Friday, January 11th, 2008
I have good news and bad news.
The bad news is I get to write about the baseball’s Hall of Fame, an institution I am becoming more and more jaded by. It symbolizes the game we all love, rooted in abstruse statistics and over-analysis.
The good news is because of said institution, I also get to write about my favorite Cub of all-time, Andre Dawson.
Before I do, I have to give my two cents on Cub trade talk. I know Brian Roberts was on my holiday wish list, but, if getting Roberts (and according to David Kaplan as of Thursday morning) means Rich Hill and several much more highly regarded players that could include Felix Pie, minor league outfielder Tyler Colvin, and others, then I have two words for Jim Hendry – forget it! Please, please, please do not trade away all of our home-grown talent. The Cub’s farm system is FINALLY starting to look a bit promising, and although I am as anxious as the next fan for a World Series, what I’ve seen is that winning, consistent teams are built around a strong farm system.
Moving on, in case you haven’t heard, the only member of the Cooperstown Class of 2008 is Goose Gossage. He became only the fifth relief pitcher elected to the Hall of Fame, earning baseball’s highest honor in his ninth try on the ballot. The Goose received 466 of 543 votes (85.8 percent) from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
I think voters have overcome their bias against relief pitchers but Gossage will be the last one to join the likes of Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Bruce Sutter for a long while. Relief pitching has become so compartmentalized and specialized. These days, we are lucky to see the closer for three outs, whereas Gossage just pitched and pitched and pitched. I think baseball fans will have to wait for the next generation of relief pitchers to be inducted – the names Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman come to mind.
HOF voters may have overcome their bias, but they didn’t overcome some really bonehead votes. Travis Fryman accumulated two votes? I didn’t even know what team he played for before I looked it up. Then you have Rick Telander, who didn’t even fill out his ballot this year. Are you telling me that because of the Mitchell Report and voters like Telander, who have “no wind in their sails,” legitimate HOF candidates may be denied their proper place in the history of the game? That is just bogus.
Speaking of legitimate candidates, hometown favorite Andre Dawson did not make it again, although I wasn’t as much surprised as I was sad. He came up short for the 2007 edition as well, garnering 56.9% (309) of the votes. There are two reasons I think Andre Dawson should be in the HOF. The first appeals to the inner baseball card nerd in all of us, statistics. First and foremost, hitting 400+ home runs and stealing 300+ bases puts you in pretty elite company. He was dominant in his era with 1,373 runs, 2,774 hits and 1,591 RBIs, and don’t forget about the eight Gold Gloves.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that in terms of the HOF, the bigger the club, the less prestigious it is. I also understand that, while most everyone would say Dawson was good, not everyone agrees that he was on a whole different level than the rest of the field. In my mind, the HOF would not be worse off with Andre Dawson in it.
The second reasons why Andre Dawson should be in HOF will appeal to the giddy Cub fan in all of us – purely sentimental. And yes, I do realize sentimental reasons do not get players in the HOF. Dawson was the first Cub that I officially labeled my “favorite” and because of that I chose # 8 for every team I played on. Who doesn’t remember that Chicago poster back in the day, the Hawk with a bat, Walter with a football and MJ holding a basketball – all in tuxedos no less? When Dawson stood in the box, do you remember how intimidating he looked? He didn’t intimidate in that big, meat head type of way either, but more of an “I dare you to pitch to me” sort of way. Who can forget his rocket from right field?
Remember that game in 1987 against the Padres when Dawson took an Eric Show fastball to the cheek? As I was watching it on television, him laying there motionless, I honestly thought he was dead. He couldn’t even move to charge the mound, so you know what happened? His teammates did it for him. Dawson is that type of guy. The HOF voters are always preaching integrity and class as critical components of the voting process, well then wake up because Andre Dawson encompasses both.
The Hawk also exemplified my favorite type of baseball player; one who works hard, plays hard and for the most part, doesn’t say much. He let his on-field talent do the talking. Dawson won the National League MVP the year the Cubs finished last. How often does that happen? Besides A Rod, not very often. Also, remember the man’s knees? Sometimes it just hurt watching him.
He has HOF backers. Ryne Sandberg said this about Dawson at his own Hall induction:
“No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson. He’s the best I’ve ever seen. I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987, and it was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will stand up here someday.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
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