Justice Is Served

January 6, 2010 5:35 PM

Dawson a curious choice for Hall of Fame

My friend Nick's question was simple: "What do you think of this year's HOF vote?"


I'm guessing that Nick figured I had a thought or two about the announcement today that Andre Dawson had been selected for induction into baseball's holiest shrine. Nick was right, too; I did have thoughts.

Here's what I wrote Nick:

"Stunned, actually. I never looked at Andre Dawson as a Hall of Famer. He had great seasons, no doubt about that. But the Hall of Fame isn't the Hall of Good, and Dawson doesn't measure up to the other great outfielders who are in Cooperstown.

"The fact that he made it over Roberto Alomar is stunning, which shows how quirky the Hall of Fame voters are. He's a lifetime .279 hitter with only 438 homers, a number that should have been a lot higher for someone who played 21 seasons.

"Again, Nick, just a stunning vote."

Probably no more stunned than Nick, though.

He and I have no issue with Dawson's career, because he had a "good" career. But the Hall of Fame ought not to honor good careers, because the sport is littered with retired ballplayers with "good" careers who are not inducted at Cooperstown.

In my mind, Dawson's career was no better than Dave Parker's, and Parker has two batting titles to go along with his MVP award. Yet he hasn't gotten without a New York City block of getting into the Hall of Fame.

I do understand that Parker carries baggage with him. His dance with drugs in the 1980s ruined any chance he had of getting into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. So I don't cry for Parker one bit.

Nor am I calling the selection of Dawson a joke from "Saturday Night Live" skit, because sportswriters take their votes seriously. I suspect they did have their reasons. But if he got in - and Dawson's career as a premier outfielder wasn't as long as others - how could my journalistic comrades not vote Alomar and Barry Larkin in?

For most of their careers, Alomar and Larkin were the best middle infielders of their generation, no apologies to Cal Ripken Jr., Ryne Sandberg and Ozzie Smith.

Again, my purpose isn't to deconstruct the careers of men like Ripken, Sandberg and Smith; my purpose is to wonder about the omission of two men on the 2010 ballot who were every bit as deserving as they were.

It's also to wonder aloud what made Dawson the flavor of this Hall of Fame class. He had no signature statistical achievement. Dawson, who retired in 1996, did have some elite years, no question about that fact. In his prime, "Hawk" was a Gold Glove outfielder, but his prime was a sliver of his 21-year career and not the bulk of it.

And absent huge slugging numbers, Dawson is in the same category as Curt Flood or Ellis Burks or Reggie Smith: good, but not good enough to be walking on sacred grounds.

But people see different things in different ballplayers. For all the Dick Allens, Kirk Gibsons and the like who aren't in, there are players with similar career totals who are in.

The Allens and Floods and Parkers will likely remain out. They will have to no speeches to make, thanking all who contributed to their careers. They will sit back and weigh, as I do now, why they fell short in the balloting and why, oh, someone like Andre Dawson didn't.

"Yeah, I don't think I'll ever understand why a player isn't worth a vote one year but is five years later," Nick said. I think Alomar and (Bert) Blyleven get in next year."

Maybe they will, Nick. For now, it's Andre Dawson's time to bask in baseball's spotlight.

Welcome to the Hall of Good, Hawk!

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