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Comment of the Day: How to rationalize Dawson's enshrinement

Jan 7, 2010, 12:30 PM EDT

Commenter ralphdibny was a young Cubs fan in the late 80s and supports Dawson’s enshrinement even if he agrees that maybe he falls a smidge short, objectively speaking. He may be on to something with this:

Perhaps there should be a line on his plaque that reads “While his statistics aren’t quite Hall of Fame worthy, Dawson evokes a considerable nostalgia in baseball fans for a bygone era that justifies his induction.”

If we are going to rip others for their ridiculous biases, after all, best to
acknowledge our own.

Fair enough. I trotted out that line of reasoning to all my friends when Will Clark and Eric Davis were up.

  1. Old Gator - Jan 7, 2010 at 1:09 PM

    I don’t know if it’s the stat that makes the man. To the extent that from a fan’s point of view baseball is (or, more accurately and sadly, used to be) an affair of the heart as well as of the sabremetric, I think it’s perfectly valid to take into account the emotional impact a player had on the game as well as his pure numbers. You got a feeling when Andre Dawson came to bat that he was about to make something happen; you felt anxiety if he wasn’t coming to bat for your guys, anticipation if he was.
    .
    There are a lot of guys in the Hall who neither dominated their age nor even felt like they did when they walked out on the field. Neither did they put up the biggest numbers but got in on precedent, ie, because some other guy with similar numbers was already there. I think there’s been a steady erosion of quality in the Hall due to that process.
    .
    Frankly, rather than keep looking for excuses to enshrine guys who bestrode their narrow worlds like considerably less than colossi, let’s go back and purge several dozen marginals (dead ones, prefereably – why piss anyone off?), you know, like the Catholic Church quietly dumps a couple of saints now and then because they find out they were really pagan dieties or folk figures assimilated into the ranks while the Church was expanding into, uh, heathen lands (they figured out some years ago, for example, that Saint Joshephat was actually Gautama Buddha). Do it quietly. Just go in and remove the plaques. Whattya wanna bet that in most cases no one would even notice?
    .
    But in the case of The Hawk, they’d notice. He made folks notice, and he made them care.

  2. John from Concord - Jan 7, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    That’s a more compelling argument for Jim Rice than any of the arguments that ostensibly got him elected.

  3. Largebill - Jan 7, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    While I don’t fully subscribe to the line of thinking mentioned, I understand it. Each fan has a favorite player or two (or a few for some folks) who they realize didn’t play well enough or long enough to merit enshrinement but who they wouldn’t mind being the next BBWAA’s mistake. For the most part the BBWAA makes mostly mistakes of omission and the Veterans Committee makes the mistakes of inclusion. However, I think we can agree that the BBWAA does make some mistakes of inclusion (Rice, Dawson). With that in mind I can root for Dale Murphy to be the next oops while realizing he came up just short of what I consider HoF standards.

  4. ralphdibny - Jan 7, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Well, my week has been made. Thanks, Craig!
    Old Gator, I love the comparison of ballplayers to saints. And I agree that emotion is quite important in evaluating players. The Spock-like stathead who dismisses all emotion doesn’t actually exist; he’s just a straw man. Blyleven has created lots of emotion in his advocates, though it might not be the right kind of emotion for some. Perhaps the difference is better framed as “big picture” vs “individual moment.” Bottom of the ninth, 2 outs, winning run on base–who do you want up to bat? Jim Rice and Andre Dawson? Well, statistics might tell us that, over a season of such moments, you might be better off with one of their teammates at the plate, someone who didn’t make outs at such a high rate. But high risk, high reward players evoke emotion and create memories, and that’s a very important part of our understanding of the game.

  5. berselius - Jan 7, 2010 at 2:04 PM

    Nostalgia for a bygone era? The first thing I always think of when I think of Dawson was his 1987 contract with the Cubs. I’m a Cubs fan and I loved Dawson when I was a kid, but the first thing I always think of when I hear his name is ‘collusion’

  6. J. McCann - Jan 7, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    I love that Dawson has the lowest OBP of any HOF outfielder. While we know OBP is one of the most important stats, the fact that he is a Hall of Famer tells you he must have had tons of other stuff going for him.
    Also, if you ever doubt if he fits in with the HOF, check the all time leaders in XBH. Everyone anywhere near him is either HOF, not eligible yet, or has gambling or PED problems.

  7. Charles Gates - Jan 7, 2010 at 2:50 PM

    I guess it all comes down to what you want the HOF to be. If you want it to be a collection of the best players to have ever played, sure, make a cutoff at the far right of the bell curve. But if you want the HOF to be something that cherishes the game, there’s gotta be room for players like Dawson and Rizzuto. They may not have been the best at what they did on the field, but they left the game far better than they found it.

  8. Eric - Jan 7, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    Yes we can talk about the Hall of Fame until we are blue in the face and still keep on talking about it. There are players whose lifetime statistical achievements are used to measure their worthiness to the Hall. There are players that dominate for ten years or less, five years or less, or even those that set all kinds of records for just one year. I can think of many of my favorite players that were phenominal for just a few years, won MVPs and Cy Young Awards, multiple honors for being All Stars, Silver Slugger Awards, Golden Glove Awards, Sportsmen of the Year Awards, World Series and All Star MVPs. But when it comes to the Hall of Fame vote few of these accomplishments are given the weight that perhaps they should. It seems that many people just consider lifetime stats as the measurement of choice in deciding HOF inductees. My own opinion is that more players should be let into the Hall instead of trying to keep them out. Reading these various posts and articles I realise this is contrary to public opinion however that is my biase.

  9. Shawn - Jan 7, 2010 at 4:35 PM

    I just think it’s cool that Elongated Man comments here.

  10. Old Gator - Jan 8, 2010 at 10:01 AM

    I like the way you put that so much that I’m preparing to claim that you stole it from me and bring an action for plagiarism against you. But don’t worry, I’m amenable to a fair settlement.
    .
    Craig, when can I expect the first draft of the complaint?

  11. Kareem Kaperonis - Jan 30, 2010 at 4:06 AM

    Lach, echt gut. Komme nun auch

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