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Dawson

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The results of the BBWAA's Hall of Fame voting are announced next week, and the MLB.com team sites are pushing candidates representing their respective franchises. Somewhat uncomfortably, I'd imagine, Pravda-DC Bureau runs a glowing review of the career of Andre Dawson, one of the best-known stars of the former Montreal Expos.

Perhaps even more uncomfortably, the article is primarily a review of Dawson's years in Chicago, in which he enjoyed a post-Montreal renaissance. It is highlighted by a quotation from Ryne Sandberg, during the Hall of Famer's own induction speech, in which he openly advocated for his former teammate's inclusion in Cooperstown:

"No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson," Sandberg said of the man known as "The Hawk." "He's the best I've ever seen.

"I watched him win an MVP for a last-place team in 1987 [with the Cubs], and it was the most unbelievable thing I've ever seen in baseball," Sandberg said. "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."

Dawson received the sixth-highest percentage of votes last year, falling nearly twenty-five percent short of the threshold to induction. It was his best return in four years on the ballot, and I'd suspect he has a decent if somewhat outside shot at covering the remaining the ground in year five; as widely noted, this year's ballot does not contain an overly impressive array of names.

It's most likely now or 2008, or even 2010, for Dawson, as the list of candidates for upcoming years reveals that '07 will be the year of Gwynn and Ripken, at least. Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco are also eligible next year, which ought to be interesting---as well as Harold Baines, a player with fairly similar statistics, and Paul O'Neill, the first member of the current Yankees' dynasty to be up for the vote. The only legitimate candidate coming aboard in 2008 is actually a former Expos' teammate, Tim Raines, though Raines seems to be regarded as a longshot at this early juncture. But 2009 brings another certain inductee, Rickey Henderson, and you have to figure that new and existing spillover candidates will continue to compete with Dawson for the voters' attention.

I feel a bit weird about commenting on Dawson's Hall of Fame merits, at least in my role as a Natty blogger. I don't want to sound demeaning, or at least impolitic, toward a former Montreal star. But I will refer you to the evaluation of Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci, back in 2004:

Dawson is definitely on the bubble. Why? He did compile some impressive career numbers (as Harold Baines did), but he did not hit for average (.279) or get on base enough (.323 OBP) or hit well in the postseason (.186 and no home runs in 59 ABs) or put up many huge years (only four 100-RBI seasons). As a basketball player, they would have called him a tweener. He deserves a good, long look, but there are more players like him not in the Hall than in it.

Often, these Cooperstown debates devolve into all-or-nothing discussions: either the guy is a Hall of Famer or he's a nothing. (This false choice is propped up both by supporters of a candidate and those opposed to his inclusion.) This is because it's a highly emotional topic.

But I think Verducci has a good handle on Dawson; there are more players like Dawson out than in (look at Dawson's similarity scores list for some simple comparisons). Those players, like Dawson, were very good---but they're not Hall of Famers.

And there's no shame in that.