It’s the H-A-W-K

I can’t keep my mind on my work.  (It could be the fumes – is it even legal to make employees work while painters are painting the whole office with almost no ventilation?)  So even though I’m resigned to the fact that the Hall of Fame voting is more corrupt than K Street and more of a sham than the WWE, I’ve been eagerly anticipating the results all day.

Well the results have just been announced, and Andre Dawson will become the 233rd player enshrined on the hallowed walls in Cooperstown.  While I have no doubt that Jim Rice’s induction last year was a flippant gesture of arrogant disregard by the old-school, mainstream journalists to the sabermetric community and blogosphere, the election of Dawson this year does not evoke such resentment.  Despite that ugly .323 OBP (now the lowest in the HOF by a good margin) which had become his albatross, he still slugged enough to reach a 119 OPS+ and stole 314 bases at a 74% success rate.  Meanwhile, the poor lost boys sitting in their mothers’ basements tirelessly presenting the cases of Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines appear to be gaining traction.  Blyleven and Roberto Alomar each came within half a gnat’s ass, meaning both will almost certainly get in next year.  McGwire could make it too, depending on how this 2010 season goes as he becomes the first ‘roider to return to MLB as a coach.

All four of those guys were better players than Dawson.  But I cannot argue against the Hawk’s worthiness.  Ironically it’s the numbers that have me convinced, prevailing over the subjective judgments formed by my memories of actually watching him play.  I got to see Andre Dawson only as a rickety old DH for the Red Sox, and then as a seemingly-half-crippled father figure/pinch hitter for the Marlins.  Most of what I knew about his earlier career I learned from his autobiography, which I was shocked and delighted to find in the children’s section of a Christian book store after my parents told me I could pick out one book.  I devoured his story of his underpriviledged childhood (this section reminded me of a similar narrative in Kirby Puckett’s rambling autobiography) and overcoming adversity through faith (similar to Dave Dravecky’s testimonial – I had read pretty much every baseball book in all three local public libraries).  Through this lense, I developed a vision of Dawson as a young Expo, just trying to prove he belonged.  I endured his frequent complaints about the effects of the Olympic Stadium astroturf on his knees, and I followed him back to the day in 1986 when, as a soon-to-be-free-agent, he stood in the outfield at Wrigley and realized how much more comfortable that grass was.  But if he wrote about his dynamic combination of power, speed, and defense, 8 All-Star Games, his Rookie of the Year award in ’77 or his MVP in ’87, I don’t remember it.

The Hawk becomes the first Hall of Famer to have played for the Marlins.  He’ll be just the second (and possibly the last) to wear the old “elb” cap on his plaque, as the Expos slowly fade into the annals of history.  (When I was a kid, I somehow developed the idea that E.L.B. stood for something in French.  I was actually a bit disappointed when my dad told me it was an “M” for Montreal.)  So here’s to Andre Dawson – certainly not the worst choice the BBWAA has ever made.

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