Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dawson Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

In his ninth year of eligibility, Andre Dawson was today elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dawson received 77.9% of the votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America. The threshold is 75%. Pitcher Bert Blyleven and second baseman Roberto Alomar narrowly missed being inducted receiving 74.2% and 73.7%, respectively. It is worth noting that this was Alomar's first time on the ballot. His controversial confrontation with umpire John Hirshbeck in 1996 probably cost him a few votes this time around. But both he and Blyleven should get their toe over the line in 2011.

I started watching Dawson play in the late 1970s when he was a core member of those great Montreal Expos teams. Dawson played alongside Gary Carter (also in Cooperstown), Warren Cromartie, Ellis Valentine, Larry Parrish and later on Tim Wallach and Tim Raines (who also deserves to be in Cooperstown) were in the mix.

Dawson made his presence known when he won the 1977 NL Rookie of the Year. Interestingly, the AL Rookie of the Year that year was Eddie Murray who also has a plaque at Cooperstown. The only other set of NL/AL Rookies of the Year who are in the Hall are Tom Seaver and Rod Carew who won NL/AL Rookie honors in 1967 as well as Frank Robinson and Luis Aparicio who won NL/AL Rookie honors in 1956.

During his decade in Montreal, The Hawk won six Gold Gloves for his play in centerfield, won three Silver Sluggers and was selected to the All Star team thrice. In 1983, Dawson finished runner up to Dale Murphy in the NL MVP balloting.

But playing on the hard artificial turf in Olympic Stadium took its toll on his knees. His offensive production declined between 1984 and 1986. In fact, many believed his career was over as there was virtually little interest in his services after he became a free agent following the '86 season.

In fact, Dawson signed a blank contract with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 1987 season. For $500,000, Dawson hit .288 with 49 home runs and 137 RBI en route to the NL MVP. Dawson won the honor despite the fact the Cubs finished in last place in the NL East. While Dawson never approached those numbers again he did enjoy five more solid seasons at Wrigley before playing two seasons with the Boston Red Sox and two more seasons with the Florida Marlins. Dawson retired following the 1996 season.

Dawson finished his big league career with 2,774 hits, a .279 average, 438 home runs and 1591 RBI. With two more Gold Gloves in Chicago he had eight for his career. He was also selected to the NL All Star team eight times. Baserunners feared Dawson's deadly accurate throwing arm. In one game while with the Cubs in 1987, a batter hit what appeared to be a single into right field but Dawson managed to throw out the slow footed runner at first base. Oh by the way, Dawson hit for the cycle in that same game.

But the Bill James devotees didn't like Dawson's career OBP of .323. This as much as anything else kept The Hawk out of the Hall. In 1980, Dawson drew a career high 44 walks. Well, Dawson was being paid to hit the ball out of the park not to get on base. But when he did get on base early in his career he could run. By the end of the 1983 season, Dawson compiled 199 stolen bases and had more than 300 for his career. In fact, Dawson, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds are the only MLB players to finish with at least 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases.

Well, they couldn't deny The Hawk forever. Dawson will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 25th along with manager Whitey Herzog and umpire Doug Harvey this summer. Herzog and Harvey were elected to the Hall by the Veterans Committee last month. The only thing that isn't clear is whether Dawson will go into the Hall as an Expo or as a Cub. Gary Carter is currently the only Hall of Famer who was enshrined as an Expo. Despite winning a NL MVP with the Cubs, Dawson played most of his career in Montreal so I think he will be inducted as an Expo and that's the way it should be.

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