Was Dwight Evans a Hall Of Famer?

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Was Dwight Evans a Hall Of Famer?
T.G. Higgins/Getty Images

For many older Red Sox fans, Andre Dawson's election to the baseball Hall of Fame will surely raise the issue of Dwight Evans' worthiness for the same distinction. 

The two players had very similar careers, and have long been viewed as borderline Hall of Famers. For instance, both players finished with at least 100 RBI just four times. 

Dawson played 2,627 games over 21 seasons from 1976-96, hitting .279 with a .323 on-base percentage and a .482 slugging percentage. He belted 438 home runs and had 1,591 RBI.

"The Hawk" also won eight Gold Gloves and was an All-Star eight times. 

Dawson and teammate Gary Carter were the biggest stars on the Expos, and were often the club's only All Star selections. 

Dwight Evans played in 2,606 games over 20 seasons from 1972-91. He hit .272 with a .370 on-base percentage and a .470 slugging percentage. Evans totaled 385 home runs and 1,384 RBI. He also won eight Gold Gloves and was a three time All-Star.

Evans finished his career with a 127 OPS+ while Dawson finished at 119. 

Yet Evans lasted only three years on the ballot, never getting more than 10.4 percent of the vote.

Was Dwight Evans a Hall of Fame caliber player?

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Ultimately, the difference between Evans and Dawson may be this: Dawson, Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays are the only players with 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases. More than anything else, that impressive distinction seemed to assure Dawson's eventual election to the Hall.

Evans was often overshadowed by his own teammates, such as Fred Lynn, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, and Jim Rice. The latter three are all in the Hall of Fame.

Most justifiably, Rice was finally enshrined in the Hall of Fame last year. But Evans often lived in the shadow of Rice's exploits. 

Rice is certainly in the pantheon of all-time great Red Sox hitters—along with the likes of Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, and Manny Ramirez.

However, Evans, another Sox great, has generally been overlooked.

Guess who had more career runs, doubles, walks, stolen bases, and a higher on-base percentage—Jim Rice or Dwight Evans?

Incredibly, the answer is Evans. 

The former right fielder, who played for the Sox from 1972-1990, also had just one fewer total bases than Rice and only three fewer home runs. And he did it all with just 500 more at bats than Rice—about one season's worth.

Now this isn't to argue that Evans is necessarily worthy of induction into Cooperstown as well; it's simply to point out that his on field exploits seem to be forgotten, but are surely worthy of greater merit.

After a 20-year career, all but his last spent with the Red Sox, Evans left his mark with 2,446 hits, 1,384 RBI, 385 home runs, a .272 career average, and a .370 career OBP.

Only Carl Yastrzemski played in more games for the Red Sox (3,308) than Evans (2,505).

Evans collected eight Gold Glove Awards in that span (a Red Sox record), playing in one of the toughest right fields in baseball. He also lead the league in walks three times (1981, 1985, 1987), won two Silver Slugger Awards, and was a three-time All-Star (1978, 1981, 1987). 

What may surprise many is that Evans hit more home runs than any other American League player during the 1980s (256), and the fourth most overall, behind only Mike Schmidt, Dale Murphy, and Eddie Murray.

Many Red Sox fans still pine for his inclusion in the Hall of Fame, which seems to be a bit of a stretch. Evans had a long and productive career, but it's hard to argue that it was a true Hall of Fame career.

Yet, some could argue that what really kept Evans out of consideration was the strike-shortened 1981 season.

"Dewey" was having his best year in '81—he hit .296/.415/.522, played every game, and led the league in homers, total bases, walks and OPS. And, naturally, he won another Gold Glove.

If Evans had played a full season, he may have won the MVP award—which would have boosted his case. 

If Evans had hit just 15 more home runs in the 54 games he missed—not an unlikely scenario—he would have finished his career with 400 homers, which might have caught the voters' attention. 

In addition, he most certainly would have driven in 16 more runs—which would have raised his career total to 1,400. While that number is not a critical benchmark for Hall of Fame consideration, it would have made his resume look more impressive.

In essence, Evans' career-year, his masterpiece season, was shortened by a labor dispute. Through not fault of his own, his greatest chance for consideration was cut short.

In the end, Evans dropped off the Hall of Fame ballot after just three years.

Dwight Evans was never a superstar, but he was extraordinarily valuable to the Red Sox during his long career.

With a cannon-like arm that could reach home plate with pin point accuracy, and enough pop in his bat to swat at least 20 homers in 11 out 12 seasons—including nine in a row—Dwight Evans is surely an all-time Red Sox great.

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