Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What the Hawk?

Let's have a quiz. I will give you some career data on two different baseball players. One of them is going to the Hall of Fame and one of them was rejected again on Monday. Think you can tell which is which?

Player A: 382 homeruns, 1,451 RBIs, 2,452 hits, 373 doubles, 79 triples, 58 stolen bases, .298 batting average.

Player B: 438 homeruns, 1,591 RBIs, 2,774 hits, 503 doubles, 98 triples, 314 stolen bases, .279 batting average.

Player A won an MVP award, finished in the top 5 in MVP voting five times, and received MVP votes in eight different seasons.

Player B won an MVP award, finished second twice, and received MVP votes in nine different seasons.

Player A was Rookie of the Year runner-up. Player B won Rookie of the Year.

Player A went to eight All-Star Games, four as a starter. Player B went to eight as well, seven as a starter.

Player A won two Silver Slugger Awards. Player B won four.

Player A did not win a Gold Glove for his defense. Player B won eight.

The major difference between these two hitters seems to be that Player A hit for a higher average and that Player B had more speed and was better in the field. Otherwise they are pretty close.

Who do you suppose got the call to the Hall? Those who said Player A, also known as Jim Rice, get the prize. Player B, also known as Andre Dawson, got only 67% of the vote (75% is needed for induction).

I don't get it. I just don't get it. The stories about Jim Rice finally getting the call during the fifteenth and final year he was going to be on the ballot all seem to mention in one way or another that the media did not like him very much because he was always kind of a jerk. Surely, the stories surmise, he would have been inducted sooner if he had maybe been a little nicer to reporters.

So what did "The Hawk" do wrong? He didn't play in a major market until his knees were shot to hell. His best years were spent in Montreal playing for a team that had almost no following or media exposure. No one saw him play on any regular basis.

The stadium in Montreal was a cavernous concrete dump with a thin layer of astroturf. It was ridiculously hard to hit a homerun there, but he still managed to hit 438. The astroturf shredded his knees and robbed him of his speed. At the end of his career, he could barely walk, much less run.

By the time he got to the Cubs he only had a couple of good seasons left in him. His first season playing on the grass of Wrigley Field resulted in him setting a career high in homeruns, but his doubles total went down. Quite simply, a good number of balls that would have been doubles in Montreal became homeruns. He would have quite easily had the magic number of 500 homeruns had he played his entire career in Wrigley.

I had hoped that the 1987 MVP year that the world got to see on WGN would open some eyes to just how good Andre was, but the fact that the Cubs finished in last place that year is held against him. Unfortunately, when the Cubs made it to the playoffs in 1989, he was a shell of his former self. He had been playing hurt all year and it showed in the playoffs, going only 2 for 19.

He rebounded in his next 3 years in Chicago, driving in an additional 294 runs, but the national press never got to see him in a playoff game again.

So, Andre Dawson, one of the most classy individuals in the game, is shut out of the Hall because he played in Montreal, had the misfortune to be injured during the one shining moment when everyone was paying attention, and because his career finished just as the steroid era was hitting full-stride and making the power numbers of the 1980s look feeble by comparison.

He did everything. He had speed, power, average, a cannon for an arm, and tremendous defensive instincts. Only three players have ever accumulated 400+ homeruns and 300+ stolen bases in their careers: Willie Mays, Barry Bonds, and Andre Dawson. I would have traded Sammy Sosa at his peak for a healthy Dawson on any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I thought he had a shot this year. Rickey Henderson was the only significant name added to the ballot. The writers are still on their horses about steroid use, so I thought it might be possible to reward the guys who put up pretty impressive numbers for their era. The guys who had to be mentioned in any discussion about the best outfielders in the 1980s. I thought this would be the year that Rice and Dawson both made it since they are such similiar players.

But Jim Rice gets in, and Andre Dawson does not? It is simply baffling.


Anonymous said...

2 for 19? Wow! He would have been an all-star in the heart of the 2007 Cubs lineup.

Anonymous said...

:( boo hoo. I L-O-V-E-D Andre! I was very disappointed he didn't get in. Must even very talented nice guys finish last?!

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