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A Case for the Hawk
I grew up on the Cubs of the early '90s. By and large, the Cubs weren't very good, but there were three guys that they could always count on - Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, and Andre Dawson. Andre Dawson was a guy that would always be in the lineup, even though it sometimes looked like it was killing him to do so. He was a quiet guy that went about his business and just put up good numbers. But does he belong in the Hall of Fame?
Here's the thing about the crop of great power hitters of the late '70s and '80s -- conventional wisdom is that if you let one of them in, you're almost obligated to let them all in. If the Hawk gets in, so do Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, and Jim Rice.
Personally, I believe the Hall of Fame should be for the absolute elite. You know who I would have voted for last year? Lee Smith. That's it. I could have gone either way on Hawk, Rice, and Jack Morris -- but to me, if you have to think about it too long, then they probably don't belong in the Hall. Hall of Fame inductees should be automatic. Would I have voted for Bruce Sutter? Only if Lee Smith got there as well. Alan Trammell? Nope. Bert Blyleven? Absolutely not. I know that may not make gobs of logical sense, but it's what I believe nonetheless.
Dawson, Murphy, Parker and Rice (hereafter the Big 4) have been on the ballot for a while now, but none of them had come terribly close to the 75% of votes necessary for elelction until Rice's numbers started increasing the past few years. Many reasoned that the voters were looking at the numbers of modern-day sluggers and saw that the stats of the Big 4 paled by comparison. But now, those same voters (in their day job as writers) are looking at today's numbers for what they are (steroid-inflated), and saying that the Big 4 probably could have hit 50 homers a year as well if they had the clear and the cream as well. So it's very possible that their vote totals will rise this year.
But voting someone into the Hall of Fame because somebody else used steroids doesn't seem to make sense, unless you were previously using the abusers as benchmarks to determine Hall eligibility. So let's try to steer clear of the whole mess here and not draw any comparisons between the Big 4 and the players of today.
There's not a lot of doubt that the Big 4 were among the best players of their era. They combined for 30 All-Star nominations, 5 MVP awards, 13 Silver Slugger Awards, and 16 Gold Gloves. For their careers, each of them have at least 2,111 hits, 339 homers, and 1,266 RBI. Just as importantly, they were consistent, as evidenced by the fact that each of them had at least 7 All-Star nominations.
For some, this is reason enough to put the Big 4 in the Hall -- in response to the steroid controversy, many have adopted the idea that we should just put in the best players of a given era. Thus, these four were among the best players of their era, so they should be in. But if someone in today's era were to match Dave Parker's stats, that wouldn't necessarily grant them enshrinement in the Hall, because they may not be the best players of the era.
In general, this strikes me as a good idea. But I don't think we should just flip a switch and let them all in. What say we take a look at the numbers and see if any of them stand out above the rest; if we find that hey all deserve enshrinement, then so be it. Away we go:
Dawson: .279/.323/.482, 2627 games, 2774 hits, 503 doubles, 438 homers, 1591 RBI, 314 SB. 8-time All-Star, 1 MVP award, 4 Silver Slugger Awards, 8 Gold Glove awards.
Rice: .298/.352/.502, 2089 games, 2452 hits, 373 doubles, 382 homers, 1451 RBI, 58 SB. 8-time All-Star, 1 MVP award, 2 Silver Slugger Awards, 0 Gold Glove Awards.
Murphy: .265/.346/.469, 2180 games, 2111 hits, 350 doubles, 398 homers, 1266 RBI, 161 SB. 7-time All-Star, 2 MVP awards, 4-time Silver Slugger Awards, 5 Gold Glove Awards.
Parker: .290/.339/.471, 2466 games, 2712 hits, 526 doubles, 339 homers, 1493 RBI, 154 SB. 7-time All- Star, 1 MVP award, 3 Silver Slugger Awards, 3 Gold Glove Awards.
Here's how my ballot for the Big 4 would shape up:
Murphy - Surprisingly, the best power hitter in the bunch, statistically at least (although playing at Fulton-County Stadium probably helped a bit). If he had gotten as many AB's as Hawk, Murphy would have passed him in HR's. The two MVP's are also impressive, and they were for Braves teams that were actually pretty decent. But the .265 AVG is pretty unimpressive, as is the number of hits compared to the others'. Murphy had some high-AVG years, but there were also 3 seasons where he couldn't crack .230, and a few more that weren't particularly impressive. Sorry, Dale, you're out.
Parker - I'll give this to Dave -- that's a lot of two-baggers for a big guy. The AVG and total hits are great, but the power numbers aren't the best -- by comparison, Jack Clark had 340, Don Baylor had 338, and even Gary Gaetti had 360, and he couldn't find Cooperstown on a map. I could go either way on Cobra . . . so he's out.
Rice - Best pure hitter of the bench. That .298/.352/.502 is a pretty nifty line. He would have topped 400 homers and gotten close to 3000 hits if he had stayed around, but he left a bit early because of injuries. The defense isn't get him any votes, but he was still the best hitter in the A.L. for several years, and the numbers back that up. You're in, Jim.
Dawson - The average is good, but not great, and I really think the homers have to be adjusted to the fact that he stayed around a bit too long and played in Wrigley Field. But the homers, the RBI's, the defense, and the consistency speak fo themselves. Time for the Hawk to fly to Cooperstown.
So what do you all think? If you had a vote, who would you check on your ballot?