After being around Andre Dawson for a couple of days during his 2004 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction festivities, I came away with the sense that he was a quiet, intense man – definitely not the type to campaign for his own Cooperstown enshrinement. And while he complied with any autograph requests in St. Marys that weekend, he wasn’t a man that made small talk or waxed nostalgic about his playing days.
I loved watching Dawson as a player, so I was thrilled (albeit intimidated) to be around him. A case could be made that he’s the greatest Expos player ever (My vote would go to Vladimir Guerrero or Tim Raines). Before more than a dozen knee surgeries, Dawson could hit with power, steal bases and regularly nail runners at the plate. There’s no question he’s a worthy of his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction.
But does he belong in Cooperstown? At first blush, it’s hard to argue with his stats. In the pre-steroid era, Dawson belted 438 homers, knocked in 1,591 runs, stole 314 bases, accumulated 2,774 hits and batted .279. And you can’t overlook his eight Gold Gloves, eight all-star selections and 1987 MVP Award. The stat I can’t get past, however, is his ugly .323 career on-base percentage (OBP). I know Dawson played before Money Ball, but this is lower than the average on-base percentage for players from his era and 20 points lower than the OBP of any other outfielder in Cooperstown. Baseball Reference indicates that an average season for Dawson featured a .279 batting average, 27 home runs and 98 RBIs – nice numbers, but not jaw-dropping. In fact, statistically Dave Parker, Harold Baines (yes, I know he was primarily a DH) and Dwight Evans had careers that were arguably as good as The Hawk’s but have received little Hall of Fame consideration.
If I’m being objective (and this is difficult because I grew up worshipping The Hawk), I wouldn’t have included Dawson on my Cooperstown ballot. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer? Yes. Cooperstowner? Regrettably no.