The Washington Times - July 2, 2008, 02:16AM

By NICK LECO
July 2, 2008

2009 will be the seventh year Andre “The Hawk” Dawson’s name has appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot. Last year, Dawson garnered more than 65 percent of the vote but fell 50 votes short of meeting the 75 percent requirement for induction. Will 2009 be the year Dawson gets in? Does he deserve to get in? National Pastime has got the answers for you.

SEE RELATED:


ANDRE DAWSON -
CAREER STATISTICS

Batting Average: .279
Hits:
2,774
Runs:
1,373
Doubles:
503
Home Runs:
438
RBI:
1,591
Stolen Bases:
314
Slugging Percentage:
.482
Teams:
Expos (1976-1986), Cubs (1987-1992), Red Sox (1993-1994), Marlins (1995-1996)

PROS

When healthy, Dawson was one of the more talented all-around players ever to play the game. A true five-tool player, Dawson is one of three players in history with more than 400 home runs and 300 stolen bases - the others being Willie Mays and Barry Bonds. He also won eight Gold Gloves and was a dominant player for more than a decade. For 12 straight years, from 1977 to 1988, Dawson hit double-figures in home runs and stolen bases, the first player ever to do so over such a long stretch. From 1976 to 1996, Dawson had more home runs than Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and more RBI’s than George Brett and Cal Ripken Jr., both of whom are enshrined in Cooperstown.

Dawson was an eight-time All-Star and won the 1977 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the 1987 N.L. MVP Award. He also finished second in the MVP voting twice, in 1981 and 1983. His 1987 season was particularly dominant as he led the league in home runs with 49 and RBI with 137. Also helping Dawson’s cause is the fact that he played the majority of his career in the pre-steroid era, meaning voters can safely assume his numbers were a product of hard work and determination and not performance-enhancing drugs. Dawson has also received a boost in recent years with the endorsement of teammate and recent Hall of Fame inductee Ryne Sandberg. During his inauguration speech in Cooperstown in 2007, Sandberg made a plea for Dawson to be elected to the Hall of Fame. “No player in baseball history worked harder, suffered more or did it better than Andre Dawson,” Sandberg said. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

CONS

If Dawson hadn’t suffered countless injuries to his knees, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Years of playing on the concrete of Olympic Stadium in Montreal destroyed Dawson’s knees to the point that he was playing with no cartilage in his knees late in his career and had bone-to-bone contact in that area. He was clearly never 100 percent on those knees, and it cost him in the power department and on the base paths.

A free swinger, Dawson rarely walked and his on-base percentage of .323 reflects that. .323 is a pretty poor OBP for any player, much less a Hall of Fame-caliber player. Dawson’s case is also hurt by the fact that he split his time between center field (1,027 games) and right field (1,281 games). Clearly there are different statistical Hall of Fame standards for right fielders and center fielders, and Dawson seems to fit in between - not offensively dominant enough to warrant consideration as a right fielder, and not defensively dominant enough to warrant consideration as a center fielder.

Dawson also never made his mark on the postseason, though the fact that he played for mostly subpar teams limited his chances to do so. He appeared in the postseason just twice, in 1981 with the Expos and in 1989 with the Cubs, and hit just .186 with no home runs in 59 at bats as neither team reached the World Series.

THE VERDICT

Dawson gets in, and gets in on the next ballot. Getting close to 60 percent of the vote the past few years and 65 percent in the most recent vote, it is clear that Dawson is starting to register with many of the HOF voters. Now that the Goose, Rich Gossage, has gotten his due, it’s time for the Hawk to get his. Dawson was one of the most feared and respected players in the game for a long time and put up the numbers to back it up. His all-around game and dedication to the sport only help his cause. As Sandberg said in his speech, “He did it the right way, the natural way.” And for that, the Hawk will be a Hall of Famer in the Class of 2009.

Nick Leco’s Cooperstown Bound? column runs every Wednesday here on National Pastime.

Photo by The Associated Press

Be sure to check out our previous Cooperstown Bound? columns: Roberto Alomar, Jack Morris, Omar Vizquel, Don Mattingly, Curt Schilling.