Thoughts on Andre Dawson and the Hall of Fame


Well, we now have the first player to ever don a Marlins uniform as an active player and be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Andre Dawson, the Hawk, has been inducted into the Hall, garnering 77% of the votes to get in. He’ll be the only new member of the Hall of Fame, as no one else was inducted this season despite a promising and excellent crop of new players and several holdovers who remain deserving of the award.

I’m happy to see Dawson get in, if only because he was a former Marlin in the twilight of his career and because, before astroturf in Montreal ruined his knees, he was a significantly better player than he gets credit for. Dawson toiled in obscurity with the Montreal Expos but got his chance to shine starting in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs. In ’87, he won the MVP for the last-place Cubs with his 49 homers and 137 RBIs, though it could be (easily) argued that Dawson did not deserve the MVP that season. Nevertheless, by that point he was a solid above average player, a good offensive player who had lost the speed and defense that made him great before. Still, he racked up enough above average years to put him in the conversation for the Hall. Because he did it with offense, he stood out more and eventually got in.

In terms of WAR, Dawson’s career was interesting. Check out the path.

You can see that he started out blazing, in part because of his excellent defense. Dawson split time in center field and the corners early in his career, but his knees were ravaged with injury playing on the turf in Montreal. He was moved to the corners, but he soon lost his effectiveness defensively, right around the time when his WAR took a sharp hit. Ironically, he gained much of his notoriety in the move to Chicago, corresponding with his 10th season in the league. At that point, he was an above average player, but nothing like the player of his early years in Montreal. Still, it’s hard to imagine him getting the recognition he received without making the collusion-forced move to Chicago. As we all know, Dawson showed up in Spring Training looking to play for whatever contract he could receive in 1987. The Cubs got him and he went on to win an MVP award for the team.

Dawson’s 56.8 WAR according to Rally’s database ranks 130th among position players in the history of baseball. For many sabermetricians, he was the most borderline case for the Hall on the ballot. Surrounding him among Hall-eligible players are Darrell Evans (out), Hank Greenberg (in), Bobby Bonds (out), John Olerud (eligible next year), Elmer Flick (in), and Joe Medwick (in). Other interesting names include Robin Ventura (55.1 WAR, did not receive enough votes to stay on the ballot this year), Bobby Abreu (57.0 WAR and counting, and I don’t think anyone will call him a Hall of Fame guy without the help of stats), and Todd Helton (57.3 WAR and I’m sure he’ll be controversial come Hall time). With those names around him, you can see why Dawson appeared to be right on the borderline. Still, a worthy enough induction, and now Dawson can serve as the border/benchmark in the eyes of many for future inductions of position players into the Hall. Congrats again to Andre Dawson for his induction.

Now, where the outrage has been was in the non-inductions. The sabermetric community’s golden boy, Bert Blyleven, suffered a bitter near-miss, as he missed the cut by literally five voters. Ironically, five voters didn’t vote for any players this season, including one (Chicago blowhard Jay Mariotti) who voted for Blyleven in the past! The case has been made for Blyleven in plenty of different places, most famously by Rich Lederer of Baseball Analysts (the latest piece is shown here), so I need not state why he is a more than deserving candidate. Roberto Alomar, one of a few first-timers on the ballot, made it on 73% of the ballots. Alomar is a more than deserving candidate as well and should have made it. Alongside him should have been Edgar Martinez and Barry Larkin, who were great candidates for the Hall as well but missed because of various reasons. Along with the lack of worthy inductees came the disrespect to very worthy members for players like Tim Raines and Alan Trammell, who increasingly look like they’ll miss their chances at enshrinement.

For the record, my vote would have gone to: Blyleven, Alomar, Martinez, Larkin, Trammell, Raines, and Mark McGwire (I may be missing someone, but I can’t recall). These men are all Hall-worthy, but are out for various reasons. But for some players, particularly Blyleven, Trammell, Raines, and Alomar, there’s almost no reason not to induct, regardless of time on the ballot. Such is the antiquated way of the Hall of Fame voting process and the (hated) BBWAA voting contingency. If only there were another, better way.