With the election of Jim Rice, the grumbling from the "new school" became audible in earnest. Now that Andre Dawson is set to be the only player enshrined in this year's class of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the aforementioned grumbling has reached a feverishly roaring pitch.
Like Jim Rice before him, Andre Dawson is the latest representation of the schism in baseball analytics. The "old school" voters blindly following the ancient benchmark statistics like a pack of sheep. And the sabermetric "new school" analysts favor an evolution in statistical evaluation to determine the true value of a given player. But once again the old school has won out, as players like Roberto Alomar, Tim Raines, and Bert Blyleven remain unelected while cosmetic favorites like Rice and Dawson continue to receive baseball's ultimate honor.
I love the Hawk and will gladly admit that in his best five seasons, Dawson was phenomenal; a combination of power, speed, and determination rarely seen in a ballplayer. Considered a warrior on the field, despite his Mantle-esque knees Dawson was, at times, devastating at the plate and a force in the outfield. But unfortunately, the man who will always be remembered as one of the greatest fan favorites in baseball history — held in near-heroic regard, especially by Cubs fans — is not a Hall of Famer. And statistical analysis clearly shows this:
As Rob Neyer noted, Lou Brock previously held the lowest OBP of any Hall of Fame-elected outfielder. Dawson will now supplant Brock in this dubious distinction, registering an OBP twenty points lower than that of the former stolen base king.
Brock: .293, 3,023 hits, 149 HR and .343/.410/.753 (938 steals)
Dawson: .279, 2,774 hits, 438 HR and .323/.482/.806 (314 steals.
While obviously Brock was a leadoff man with speed and Dawson was a power hitter who happened to be able to run when healthy, the batting average, hit totals, and OBP are strong indicators that if Dawson cannot live up to Brock's production (generally considered one of the weaker Hall of Fame selections) than he just doesn't belong amongst baseball's elite.
Comparing Dawson to Alomar (another top-of-the-lineup guy) further shows that while Andre could hit for power, he was far less valuable than the player whose statistics rank him among the greatest second baseman ever to play the game.
Alomar: .300, 2,724 hits, 210 HR and .371/.443/.814 (474 steals)
Dawson: .279, 2,774 hits, 438 HR and .323/.482/.806 (314 steals)
Alomar tops Brock in batting average, home runs, OPS, and most notably OBP (by 48 points) and bests Dawson in batting average, OBP, steals, and shockingly OPS. He also created 6.1 runs per game as apposed to Dawson's mark of 5.4. Any way you slice it, Alomar was easily the more valuable player to his teams' victories throughout his entire career. He may have never ripped out 49 home runs in a season but Robbie was a far more productive player, contributing in a much more important and relevant way to his teams' run scoring capabilities on a consistent basis.
And then there is the yearly elephant in the room: Tim Raines. Once again receiving just over 20% of the vote, Rock challenges only Dick Allen for the greatest player not in the Hall of Fame (and the best man still eligible for general election). Raines was a pure, all-around athlete that was immensely valuable where ever he played.
Raines: .294/2,605/170 and .385/.425/.810 (808 steals – 85% success rate).
Dawson: .279/2,774/438 and .323/.482/.806 (314 steals)
His 6.6 rc/g mark is easily above each of the other candidates mentioned, as is his 6.1 rc/g mark. In addition Raines dominates Dawson in batting average and OBP and tops Dawson by four points in OPS despite Dawson's apparent Hall of Fame worthy power. Whether this point is taken as proof that Raines was still more productive despite has lack of power or that Dawson simply never got on base if he wasn't hitting for power, the same conclusion can be derived. There is no more qualified player for election than Tim Raines (he was on base more often than Tony Gywnn) and he is far more qualified than Dawson. But this is a point that has been dissected to intensity, and so I'll digress.
The general thesis is that there needs to be an immediate change in the voting process for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame or it will fall the way of the likewise institutions of the other sports and become largely irrelevant. Dawson was a fan favorite by all perspectives. He was an outstanding ambassador to the game and epitomized the idealistic mentality that the general public fantasizes about, the injury-riddled hero beating the odds and flashing greatness despite crippling physical limitations.
But Dawson was no Mantle, nor was he Ken Griffey Jr. He was a very good ballplayer that should always be remembered and likely deserves some sort of display of recognition in a wing of the institution devoted to the very good players in the history of the game (which should be established).
But enshrinement in the most hallowed wing? Unfortunately the numbers just don't add up. As Neyer again astutely noted, when a player is liked he is compared to mistake elections like Orlando Cepeda or Bill Mazeroski. But when he is disliked the player is shown to not measure up to Ruth, Mantle, or Williams as a means for arguing against induction. But to reiterate a point I've made in so many articles on the topic, the mistakes of the past do not justify degrading the standards of the future.
Oh and Cepeda… he has a batting average 18 points higher than Dawson, an OBP 27 points higher, and an OPS 43 points higher. Ouch.