawson stood out against those six candidates. Voters seem to be voting on stupid stuff like FEAR instead of actual performance. Actual performance is what drives fear, right? With Rice and to a lesser extent Dawson making Cooperstown on FEAR, this should bode well for another FEARSOME but not hall of fame worthy, Jack Morris.
The other thing is that yes, Dawson is much better than Rice. If we are to say that Rice is a hall of famer, then Dawson is a hall of famer. If Rice and Dawson are hall of famers, then so are Dale Murphy, Dwight Evans, Darrell Evans, Albert Belle, Dave Parker and others in that same mix. Dwight and Darrell Evans and Belle are not on the ballots. Parker and Murphy both received less than 20% of the vote. What makes Dawson (and definitely Rice) better than Parker and Murphy?