The writers did a poor job this year in the elections for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Andre Dawson drew enough votes to gain election, while other, far more deserving candidates, were left to linger. Dawson pulled in 77.9 percent of the votes, testimony to the idea that a veteran baseball writer will not let a complicated thing like the facts stand in the way of a good story.
For generations, sportswriters have pushed the idea that sports are a “contest of wills” and that certain teams have the “heart of a champion” and that certain batters are “clutch hitters” while others tend to “choke.” And one idea that has been pushed more and more by writers who want to make a case for people that are not doing the job is that there are “intangibles” which make a player valuable that cannot be reflected in the statistics. Andre Dawson’s election to the Hall of Fame is a victory or those “intangibles” and a defeat for those fond of measurable truths.
Andre Dawson brings to the Hall of Fame very little in the way of credentials which will be recognized as impressive either in the future or in the past. His career batting average is .279. Only one Hall of Fame outfielder has a lower batting average for his career: Reggie Jackson. He brings with him an on base percentage of .323. Not only is this a full 20 points lower than any other outfielder in the Hall of Fame, it is above only four other players in the Hall of Fame, all of whom were renowned for their defensive prowess and who played key infield positions: Brooks Robinson, Rabbit Maranville, Luis Aparicio, and Bill Mazeroski. Dawson’s OPS of .806 is better than only two Hall of Fame outfielders whose careers began after 1930: Richie Ashburn and Lou Brock.
Oh yes. I almost forgot his great qualification: He is, along with Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, the only player to hit 400 home runs and steal 300 bases. Is that so much more impressive than hitting 300 home runs and stealing 300 bases? Because Steve Finley did that. So did Reggie Sanders. And Bobby Bonds. And you want to know a secret? Dawson was not a good base stealer. 314 stolen bases, 109 caught stealing. Tim Raines, whom the writers once again failed to see as a Hall of Famer, was caught stealing 146 times in his career, while stealing 808 bases. Raines had an OPS of .810, by the way.
Dawson is 36th in career home runs, 165th in slugging percentage. What did Dawson ever do better than Bobby Bonds, for example? Bobby Bonds was also a Gold Glove outfielder who hit for power and stole many bases.
Dawson was a clearly foreseeable mistake by writers who cast their votes based on their childhood recollections of players, and not on the actual performance of those players. Like Jim Rice last year, Dawson made it because he seemed like a scary player who was a big star. In reality, we have a guy who hit more than 25 home runs in a season only four times (three of those seasons helped hugely by the friendly confines of Wrigley Field), never hit higher than .310, never drew as many as 45 walks in a season, and who led his league in home runs, RBI and hits once each, and never in anything else. A good player, without doubt, but no better than literally dozens of other outfielders who have never come close to election.