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General : : Professional
Hawk in the Hall
Patrick Ebert        
Published: Friday, January 15, 2010

Congratulations to Andre Dawson for making the Hall of Fame this year. I remember Dawson very well growing up in the 1980s, as he was a fixture on the exciting Montreal Expos teams from the early part of that decade that included Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Tim Wallach, Al Oliver, Steve Rogers, Bill Gullickson and Jeff Reardon.

Hawk’s inclusion this year marks the second year in a row in which a player that posted very good, but arguably not great, numbers over his career was elected into the Hall of Fame. Jim Rice finally got the call a year ago, and while I agreed that Rice’s inclusion was deserving, I’m a little more skeptical with Dawson.

He was named the NL Rookie of the Year in 1977 with the Expos and the league’s MVP in 1987 with the Cubs. He had five years in which he had a .300 batting average or better, fours years with 100 RBI, three years with 30 home runs and two years with 100 runs or more. He never compiled a season in which he recorded 200 hits and failed to reach significant statistical milestones, such as 500 home runs (he finished with 438) or 3,000 hits (2,774).

Of course, the game in the 1970s and 1980s was different than how the game drastically changed in the 1990s and continues to be today. And that isn’t the only thing that adds to the cases of players such as Andre Dawson and Jim Rice.

Steroids, of course, have changed the game forever, at least how players are perceived at this point in time. Despite his recent statements, which didn’t seem entirely honest, Mark McGwire doesn’t stand a chance of making the Hall, barely receiving more support this year (23.7%) versus last year (21.9%) and is far away from the 75% necessary to be elected. I would guess that Rafael Palmeiro, and possibly even Jeff Bagwell and Juan Gonzalez when they’re eligible a year from now, are going to face similar obstacles in the eyes of the voters.

The game was more pure, or at least it seems to be in retrospect, prior to the steroid era that developed in the late 1980s with the emergence of players such as Jose Canseco and McGwire.

That same stigma may have held Roberto Alomar from making the cut this year, even if he seems like a lock to make it a year from now. Alomar is one of the greatest second basemen to ever play the game, defining the position in the 1990s much like Ryne Sandberg did in the 1980s and Joe Morgan did in the 1970s. Alomar fell mere percentage points from induction during his first year of eligibility. While power was never a part of his game, his career did quickly fizzle away soon after the turn of the new millennium, and some reports suggest he may have been one of the players listed in the Mitchell report

I do realize that some of the people who have a vote claim that no player is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That to me is a wasted argument. What’s the difference if you make it in the first, second or third year? A Hall of Fame caliber player should be in regardless of the semantics of timing.

Barry Larkin was not so close to making it his first year of eligibility, but again, I would argue that he should have been. Unfortunately, his career began stuck behind Ozzie Smith when it came to his own reputation as the National League’s greatest shortstop, and he didn’t start to earn his trio of Gold Gloves until Smith had hit the final years of his career.

On the tail-end of Larkins’ career, the likes of Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Miguel Tejada had already emerged, somewhat lessening the impact that Larkin had made in the late 1980s through the early 1990s.

A 12-time All Star with nine Silver Slugger awards and the NL MVP in 1995, Larkin was one of the game’s best shortstops ever and deserves to be in.

Going back to Dawson’s inclusion, it’s a difficult position opening the doors to him, as it seems to be a popularity contest more than anything. He was a gifted player with a rare combination (especially at the time) of speed and power, as he also finished his career with 314 stolen bases, not to mention being regarded as one of the game’s finest right fielders with a cannon for an arm.

However, if he’s in, why isn’t Bert Blyleven? He is currently fifth on the all-time strikeout list, and the only other person among the top 10 all-time that also isn’t in the Hall of Fame is Greg Maddux, who is most certainly going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer once he becomes eligible.

What about Jack Morris, Tim Raines, Dave Parker, Lee Smith and Alan Trammel? You can make just as good of an argument for them as you can for Dawson, and I’m sure all of them are deserving in the eyes of some fans.

Again, I hate to sound like I’m making a case against Dawson, but the National Baseball Hall of Fame has always been comprised of the best of the very best, and for the second year in a row you could argue that players that were good to very good, and not necessarily great, are starting to find their way in the door.

The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at pebert@brewerfan.net.