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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Will this January 7 be happier for the former member of the January 7 Seven? We’ll find out today.
Andre Dawson | RF/CF/DH | Montreal, Chicago (NL), Boston, Florida
1) Was he ever regarded as the best player in baseball? Did anybody, while he was active, ever suggest that he was the best player in baseball?
Dawson was voted the Most Valuable Player of the National League in 1987. It is debatable whether or not he was considered by most to have been a better player than the AL MVP that year, George Bell, but a significant amount of people definitely thought that way.
2) Was he the best player on his team?
Most of the time, no.
During Dawson?s 10 full seasons with Montreal he was rarely the best player on the team, as that honor usually went to Gary Carter or Tim Raines.
Here are his Win Shares and team ranking for each of his 10 seasons in Montreal, along with the player that led the team:
1977: 18 Win Shares, 3rd on Expos (Gary Carter, 25)
In 10 total seasons with Montreal, Dawson led the team in Win Shares once, finished 2nd 3 times, 3rd 4 times, 4th once and 5th once.
Dawson then moved onto Chicago, where he played for 5 seasons:
1987: 20, T-1st
As with the Expos, Dawson was rarely the best player on the Cubs in a given season.
While Dawson was with Montreal, the best Expo was Gary Carter and then Tim Raines. While with Chicago, the best Cub was Ryne Sandberg.
3) Was he the best player in baseball at his position? Was he the best player in the league at his position?
Yes, but mostly no.
Dawson was a center fielder from 1977-1983. From 1977-1979, Dawson was the best centerfielder in the National League and may have been the best centerfielder in baseball, although that honor probably goes to Fred Lynn.
Overall, 1980-1983, Dawson was neither the best CF in the NL or in baseball, as that honor went to Dale Murphy, although Dawson was probably the best CF in 1981, when Murphy hit very poorly in the strike shortened season.
Dawson was a right fielder from 1984-1992. He was neither the best right fielder in the NL or in MLB during that time. That honor went to Tony Gwynn and probably would have gone to several other players (Jose Canseco, Darrell Evans, Dale Murphy, Dave Winfield, Darryl Strawberry, etc) before it got to Dawson.
4) Did he have an impact on a number of pennant races?
For a guy that played for the Cubs and Expos, yes.
Otherwise, not really.
During Dawson?s 11 year stay with the Expos, here are their best seasons:
Montreal finished second in the NL East in 1979 and 1980. The Expos made the post-season in the strike shortened 1981 season by winning the second-half title for the NL East and won the NLDS, before losing to the Dodgers in the NLCS. Montreal finished third in the NL East in 1982 and 1983 and again in 1985.
While in Chicago, the Cubs won the NL East in 1989 and lost to the Giants in the NLCS. In his other 5 years with the Cubs they finished 6th, 4th, 5th, 4th and 4th.
Dawson?s team didn?t finish over .500 in any of his 4 years with the Red Sox or Marlins at the end of his career.
During Dawson?s 21 year career his teams were closer to last place more often than they were first place.
In his 2 trips to the post-season Dawson hit .186/.226/.237 with 0 homers and 3 RBIs in 15 games.
5) Was he good enough that he could play regularly after passing his prime?
Dawson put up good seasons until the age of 37 and then dropped off quite a bit.
From 35-37 he posted OPS+ seasons of 136, 115 and 114, while playing right field for the Cubs everyday.
At 38 he left Chicago and went to Boston, where his adjusted OPS fell below league average for the first time in 16 seasons. He played semi-regularly for the Red Sox in 1993, totaling slightly less than 500 plate appearances.
Dawson put up a 82 OPS+ with the Red Sox in 1994, at age 39. He only had 306 plate appearances, but that season was shortened by the strike and Dawson played almost every day as the DH.
He joined the Marlins for his age 40 and 41 seasons. Dawson totaled only 246 PAs in the abbreviated 1995 season and then only 61 PAs in 1996, his final year.
Dawson was good enough to play regularly through about age 38 and then his production dropped way below league-average and his playing time lessened considerably.
6) Is he the very best player in history who is not in the Hall of Fame?
There are several players on this year?s ballot alone that have much stronger cases than Dawson does and there are also several players that were eligible in the past and did not make it that probably deserve induction more than "Hawk."
7) Are most players who have comparable statistics in the Hall of Fame?
There are 5 Hall of Famers (Billy Williams, Tony Perez, Ernie Banks, Dave Winfield and Al Kaline) among Dawson?s "Most Similar" list at BaseballReference.com. Also on the list are 2 eligible non-Hall of Famers (Vada Pinson and Dwight Evans), 1 currently eligible player (Dave Parker) and 2 not yet eligible players (Rafael Palmeiro and Harold Baines).
At least a couple of those 5 current non-Hall of Famers will probably be inducted someday, but as it stands now, out of the 8 "Most Similar" players that have been eligible for the HoF, 5 of them made it.
8) Do the player?s numbers meet Hall of Fame standards?
Andre Dawson scores a 43.7 on the "Hall of Fame Standards" test (the "average Hall of Famer" scores approximately 50) and a 117.5 on the "Hall of Fame Monitor" test (a "likely Hall of Famer" scores over 100).
Dawson ranks 29th all-time in games played, with 2,627. There are several eligible players ahead of him on the games played list that are not in the Hall of Fame: Rusty Staub (11th), Graig Nettles (24th) and Darrell Evans (25th).
Dawson ranks 42nd all-time in hits, with 2,774. All of the eligible players ahead of him on the list are in the HoF, but several players directly behind him are not: Vada Pinson (43rd), Al Oliver (45th), Rusty Staub (49th), Bill Buckner (50th).
Dawson ranks 23rd all-time in total bases, with 4,787. Every eligible player in the top 40 is in the HoF.
Dawson ranks 38th all-time in doubles, with 503. Only 1 eligible player in the top 40 is not in the HoF, Al Oliver (25th).
Several players immediately after Dawson on the list are not Hall of Famers: Rusty Staub (40th), Bill Bucker (41st), Mickey Vernon (45th), Vada Pinson (50th).
Dawson ranks 29th all-time in home runs, with 438. The only eligible player ahead of him and not in the HoF is Dave Kingman (28th). Several players near Dawson on the list are not in the HoF: Darrell Evans (32nd), Graig Nettles (38th) and Dwight Evans (41st).
Dawson ranks 27th all-time in RBIs, with 1,591. Every eligible player in the top 40 is in the HoF.
Dawson ranks 21st all-time in extra base hits, with 1,039. The only eligible player in the top 40 that is not in the HoF is Dwight Evans (34th).
9) Is there any evidence to suggest that the player was significantly better or worse than is suggested by his statistics?
Yes and no.
In the first half of his career, while with the Expos, Dawson played in a tough park for hitters, Olympic Stadium.
Then, later in his career, with the Cubs, Dawson played in Wrigley Field, which was a great place for hitters - particularly power hitters - while Dawson was there.
As a whole, his power numbers being helped by Wrigley are probably offset by the hit his batting average took while playing in Olympic Stadium.
Dawson was also a very good defensive center fielder early in his career, before injuries took a huge toll on his knees, and he was a pretty good defensive right fielder with the Expos and Cubs later on.
He won Gold Gloves in 8 straight seasons, from 1980-1987, 4 as a center fielder and 4 as a right fielder.
10) Is he the best player at his position who is eligible for the Hall of Fame?
That depends on what position he is.
As a right fielder, guys like Dewey Evans, Tony Oliva and current candidate Dave Parker may have good arguments over Dawson. Actually, guys like Reggie Smith, Ken Singleton, Jack Clark and Bobby Bonds have decent cases over Dawson too.
Basically, right field is a tough group. It has a ton of good candiates and already boasts the most members of any non-pitcher position in the Hall of Fame.
11) How many MVP-type seasons did he have? Did he ever win an MVP award? If not, how many times was he close?
Strangely enough, Dawson?s one MVP award (1987, with Chicago) came in a season that he really wasn?t such a great MVP candidate.
His "real" MVP-type seasons all came while he was with Montreal, when he finished 2nd in the voting in 1981 and 1983 and 7th in 1980.
12) How many All-Star-type seasons did he have? How many All-Star games did he play in? Did most of the players who in played in this many All-Star games go into the Hall of Fame?
Dawson played in 8 All-Star games, 3 in a row from 1981-1983 and then 5 years in a row from 1987-1991. He had at least a marginal All-Star-type season pretty much every year from 1977-1992.
8 All-Star games is a good total, but not an overly impressive number for a Hall of Fame player.
Hall of Famers with a total of 8 All-Star games include: Duke Snider, Nolan Ryan, Ernie Lombardi, Catfish Hunter, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford, Rick Ferrell, Bob Feller, Don Drysdale, Roy Campanella and Lou Boudreau.
On the other hand, there are many players that appeared in 8 career All-Star games and are not in the Hall-of-Fame: Vern Stephens, Ted Simmons, Walker Cooper, Del Crandall, Gil Hodges, Bob Johnson, Harvey Kuenn, Marty Marion, Tony Oliva and Lance Parrish.
13) If this man were the best player on his team, would it be likely that the team could win the pennant?
Dawson was a good player, but a team with him as its best probably would not have competed for a pennant in most seasons.
He never totaled 30 Win Shares in a season and only got over 25 3 times.
14) What impact did the player have on baseball history? Was he responsible for any rule changes? Did he introduce any new equipment? Did he change the game in any way?
The only thing that seems obvious to me for this question is Dawson?s situation in 1987.
Dawson was a free agent after 10+ seasons playing on the artificial surface in Montreal and he desperately wanted to get himself and his aching knees onto a grass playing surface, preferably with the Chicago Cubs.
He had difficulty finding a new place to play because of the collusion that was taking place during the 1987 off-season and he eventually agreed to play for the Cubs by giving them a blank contract with his signature on it.
Dawson ended up making only $700,000 for the 1987 season and won the MVP award in no small part because of his off-season story.
15) Did the player uphold the standards of sportsmanship and character that the Hall of Fame, in its written guidelines, instructs us to consider?
By all accounts, Dawson was a hell of a guy and a fierce competitor.
I have 3 stories to relay, two come from my uncle and one comes from me:
While on vacation in Chicago, my uncle attended a Cubs/Reds game at Wrigley in which Andre Dawson went completely ballistic, was ejected from the game and ended up, in my uncle?s words, "Throwing everything in the entire dugout onto the field."
My uncle also recalls that, while he was in Arizona for Spring Training, he witnessed Dawson standing in the parking lot after a game, signing autographs for dozens of fans in the rain.
About 3 years ago I was at a banquet held at a Sports Card and Memorabilia convention in Chicago and Andre Dawson (and Mike Singletary, Fergie Jenkins and Nate Archibald) were the guests of honor and signed autographs for everyone in attendance following dinner. I was in line with my Dawson picture ready to be signed when Dawson stopped signing for a moment, turned to some guy that was standing behind him and asked "When does this thing get over?" in a way that suggested he was more than a little sick of signing autographs. After he got his answer, Dawson turned back to the table, took the next picture to sign and proceeded to have about a 5 minute conversation with the next few people in line.
Dawson does reasonably well on the Keltner test.
He was never really the best player in baseball and he was rarely the best on his team or at his position, but the majority of his "Most Similar" players are in the HoF or will be soon and his overall numbers are generally up to the standards of the Hall of Fame.
Dawson?s stats came at the expense of an awful lot of outs. His career OBP of .323 is actually about 10 points worse than the league average while he played, which is just awful for a Hall of Famer. However, it is difficult to ignore his counting stats, particularly the homers, hits and RBIs and Dawson will almost certainly be a Hall of Famer eventually.
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