Andre Dawson

January 4, 2010

In a couple days the results of the 2010 Hall of Fame ballot will be announced. It’s a compelling ballot, filled with a host of interesting newcomers and long-suffering ballot near-misses such as Bert Blyleven and the player shown here in a card I must have left in my pants pocket for a trip through the washer and drier.

Where are those pants now? I was thirteen and had graduated from Toughskins to Levis by then, I think. I remember how much I revered Levis as a talisman of cool. My brother and I even had Levis posters on our wall, crowding the older posters of Hank Aaron, Jim Rice, and David Thompson. The posters featured worlds made entirely out of Levis. The one on my side of the room was of a Mississippi River scene. The river, the dock, the steamboat paddles: everything was made out of Levis. The coming of Levis into my life coincided with the exit of baseball cards from my life, with a bit of a cross-over between the two eras in 1981, when I purchased a few packs. Some things were cool and some things weren’t, and Toughskins and baseball cards were receding to the latter category. This 1981 Andre Dawson card probably resisted my efforts to push it away. He was the star of my second-favorite team at that time, the exciting and seemingly up-and-coming Expos. They had contended for a division title in 1979 and 1980, and in 1981 when I got this card they would finally claim that title before falling to the Dodgers in the National league Championship Series.

That would, it turned out, be as close as they ever got to a World Series title, and now they’re fading from memory altogether, like a card that keeps going through the wash. I have a winter cap with the Expos “M” (or “ELB”) on the crown, and every once in a while it gets a quizzical look, which I take comfort in since it suggests that the person looking is not, like most, completely unaware of the defunct franchise but is instead wondering what kind of a clown would be walking around Chicago in an Expos tuque. I’ll be sad when the quizzical looks disappear, and that’s one reason why I’ll be happy if Andre Dawson gets a plaque in Cooperstown: The more enbronzed fellows with that M/ELB on their cap in the Hall, the better. (Right now there is only one: Gary Carter.)

Which brings us back to the ballot. Aside from helping keep alive the memory of Les Expos, does Dawson deserve mention on the required 75% of ballots? Rather than approach this question by naming my own hypothetical ballot and then asking for yours, I’m going to try coming at the enjoyable yearly quandary from a different perspective: a pre-draft list. If you could have any player to build a team around, whom would you choose? You will get them for their whole career, for their peak and their decline and even for all their various on- and off-field controversies. For example, say you are considering Mark McGwire for your list. His statistical credentials are monstrous. He would also bring you, as a fan of the team, a summer that would seem as it happened to be a once-in-a-lifetime joy. But then you’d also have to live through the diminishing complication of that joy, if not a feeling that the whole thing had been a lie. Knowing all that, would you put him at the top of your list?

Below is my own top ten pre-draft list, with some notes. If I had to make out a HoF ballot, I’d probably go with the first five names.  

1. Bert Blyleven. A bona fide top-of-the-rotation ace who stayed productive for 22 years? Not a bad start to build a team around, I say.

2. Roberto Alomar. My preferred hypothetical team-building strategy is to start from the middle out, first finding guys who can field the crucial middle infield and centerfield positions well while hitting as productively as corner players. I actually had Alomar ranked first, but the incident in which he spit on an umpire sours the idea of him as my franchise player just enough for Blyleven to sneak by him into first.

3. Tim Raines. Around this time last year, I took a stab at advocating for Tim Raines. More recently, much brighter baseball analysts (namely, Neyer and Posnanski) have weighed in on arguably the second-best leadoff hitter of all-time and the man most deserving of joining Gary Carter as an enshrined Expo.

4. Alan Trammell

5. Barry Larkin. Bill James has Barry Larkin ranked ahead of Alan Trammell in his Historical Abstract (Trammell is ninth and Larkin is sixth—behind only Honus Wagner, Arky Vaughan, Cal Ripken, Robin Yount, and Ernie Banks and just ahead of Ozzie Smith). I went with Trammell ahead of Larkin here because of my impression that Larkin fairly frequently limped through parts of a given season. For my team, I’d rather be able to know with some certainty that I’d be looking out every game at the ninth best shortstop of all time than having to hope from game to game that the sixth best shortstop would make his way out there. (But both deserve to be in the Hall, I think; I also think that only Larkin will make it on the strength of the writers’ vote, which may be another reason why I ranked Trammell higher.)

6. Edgar Martinez. Hit like Joe Dimaggio, fielded like a fire hydrant until, early on, the Mariners took the glove out of his hand altogether. If you were building a hypothetical team around him, you’d have to be an American League team, I guess. But man could he rake.

7. Andre Dawson

8. Dale Murphy. Bill James ranks Murphy as the eleventh-best centerfielder in history and ranks Andre Dawson as the nineteenth best right-fielder. I’m still going with Dawson over Murphy, though, mostly because of his longevity. Murphy had a higher peak, but Dawson’s peak wasn’t too shabby, and he remained productive for considerably longer.

9. Jack Morris. He’s a distant second to Blyleven among the pitchers, but second nonetheless. I think a solid starter who showed an ability to rise to the big occasion is worth inclusion on my list.

10. Dave Parker. Like Alan Trammell, Parker seems to be on the brink of fading out of sight altogether in the yearly balloting. He deserves better. When I was a kid, in the late 1970s, Parker looked like a sure Hall of Famer in the making, and while he stumbled a little after his late 1970s peak, he came back and had a few more very good years.

So who’s on your top-ten list? If I get enough lists I’ll tally them up by assigning ten points to the number one pick, nine points to the number two pick, and so on, and see who gets the most points. (Here’s a link to the 2010 ballot again.)


  1. 1. Blyleven
    2. Raines
    3. Dawson
    4. McGwire
    5. Alomar
    6. Martinez
    7. Larkin
    8. Murphy
    9. Parker
    10. Trammell

  2. Wow, I remember those Levi’s posters. Brings back memories of the changing rooms at the local kid’s clothing store. All those psychedelic Levi’s and Lee posters.

  3. I read somewhere that the Expos logo is actually EJB eJb for Exposition, Jarry Park, Baseball.

  4. kieser78:
    That makes sense. I think this has come up before on this site, but I can never seem to retain the specifics behind the interlocking runes on the Expos clown cap. (When I was a kid I saw it only as a red, white, and blue M).

  5. A lot of the people who give your M/ELB cap quizzical looks would disagree that Dawson should have that logo on his Hall of Fame plaque, if he gets one. Of course, Cub fans are the lowest form of humanity.

  6. I agree with all but 2 of your choices.

    I wasn’t all that impressed with Parker when he played… but then, I only saw him from ’82 onward. I think I missed his best years. When I look at his stats, I just can’t feel justified giving him a nod.

    Jack Morris… ehhh, I just don’t think so. When I covered his ’82 card on my blog, I did some research and showed how he seriously padded his win totals by beating poor lineups and even in this situation when his ERA was easier to keep low, his ERA was still pretty high by the standards of the time.

    Jack had his moments, but I don’t think that was enough.

  7. I remember those Levis ads as well. It’s ironic in a way, Levis are still a big deal in Europe because they represent “America” even though in reality they’re nowhere near as popular in the states as they once were.

    Here’s my list:

    1-Blyleven: amazing durability, this guy should have been a first ballot HOF but was stuck on some mediocre/terrible teams which brought his win total down. Top 30 pitcher all-time but is treated like a marginal talent.

    2-Larkin: Kind of underrated but great player at key position, steady good guy, leader.

    3-Raines: long career, great peak from 83-87 when he was among the best players in the game. lost a lot of time from labor problems of 80’s-90’s, lost stolen base record in ’81, MVP ’87, became a part-time player too early.

    4-Trammell: was considered a solid HOF in the 80’s, but Jeter, A-rod, Nomar kind of blurred what great hitting shortstop was, completely robbed of the the ’87 MVP, could have won the ’84 MVP as well.

    5-Alomar: great peak at key position, but not an overall not as great career length, literally fell off the “cliff” in ’02.

    6-Edgar: amazing hitter, one of the top 50 all time. But he was a “DH” so that limits his flexiblity.

    7-Dawson: kind of overrated, great peak but it was kind of short from 80-83
    padded his stats later in life by playing in hitter’s parks and right field instead of center, never deserved the ’87 MVP.

    8-Ventura: Extremely underrated player top 20 3b all time. fantastic glove, won 6 GG but realistically should have won 9 or 10, good on base abiltiy, good power, lost time from peak years during strike 94-95, ankle injury hurt his career in 97, probably should have won the MVP in ’99, still productive with ’02 Yankees 27 HR very good d. at third.

    9-Appier: Extremely underrated pitcher mostly for the Royals during the 90’s, should have won the Cy Young in ’93.

    10-Murphy: Almost no career length, feast or famine type player but great peak from 1982-1987 when he was among the best players in the game. Played key defensive position and by all acounts a great stand up guy.

    *Morris: is the most overrated pitcher of the last 40 years. He’s on a talent level with Al Leiter or Jon Matlack but was fortunate to be on some great teams especially the Tigers who inflated his win total and who had a fantastic defense up the middle: Trammell, Whitaker, Lemmon, and Parish.

    *Parker: except for 1985, Parker was done as a productive player after 1980. Great peak 75-80, and from 81-83 was terrible. Kind of hung on foreever as a DH and right fielder. Was a horrible right fielder for early 80’s Pirates and the mid 80’s Reds. His horrible defense negated any benefit his bat produced around this time.

  8. My top 6 are your top 6 and the only 6 I’d vote for this year. I’m a little weak on Martinez only because as an East Coast NL fan, I rarely saw him play. I don’t like the DH rule, but I hate even more to see writers punish Martinez for playing in era where the DH was the law of the land, and you know it will happen.

  9. A year younger than Josh, in 1981, baseball cards were seriously beginning to lose a hold a on me. I still collected them, but the relish wasn’t there. I, too, adopted the Expos as an NL team and was fascinated by Andre Dawson. He (and the Expos) was everything my Red Sox weren’t, new, speedy and bold.

    I finally got a chance to meet Dawson, in the supermarket right down the street from Fenway. Players would often go there and I saw Mo Vaughn and Otis Nixon as well, though I never said anything to them, as I was too old for hero-worship, but seeing Dawson was a thrill. You never quite lose the reverence for your childhood baseball idols even after you grow up enough to see athletes in an entirely different light.

    In any case, I went over to Dawson as he was getting salad and said, “When I was a kid, I was a big fan, thanks” and that was it. Always a figure of stoic strength, he briefly and disinterestedly shook my hand, leaving me startled. His shake was a complete wet noodle. Totally destroyed my image of the guy. I wish I’d just slapped him on the back.

  10. johnq11, great points made about Ventura. He’s one of those players who was easy to admire from a distance, based on his stats and some highlights, and then when you got to watch him on a daily basis, you found he was even better than you’d figured. Teixiera is another example, for me.

  11. it’s interesting to me that no one has even mentioned the crime dog, fred mcgriff, whose 493 homers would have at one time been an automatic entry into cooperstown, or lee smith, whose 478 saves would have done the same.

    quite frankly, i’m not sure any of the players on the ballot are true hall of famers. below is my top ten if i had to put my preferences in order, but i would seriously consider leaving my ballot blank and wait for next year, when jeff bagwell, benito santiago, john franco, john olerud, and rafael palmeiro join the fray and i would vote for alomar and martinez, who do not deserve to go in on the first ballot.

    1. bert blyleven
    2. andre dawson
    3. roberto alomar
    4. tim raines
    5. edgar martinez
    6. fred mcgriff
    7. lee smith
    8. alan trammel
    9. barry larkin
    10. jack morris

  12. I thought about both those guys, McGriff and Smith, but if I was starting a team (the premise of this little exercise), I’d pass over them to get to guys who possessed rarer skills. In other words, it’s a lot easier to find someone for your team to do a reasonable impersonation of a good closer or a good slugging first baseman than it is to find a top of the rotation ace or a good hit/good field middle infielder. Nothing against McGriff or Smith, who had admirable careers (though I’ll never get over when Smith joined the Bosox and promptly blew a game on opening day).

  13. whoops — that’s a big e for me, as the above is my list of potential hall of famers.

    i guess i picked the wrong year to stop sniffing airplane glue.

  14. Blankemon,

    I felt the same way about Ventura. He really should be condsidered a boderline HOF candidate but they just don’t vote for 3B. It’s the strangest thing but they’ve only elected 11 3B and two were horrible choices (Kell, Lindstrom), So your down to 9 3B, (2) Traynor, Collins rank about 15-20th all time. So that’s 7 third basemen out of the top 15 3b in baseball history omitted from the HOF. There is no other position like that in baseball. Imagine if baseball omitted 7 of the top 1B in baseball history?

    Santo, Nettles, Hack and Boyer should be in the HOF. That would still omit 3 or 4 of the top 15 (Bando, Bell, Cey) but that would give the position a more realistic representation in the HOF.

    I think one thing that hurts Ventura is that he’s most remembered for being in the Ryan fight and the “Grand Slam Single” than being one of the top 5 fielding 3b in baseball history.

    One really odd thing about Ventura’s career is that he won 3 consecutive gold gloves 91-93 and then they gave the GG to Wade Boggs in 94-95 for some odd reason. There’s no way the 31 year old Boggs was a better fielding 3b than Ventura in 94-95.

  15. Good stuff!


  16. Here’s mine:


  17. Blyleven

    I love Trammell, but durability was not his strong suit. Not even counting his first cup of coffee or the last three seasons of his career, Trammell had 6 years where he played in less than 130 games. In his 22-year career, he topped 150 games three times.

    Martinez was not a Gold Glove caliber fielder, but he moved to DH mostly in an effort to keep him healthy, not because he was a butcher. We don’t have UZR of plus/minus for his career, but his fielding% and RF in 91 and 92 are basically league average. It was the same deal in 94, the last season he played significant games in the field.

    From <a href="http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2558385/my_2010_baseball_hall_of_fame_ballot.html?cat=9&quot; target="blank"my HOF article:

    Seven consecutive seasons, McGriff finished top five in the league in OPS, including a first-place finish in 1989. In those same seven years, McGriff finished in the top four in HR each time, including two first-place finishes. Not merely a slugger, McGriff finished in the top four in OBP four consecutive seasons.

    Unfortunately, people gloss over his seven-year peak and focus on the end of his career, when he vetoed a trade to a pennant contender and also appeared to hang on just to reach 500 career HR. I think that is a poor way to judge things. Is a seven-year peak good enough? I think it is.
    And it’s not like McGriff has no career length to bolster his case. He played for 19 seasons.

    McGriff amassed 326 Win Shares, one more than Ozzie Smith and 44 more than that feared slugger Rice. A lot of people are supporting Edgar Martinez and McGriff bests him by 21 Win Shares. I think he’s got a much better case than the typical fan realizes.

  18. So far (I’ll update as more people weigh in), here’s the tally in the “choose the player you’d want to have on your team for his whole career” exercise (10 points for a first ranking on the “pre-draft” list, 9 points for a second ranking, and so on):

    Blyleven 68
    Alomar 57
    Raines 56
    Larkin 42
    Dawson 34
    Trammell 33
    Martinez 33
    McGwire 20
    Murphy 11
    McGriff 9
    Morris 4
    Parker 4
    Smith 4
    Ventura 3
    Appier 2

  19. I am so relieved to discover that I wasn’t alone in thinking the Expos’ logo was “elb.” As a kid, I always thought maybe it was French (I never heard keiser78’s explanation before) and was a bit disappointed when my dad told me it was an M.
    1. McGwire
    2. Blyleven
    3. Alomar
    4. Raines
    5. Mattingly (a good ambassador to help with the PR problems created by 1,3, & 4)
    6. Morris
    7. Martinez
    8. Ventura
    9. Murphy
    10. Trammell

  20. OK, I am a little late to the party, but here is my list:

    1. Alomar
    2. McGwire
    3. Blyleven
    4. Raines
    5. Baines – probably not a hall of famer, but his incredible consistency for such a long career will hold a solid spot in the middle of my line-up.
    6. Dawson
    7. Parker
    8. Trammell
    9. Ventura
    10. Murphy

  21. slavetothetrafficlight, why do you figure Raines to be a PR problem? He handled his drug issues incredibly well – he was honest, forthright and he came clean on his own, didn’t he? He had that down year in ’82 and then, if memory serves, pretty much went to the Expos and told them he’d developed a coke habit and needed help. Then I believe he spilled his guts about it all to a Montral daily newspaper. After that he had that incredible run from ’83-’87 where he was on a very short list of the best players in the game.
    I recall him towards the end of his career being pretty candid about it all, too.

  22. johnq11,
    I have no problem with Blyleven being elected, but the “Blyleven pitched for poor/mediocre teams” is a myth. It keeps getting repeated and it is not true.
    The Twins of the early 1970’s were a .500 team. They were similar to Seavers Mets of that era.
    The 1977 Rangers won 94 games.
    The Pirates of the late 1970’s were very good. An 88 win season, and a 98 win season (WS) in ’79.
    The Twins of the late 1980’s win 88 (WS) and 91 games.
    The 1989 Angels win 91 games.

    The one exception is the Cleveland Indians of the early 1980’s. They won between 70-78 games with a .500 record in the strike year.
    Blyleven was fortunate to pitch on many good teams. There is no ’72 Phillies (Carlton), ’61 Phillies (Roberts), or ’67 Mets (Seaver) that he pitched for.

  23. This year’s HOF ballot, with another list (“have the player for his career”) at the bottom:

    1. Dawson – hands down, the best outfield throwing arm that I’ve ever seen. As an undisciplined hitter with both raw power and a gun for an arm, Dawson strikes me as a good comparison for Clemente and Vlad Guerrero. Guerrero and Clemente were/are both better hitters (Guerrero had more power, Clemente didn’t K as much) but Dawson was much faster than either of them…so he played centerfield whereas the other two were RFs. Before his knees gave out, Dawson was basically Roberto Clemente, with the range to cover center. I know that I’m not supposed invoke Clemente’s name, or his talent, but the Hawk was at that level while playing in Montreal. Then his knees gave out…

    …I’m trying to formulate some sort of reason to justify Dawson’s HoF candidacy despite the fact that he would swing at every fastball he saw…

    Okay…Dawson should be in before anyone else because:

    First, defense in CF, he saved far more runs than his lack of plate discipline cost his team…and…that’s all I got. Dawson’s a pretty marginal HoFer, though he suffers from two unique circumstances – a) he was overhyped during his decline phase, primarily due to the fact that he was playing in Chicago as opposed to Montreal and b) he played for so long that he sabotaged his rate stats.

    Now, the rest of the ballot…

    2. Barry Larkin. Larkin suffers by comparison to guys like Ozzie Smith, the archetype of the swift-little-defense-and-no-bat shortstop as well as the generation of shortstops that came afterwards, big guys like A-Rod (or Cal Ripken) that could/can hit 30 HRs per season. Larkin is stuck between those ideals, a quietly excellent player who did everything very well, but nothing fabulously. He’s the most underappreciated player of his generation.

    3. McGwire. Man hit ball go far. As with Bonds, steroids have nothing to do with mastering all pitches middle-in, below the waist. Mark McGwire was simply a brilliant hitter…and so was…

    4. Edgar Martinez. Hope the BBWA gets over their DH bias.

    5. Roberto Alomar. Yes, he deserves to be a HoFer but maybe I’m missing something…a guy who plays the third-least-important defensive position very well and is also a good-but-not-great hitter is somehow jobbed because he didn’t get into the HoF on the first ballot? Somebody tell me what I missed.

    6. Blyleven. Just because I’m tired of all the pissing and moaning from statistical-based perpectives as well as the overly romantic descriptions of his curveball. Blyleven is quite deserving of the honor but only if he gives a mention to all those aspiring honkballers out there in Netherlands.

    7. Alan Trammell’s name crossed out and “LOU WHITAKER” scrawled over it. I always thought that Trammell was an overrated shorstop who benefited tremendously from playing alongside Whitaker.

    8. Lee Smith.

    That’s it for my HoF ballot. Now, the ten guys that I’d want for their entire career…

    1. Barry Larkin
    2. Mark McGwire
    3. Edgar Martinez
    4. Roberto Alomar
    5. Andre Dawson
    6. Alan Trammell (or, better yet, Lou Whitaker)
    7. Bert Blyleven
    8. Dale Murphy – if I had him for his entire career I would never have let him play catcher…
    9. Dennis Martinez – he’s not on the ballot but I’d take him over guess-what-it’s-a-fastball Jack Morris.
    10. Dave Parker

  24. “5. Roberto Alomar. Yes, he deserves to be a HoFer but maybe I’m missing something…a guy who plays the third-least-important defensive position…”

    Interesting thought about second-base, zernialophile. I always thought second base was a key defensive spot, maybe third-MOST-important after short and center (because of how many chances they get and how central they are to the action). I’m interested to hear why this might be a backward supposition on my part. Is this a generally held belief? (I was actually going to keep my mouth shut on this to avoid appearing ignorant, but my curiosity got the better of me.)

  25. The defensive spectrum looks like this:

    Designated hitter
    First baseman
    Left fielder
    Right fielder
    Third baseman
    Center fielder
    Second baseman

    Like many original sabermetric concepts, the idea of a defensive spectrum was first introduced by Bill James in his Baseball Abstract series of books during the 1980s. The basic premise of the spectrum is that positions at the bottom end are more difficult than the positions at the top end of the spectrum. Therefore, the positions at the top are easier to fill, since the physical demands are less as you move up along the spectrum. A corollary to this is the fact that, since defensive skill is at less of a premium at the top end, players at those positions must provide more offense than those at the bottom end. Another corollary is that players can generally move from bottom to top along the spectrum successfully during their careers.

  26. “I read somewhere that the Expos logo is actually EJB eJb for Exposition, Jarry Park, Baseball.”

    True. For me though, I grew up with the Expos playing in the Big O, so the negative white space always reminds me of the inclined tower, supposedly the tallest in the world.

    Good to see Dawson will be wearing the Montréal cap on his plaque.

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