Does Andre Dawson Belong in the Hall of Fame?
In his ninth year on the sportwriter's ballot, Andre Dawson has been elected to baseball's Hall of Fame. Should he be there?
Don't get me wrong. I hold no ill will against Mr. Dawson. I wish him well and congratulate him on his selection to Cooperstown. I would have loved to root for him had he been a Dodger. Yet I can't help but asking, did he really have a Hall of Fame career?
His .279 lifetime batting average is respectable, but its not .300, the criterion for a truly great hitter. He had 478 home runs over a 21-year major league career. That is very good, but it's not 500 home runs, the usual measure of greatness for a slugger. Likewise, Dawson's 2774 career hits falls short of the magic number of 3000. He ranks 45th all time in hits, 36th in home runs, 34th in RBIs and 25th in total bases. Those numbers testify to a very good career. But was it a Hall of Fame career?
Perhaps Dawson's greatest claim to fame is that he joins Barry Bonds and Willie Mays as the only players with more than 400 home runs and more than 300 stolen bases. We will leave Barry aside--his dalliance with chemicals throws his future admission to the Hall of Fame very much in doubt. The tragedy is that Barry Bonds would have been a great player in any era of the game, even without performance-enhancing drugs.
But Willie Mays's numbers show the gap between a good player such as Andre Dawson and greatness. The Say Hey Kid hit 660 home runs, to go along with his 338 stolen bases. He had 3283 hits. His lifetime batting average was .302.
I know--it's unfair to compare anyone to Willie Mays. Nonetheless, the comparison makes my point. Willie Mays was a great player. Ted Williams was a great player. Mantle, Cobb, Ruth, Clemente were great. Andre Dawson was merely a very good player.
Admittedly, there are already many players in the Hall of Fame who were just good, not great. I suppose it comes down to what the Hall of Fame is supposed to be. Is it a shrine of baseball immortals, or a roster of good players? If it's the latter, then no question, Andre Dawson belongs there. But it started out as more.