Andre Dawson: Hall of Fame or not?
THE CASE FOR DAWSON
He won the NL MVP in 1987, and finished second in two other years. He made eight All-Star teams. He won eight Gold Gloves. He won the NL Rookie of the Year. He had more RBIs (1,591) than all but 33 players in history; he had more than Willie McCovey, Willie Stargell or Al Kaline. He was an amazing athlete, a dynamic blend of power and speed: he, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are the only players in history with 400 homers, 300 steals.
THE CASE AGAINST DAWSON
He made a lot of outs. His career on-base percentage is .323, which was lower than the league average during his career. He never walked as many as 50 times in a season. He had nearly 1,000 more strikeouts than walks. He hit .279, and only hit .300 in four seasons.
Andre Dawson is a borderline guy, but he is a Hall of Famer. To appreciate him, you have to look past some of the numbers, and you have to have seen him play in his prime. He was a team leader in every way. He played as hard as anyone, he played as hurt as anyone. Eleven years on the turf, and in obscurity, in Montreal ruined his knees and his visibility. In 21 seasons, he never played in a World Series. We're not blaming him for that.
In That's Debatable!, we give you the topic, and then we'll have one of our writers stopping by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.
Tim Kurkjian (2:00 PM)
Thanks for logging on. About a month more, and we're off to spring training.
Andre Dawson a HOFer? No way, but he deserves it more than Ryan Sandeberg! If the Hawk goes in so must Jack Clark, who had nearly identical stats. Just because Dawson played for the Cubs and was half way decent doesn't make him a Hall of Famer.
Tim Kurkjian (2:02 PM)
Andre Dawson was a better player than Jack Clark, who agreed, was a really, really good hitter. But Dawson was a far better defensive player, a far better baserunner, a far better team leader.The Cubs have very little to do with this; Dawson's 11 years in Montreal are more important.
Bob (St Louis)
For my money, guys like Dawson are not worth spending too much time debating. He is clearly borderline. If he makes it, I won't be upset. Ditto if he doesn't.
Tim Kurkjian (2:03 PM)
I agree, he's a borderline Hall of Famer. My theory, and it's just my theory, is if I could build a slightly better case for a guy being in the Hall of Fame, than I'm voting for him. A lot of other voters disagree with that philosophy, but it's the same one that I've used for twenty years. There are different levels of Hall of Famers. No one is putting Andre Dawson in the highest level, but to me, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Tim - I think Dawson suffers more than any other candidate from the evolving emphasis on the importance of OBP. Do you think he would have been elected if his career was 10 years earlier when scrutinization of this stat wasn't as prevalent?
Tim Kurkjian (2:05 PM)
That is an excellent point. There is no denying that Dawson's career OBP (.323) is exceptionally low for a Hall of Famer, or a strong Hall of Fame candidate. But you're right; the emphasis recently, meaning the last 10-15 years, on OBP, doesn't help Dawson's case. Believe me, I love guys who walk a lot. I love guys who get on base. But occasionally, there is a player or two who will take a pitch that would normally be a ball and hit it for a two-run double. We cannot look past guys like that just because they don't walk all the time.
Pat (Belfast, PA)
I have always liked Dawson. I'd like to see him in the HOF, but the OBP just really makes me say "No." So my question is what specifically about Dawson makes him better than Dave Parker, Dale Murphy, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans, Albert Belle and other power hitting outfielders who had some career overlap with Dawson?
Tim Kurkjian (2:08 PM)
Dawson is quite comparable to, say, Dale Murphy. Dawson's career batting average is about 14 points higher, he hit 40 more home runs, stole 150 more bases, drove in 350 more runs, and he was at least Murphy's equal defensively. I wonder all the time whether I'm making a mistake not voting for Dale Murphy and not voting for Dave Parker. I just think Dawson is slightly--and I mean slightly--higher than those two guys on the Hall of Fame list. I won't argue with anyone who votes for Parker or Murphy, but I think Dawson is a little bit ahead.
Tip (Seattle, WA)
How significant will Dawson's leadership abilities factor in? How do they factor in generally? Leadership is tough to quantify, especially among players like pitchers or designated hitters, who are not on the field all the time.
Tim Kurkjian (2:10 PM)
Leadership is indeed hard to qualify. But in Dawson's case, I have talked to dozens of former teammates over the years about him. It is unanimous in that his leadership was tremendous. He played as hard as anyone who ever played, he's one of the great character guys of the last 30 years. That means something to me.
If Dawson had reached 500 home runs, would we be having this discussion?
Tim Kurkjian (2:11 PM)
We probably wouldn't be. 500 is still a magic number for a lot of people, including a lot of voters. The fact that he was 62 short, to me, is not enough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Someday, however, we will have 500 home run hitters left out of the Hall. I maintain those 500 home run hitters will not have been the complete all-around player that Dawson was.
Andy C (CT)
Both Jim Rice and Dawson up for Hall again. Dawson suffers even more statistically. There is a groundswell that may get Jim Rice in. Question is: who do you fear more: Dawson or Rice? And does that factor into how you vote?
Tim Kurkjian (2:13 PM)
It does factor into how I vote. I think Jim Rice was a more feared hitter in his time than Dawson. Rice also finished in the top five MVP voting six times. He's one of nine American Leaguers in history to have done that. Seven are in the Hall. A-Rod is eight, and Rice is nine. But as far as all-around complete players, you can make a case that Dawson was better even than Rice.
Pete C Newark DE
Although we cant blame him for never playing in a world series. Or for how bad most of the teams he was on where. Tim, do you think playing for the Expos is hurting him now since they lacked the national spotlight? I think the stats are there just no notarity.
Tim Kurkjian (2:15 PM)
I don't think there's any doubt that playing in Montreal hurt Dawson's visibility, as it did with Tim Raines. I used to love to go to Montreal, but most of the United States wasn't paying attention to what was happening there in the 80s, and it hurt guys like Dawson, especially since the Expos made it to the playoffs only one time.
Reid (Richmond, VA)
When folks make a case against Rice, they talk about how Fenway benefited his hitting stats. The reverse logic should apply to Dawson, because Olympic stadium certainly hurt his.
Tim Kurkjian (2:17 PM)
There's no doubt that Olympic Stadium was a big yard that didn't help his power numbers. Like Rice, Dawson played his entire career before the offensive explosion in the game, starting in the mid-90s. A really good stat guy told me yesterday that most Hall of Famers are better hitters at home than on the road, because they get comfortable in their home park. Certainly not with the same dramatic splits as Rice, but but sometimes I think too much is made out of home and road numbers.
Tim Kurkjian (2:17 PM)
They are important, but they are not everything.
Dave M Atlanta
Why doesn't the hall have a tiered system? This would allow guys like Rice and Dawson in and keep them seperate from the likes of Ruth and Gehrig.
Tim Kurkjian (2:19 PM)
I think our best baseball fans understand that there is a difference between Babe Ruth and Jim Rice, Willie Mays and Andre Dawson. I don't think we need a tier system; we just need to understand that the greatest players of all time are in one category, and great players are in another. But they can all live in the same house in Cooperstown.
Mike: (Glen Cove, NY)
What makes a guy like Andre Dawson look good to a voter as the years go on. Nothing about his career has changed so why do guys like Andre Dawson orJim Rice, or Bert Blyleven look better to voters as the years go on?
Tim Kurkjian (2:21 PM)
That's a very good question. Like anything else, we learn more about players' careers the more we examine them. The more people we talk to, the more we learn. I've always voted for Bert Blyleven, but now more people are starting to understand that he has as many shutouts as Glavine and Maddux combined. I agree it's odd that some players gain votes each year, but at the rate Blyleven and Dawson are going, they are not going to have enough time to make the Hall of Fame on the Writers' Ballot. So clearly, I am in the minority in voting for them.
Kevin (Raleigh, N.C.)
When they were playing, the perception was that Dawson was better than Raines, because on-base percentage wasn't widely known. Now everyone should know that Raines is clearly the better player. The fact that Dawson still receives much more support than Raines in the Hall of Fame voting is an indictment of the voters and how hard it is to change perceptions.
Tim Kurkjian (2:24 PM)
I agree that Tim Raines had a better career than Andre Dawson. I think they're both Hall of Famers, but when you look at Raines' numbers and remember what he was like in his prime, you would know that you were watching a Hall of Famer play. Nobody loves numbers more than I do, but sometimes I worry that we are spending too much time looking at the numbers and looking at our computer screen, rather than watching the players play. I saw Dawson and I saw Raines in their prime, and they were terrific players, and to me, Hall of Famers.
Tim, can you tell us who you voted for this time?
Tim Kurkjian (2:26 PM)
I voted for nine players. I voted for Dawson, Rice, Raines, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Bert Blyleven, Mark McGwire, Alan Trammell, and of course, Rickey Henderson. Again, I am way in the minority voting for nine guys. A good friend and fellow voter once told me that I'd better have a really good reason not to vote for a player, just in case he missed by one vote. If I don't have a really good reason, I vote for him. I have some friends who vote for ten guys every year, no matter what. I have other guys who won't vote for more than one or two, no matter what. That's the beauty of the Hall of Fame voting. Everyone has a different philosophy.
Do you think someone who doesn't vote for Henderson should have their ballot removed?
Tim Kurkjian (2:31 PM)
I'm not taking anybody's ballot from anybody, but there is absolutely no reason in the world not to vote for Rickey Henderson. He is the greatest leadoff hitter ever. He is the greatest basestealer ever, he one of the best left fielders of all time. Keep in mind, he has 468 more steals than anyone else in history, he has more steals than Joe Morgan and Maury Wills combined. The gap between No. 1 and No. 2 on the all-time steals list is greater than the total of the active steals leader, Juan Pierre. Plus, Henderson hit 297 home runs, scored more runs than anyone in history, had the second-most walks ever, and reached base more times than anyone except for Rose, Bonds, and Cobb.
Bryan Menominee MI
Besides Henderson do you honestly think anyone else will get the call?
Tim Kurkjian (2:33 PM)
I think Henderson is the only one who will go in. Jim Rice has a chance, but my guess is he's gonna miss by a few votes. I do not buy the theory that you should vote for a guy just because it's a relatively weak class, and I don't believe you shouldn't vote for a guy just because it's a really strong class. To me, a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer. You vote for him on the first ballot, you vote for him on every ballot, unless something changes your mind. That's just the way I do it. While other people do it differently, again, that's the beauty of the voting process.
Tim Kurkjian (2:34 PM)
Thanks for logging on. Those were great questions. Let's all remember how difficult the job is, to try to get your ballot right. Everyone should know what a privilege is is to be able to vote for the Hall of Fame.