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Andre Dawson, Hall Of Famer


 

Andre Dawson has been elected to the Hall of Fame, and I’m of two minds about this. As an Expos fan, I naturally have some affection for Andre Dawson. On the other hand, I started following the Expos in 1985, when he only had two more seasons with the team, not very good ones at that. And while Dawson was certainly a terrific player in his prime, and had a better career overall than a number of other Hall of Famers (including recent HoF inductee Jim Rice), he certainly was not a better player than his fellow Expo Tim Raines, who only got 30% of the vote this year — and that was a better-than-usual showing for him. I know I’ve beaten the Raines drum before, but come on: Dawson’s lifetime on-base percentage was .323; in a similar number of games, Raines’s OBP was .385. Dawson had more RBIs, but guess who he was driving in a lot of the time?

That stat sort of sums up Dawson: he was a great player at everything except the most important thing a player can do, getting on base. Bill James — who also wrote a memorable takedown of Dawson’s MVP selection in 1987, one of the most undeserved awards of the era — wrote in the mid-’80s that he would rank first at his position “if he didn’t insist on swinging at 3-and-1 pitches no matter where they are.” In 1983, playing almost every game, he only drew 26 walks that weren’t intentional, so despite having one of his best seasons, he had a poor OBP — which, more tangibly, means he made a whole lot of outs.

This is not to say he wasn’t a great player in his prime. In 1983, his triple crown stats look (by today’s standards) merely good: .299 average, 32 homers, 113 RBI. But they’re much more impressive than they look. Batting stats were lower across the board in 1983 (especially in the National League), and Olympic Stadium was a poor hitter’s park at the time. Dale Murphy won the MVP award that year, but Dawson’s performance in road games was much, much better than Murphy’s; if he and Murphy had both been playing in the same park, it would have been clear that Dawson was a better hitter. (The reason his power numbers exploded in 1987 was that he moved from Olympic Stadium to Wrigley Field, and at the same time, home run numbers had a huge one-year spurt all over the league. So he went from having his numbers severely deflated to having them inflated, even though he wasn’t anywhere near as good a hitter as he had once been.) Throw in his speed (until he got knee problems), his throwing arm, and his status as a respected team-leader type, and you’ve got a very fine player. There are lots of non-HoF-ers who are better, but he’ll be in there with lots of players who weren’t as good.


 
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Andre Dawson, Hall Of Famer

  1. Nice to see some knowledgable baseball commentary from Macleans!

  2. Well, I really agree with your analysis. I think part of Raines' problems, from what I remember, is that his career was always overshadowed by Rickie Henderson, who played a very similar game, but better. So there were many years that Raines' didn't get the attention for steals or OBP because Rickie was posting all-time numbers.
    Still, I think Dawson had some great years, and it may be that when you started following Spos he was already in decline.

  3. yeah very nice piece Jaime. And I fully agree, it is preposterous the Rock isn't in before the Hawk.

  4. The first and last time I cared about baseball was in the early 80s when the Expos were supposed to be the team of the decade. Dawson and Raines were my two favourite players, and I agree that as great as the Hawk was, Raines had a better career. Of course the guy who really should be getting more love is Warren Cromartie.

  5. Wow. I'm surprised Alomar didn't get in.

    Hock one little loogie and you have to wait an extra 365 days to get in to the Hall of Fame.

  6. Growing up in Montreal in late 70's early 80's there was a lot love for The Montreal Expos and this might be the last time we ever here anything again from this once historic team that I cared so much for.
    With that being said I've waited like many Expos fans to hear this great news I hope that # 10 will wear the expos uniform into the hall…
    LONG LIVE THE HAWK

  7. smith makes a good point, some teams would indeed start CF and middle infielders (like Rodney scott for the spos) who couldn't hit at all, just to have decent fielders in key positions. Dawson was a huge asset in the field, Raines a liability.

    I admired Dawson, playing so hard with such wonky knees, and with far more passion than the flaky Raines, but as a fan who followed his career from the Pioneer league I was never optimistic when Dawson was up with the game on the line. He and Wallach were great at striking out in clutch situations. Give me Ellie Valentine or The Kid any day, and the Rock was also someone you wanted at the plate in a close game.

  8. Depends what you mean by Dawson's 'prime'. He was done as a CF by the age of 28 and replaced there by…. Tim Raines!

  9. I think he played part-time centre field for a few more years, but in any case 6 straight Golden Gloves in those years he could play centre field! (you can look up how many Raines got) Also remarkable given his knees is that he made the 400 hr, 300 steal club along with two other lightweights named Mays and Bonds.

    But all those great stats detract from the main point… you would have had a hard time finding any serious student of the game that would have put Raines over Dawson during those years, (young Jaime excluded) This is in part because all of the intangibles and difficult to quantify aspects of their abilities were fully evident. Baseball stands up to more statistical analysis than any other major sport, but people who as a result argue that all there is to baseball is stats are simply wrong.

  10. Right, the classic argument about the difficult-to-quantify things that are so very important to the game. "The Expos outscored the Dodgers 5-3 in mere runs last night, but were defeated by a margin of alpha to qwyjibo on intangibles. This moved L.A. into quuxpth overall in the intangible standings, putting them the square-root-of-negative-one intangible games behind, though also above, San Diego." And while we're at it, are these intangibles at least specifiable?

  11. range on defense
    positioning on defense taking account of scouting reports and your pitchers strategy
    keeping the ball in front of you on difficult plays
    communicating with other fielders (avoids those SportsCenter pleasing crashes)
    getting in position to make a throw on routine flys
    ability to hit in the clutch
    decision making about when to attempt a steal
    hitting behind the runner
    wearing your hand inside out BEFORE the rally starts
    hitting the cutoff man
    advancing to third on a ground out
    holding runners through your arm's reputation
    changing the pitchers strategy to the previous hitter
    breaking up double plays
    taking a strike from a pitcher struggling with control
    taking 3rd on an outfielders bobble (like say on any ball to Rains)
    taking a strike to let your teammate steal (like say anytime Rains was on first)
    executing a sacrifice efficiently

    Of course there is an entire list of leadership, locker-room type stuff that does indeed lack specifiability. They truly exist but the lack makes them very hard to list.

    • Actually, some of those things are quantifiable; I don't think the numbers are available for the early '80s, but statisticians have been tracking extra bases taken for at least a few years. And last I checked, "executing a sacrifice efficiently" was pretty adequately covered by, you know, sac flies, sac bunts, sac hits, etc.

      Of course, given everything else you're saying, I'm thinking that "Dawson had better intangibles" is just code for "I have my opinion and I'm sticking to it no matter what!"

  12. Sorry but I have to disagree. In his prime Hawk was one of the best centre fielders in the game, during an era when having a premier centre fielder was so important that many teams were willing to sacrafice a lot of offense at that position.
    Raines was exciting on offense and defense, every fly ball was an adventure, and he threw like a girl. (By that I mean like a girlie girl… not one of those amazing females I play softball with.)

    Also during those days it was widely recognized that Hawk was the team and Raines was an interesting sideshow. No doubt the great storyline in Chicago also helped. After all it is the Hall of Fame… not the Hall of Really Great Stats.

  13. "you would have had a hard time finding any serious student of the game that would have put Raines over Dawson during those years"

    Not true. Jonah Keri posted excerpts from a 1984 SI article here – http://jonahkeri.com/2010/01/06/on-tim-raines-and

    Some hilights:

    Expos coach Felipe Alou, who played alongside Willie Mays with the Giants and therefore knows a little about the position, says of Raines, “I think he'll wind up as the best centerfielder in the game. He may not have Mays's or Dawson's arm, but he has great range, and with his speed he can play shallow. He gets a good jump on the ball, and he's not bothered by walls. He has a great sense of where he is on the field. Mays had that. You'd think Willie would kill himself running into a wall, but he never did.” Manager Bill Virdon, himself a premier centerfielder in the '50s and '60s, says Raines has “the three ingredients you need to be a centerfielder—judgment, speed and good hands. And he covers so much ground, he was wasted in leftfield.”

    Teammate Pete Rose is unequivocal in assessing Raines: “Right now he's the best player in the National League. Mike Schmidt is a tremendous player and so are Dale Murphy and Andre Dawson, but Rock [ Raines's nickname, more about that later] can beat you in more ways than any other player in the league. He can beat you with his glove, his speed and his hitting from either side of the plate. And he has the perfect disposition for a great player—he has fun. He's just a happy guy. You can't tell if he has gone oh for four or four for four. He's the same at eight in the morning as he is at eight at night. I've never seen him in a bad mood. And as far as running the bases, I don't see how they ever throw him out. But he doesn't just do it on speed alone. He knows the pitchers, so he gets a great jump.”

    Say what you will about Pete Rose, but I think he counts as 'a serious student of the game'.

  14. i think the other issue is Rock's known cocaine problem at the time. baseball, more then any other sport, has a (not laways consistent) moralistic consideration in its HOF selections.

  15. In addition to Mike;s post, Jonah Keri is not the only one. Rob Neyer has an excellent piece on Raines' worthiness on ESPN as well. From Neyer's piece:

    "All told, Raines reached base nearly 4,000 times. We know that 3,000 hits is a lot of hits. But how many times on base is 4,000? Only 40 players in major league history have reached base 4,000 times. Of those 40 players, 33 are eligible for the Hall of Fame. Of those 33, 32 have been elected to the Hall of Fame…Granted, Raines did not reach base 4,000 times; he reached base 3,977 times. "

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hof10/columns/story

    He is also the only modern player eligible for the HOF with at least 1,500 runs scored and not in.

    And on intagibles, I will take Peter Gamons who I think can be considered srs, no?

    "Raines made every team he was on better, not just because he was such a good player, but because his effervescent personality made teammates relax and play better; you'd go out to the cage and players would all be following him around."

    http://raines30.com/c81.shtml

    The idea that the Hawk is better is questionable, the idea that the Hawk's case is a slam dunk is silly.

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