Why 2 MLB Legends May Boycott Derek Jeter HOF Induction in 2020

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistJuly 26, 2019

Baseball Hall of Fame players, outfielder Andre Dawson, left, and Tony Perez, pose after Dawson threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a baseball game between the Florida Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, April 9, 2010, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — When Derek Jeter is inducted into the Hall of Fame one year from now, two Hall of Famers will likely skip the ceremony because they don't want to share the stage with him.

Hard feelings remain for Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, whom Jeter ordered to be fired from their positions with the Miami Marlins when his group took ownership in September 2017. 

"I sincerely doubt [that I will attend] at this point," Dawson told Bleacher Report last weekend, when the 2019 class was inducted. "All indications are likely not. ... I can't speak for Tony. But I don't have a sense or feeling like I want to sit on that stage to hear what [Jeter] has to say."

Perez was less definite than Dawson, indicating that he has reached a decision but adding that he is reluctant to announce it a full year in advance.

Perez told B/R that if he does boycott, he will not hide behind an excuse, such as feigning an illness. Instead, he said, he will tell the truth: That he is staying away because of Jeter.

"It wasn't nice, what happened at the end," Perez said.

Dawson and Perez were Marlins special assistants when the Jeter ownership group took charge in 2017.

"For me it was more than insult personally the way everything was handled," Dawson said. "Even with the kind of offer they made going forward.

"I just felt disrespected, in a sense. I have a lot of pride. For me, that's kind of where I am with that whole process. It is what it is. I understand going forward it's a decision they made; it's their money, their team, but I've got to look out for my pride and welfare also."

What hurt both Dawson and Perez wasn't so much that they were let go but the way it went down. Instead of speaking to them himself, Jeter had David Samson, the outgoing club president who had also been told he was being ousted, swing the ax. Then when the backlash among the fanbase grew, Dawson and Perez were offered their old jobs back at significant salary cuts—from $85,000 to $25,000—and with the conditions that they were to stay out of the big league clubhouse and not dress in uniform as instructors during spring training.

"It was ... a proposition to turn down so they could move forward," Dawson said. "I would have had no problem at all with them just saying, 'Look, we're going in a different direction and it's not going to look too positive going forward.' And I can understand that. It's just the way the whole thing was handled.

"And it was handled by someone that's not an owner ... who I've been friends with since he's been in the organization. And I know it was uncomfortable for him because body language tells everything. That's the issue I had."

Both Dawson and Perez say they never even received the courtesy of a conversation with Jeter—in person or on the telephone—and that, to this day, he's still never talked to them.

"Just one call earlier and that's it," Perez said of the way he thinks things should have been handled. "'We're going to go a different way. Hey, good luck.'

"It's bad, but that's the way they want it. They got what they wanted; they wanted to start from the ground and clear everybody out. Clear the great hitters out."

Andre Dawson and Tony Perez both say they would have accepted their dismissals from the Marlins had they been given the chance to at least speak with Derek Jeter, who was part of a group that purchased the team in 2017.
Andre Dawson and Tony Perez both say they would have accepted their dismissals from the Marlins had they been given the chance to at least speak with Derek Jeter, who was part of a group that purchased the team in 2017.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Other former players have noticed.

"You've got two Hall of Famers who are class guys, and [the Marlins] are not tearing the f--king door down in terms of paying them, and then Jeter's going to take $5 million a year and have the guy he bought the team from fire them," said Pete Rose, while signing autographs next to his former longtime teammate with the Reds at a baseball collectibles shop off Main Street in Cooperstown.

"What background does he have in running a baseball team? He's a great shortstop, OK?"

Jeter will be listed on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this November and is expected to easily sail in when the voting results are announced in January. Given the tight bond among the Hall of Famers themselves, no doubt he will receive a frosty reception at July induction events from those who are close with Dawson and Perez.

"Well, you know, we have a close-knit fraternity right here," Dawson said. "We've all been through the wars. We're people of honor and dignity, and we respect each other. You don't just cast a blind eye. And that's kind of the direction that some of the conversations have gone."

Others will leave it for Jeter, Dawson and Perez to sort out.

"I don't get into that stuff," said Goose Gossage, a Yankees alum who worked as a special instructor during spring training for the club during much of Jeter's playing career.

Certainly, the simmering anger still felt by Dawson and Perez is no secret among the Hall of Famers. One suggested the two must make a personal decision, much like others will face if suspected performance-enhancing drug users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens one day get in. This person, who requested anonymity because everything is still speculative, said one way to make a point would be to attend the festivities next July but walk off the stage and into a back room during Jeter's speech.

"I hope they don't skip whole weekend for one man," the Hall of Famer said. "It is an ugly situation. I can't believe how [the Marlins] handled it. They are two great individuals, and I'd hate for them to miss out on what they earned. They're respected by so many of us peers who are in there, for the class of people they are.

"It's once a year, like Christmas. You hate to have one person ruin Christmas."

While Perez appears to know where he will be a year from now, he isn't ready to publicly reveal it.

"I think it's still early," Perez said. "One year. I don't want people to be talking about that. If it happens [that he skips Cooperstown next year], it happens."

Certainly, things could change, and Dawson and Perez could still decide to grit their teeth and go to Cooperstown despite Jeter next summer. They could participate fully, partially or not at all. 

Warmly welcomed this year while attending the induction of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter may not receive the same greetings next year when he is expected to honored for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.
Warmly welcomed this year while attending the induction of Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter may not receive the same greetings next year when he is expected to honored for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Or maybe sometime between now and then, Jeter will emerge from his cocoon and, however belatedly, reach out to them and apologize for the way their dismissal was handled. Anything is possible. As for now, Jeter's only comment on the possibility Cooperstown would be hosting a ceremony for him next year was to tell the New York Post's Kevin Kernan, "Whoa, I'm not even going to go there."

As it was during his playing career, Jeter drew a lot of eyes last Sunday as he made the rounds among the Hall of Famers during breakfast at the Otesaga Hotel. After sweeping in following a private plane flight from Florida to attend former teammate Mariano Rivera's induction later that afternoon, the former Yankee shortstop exchanged pleasantries with neither Dawson nor Perez even as he chatted up a table just steps from Dawson.

The celebration that would begin in a couple of hours would include a record 58 living legends, the largest gathering of Hall of Famers at any location in history. The induction of Rivera, Mike Mussina, Roy Halladay, Edgar Martinez, Harold Baines and Lee Smith drew an estimated 55,000 fans, the second-largest induction crowd in history.

But right now, odds are that next summer's roll call of Hall of Famers will be missing a couple of regular attendees.

This week, Perez, 77, headed home from Cooperstown for a second consecutive summer without a job in baseball.

"No, I'm driving my wife around," he quipped.

As for Dawson, 65, within four months of the Marlins kicking him to the curb, the Chicago Cubs hired him as a special assistant. Among other duties, Dawson, who won the 1987 NL MVP award while playing for the Cubs, meets with corporate sponsors and fans at Wrigley Field.

"Going real well," he said. "I couldn't be happier."

                          

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball. 

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