Andre Dawson was a very good player. An elite player. A player who, without the ill effects of playing on the artificial turn in Montreal, probably would have always been thought of as an all-time great (and obviously he’s a Hall of Famer).
The Hawk recently spoke at length with the Daily Herald’s Barry Rozner about his career, the Steroid Era, and the recent Hall of Fame controversy, which saw not a single player gain election to the Hall, despite a relatively loaded ballot.
Dawson says that, when he was in his latter years playing, everyone writing about the game said he was a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer. But, by the time he was eligible for election, the Steroid Era had happened, and his numbers had been dwarfed. Against that backdrop, it’s understandable that he might be pretty bitter about the whole PED thing.
“The thing is, I played a long time in the majors (21 years), and a couple more in the minors, and I didn’t play with that many Hall of Fame-caliber ballplayers,” Dawson told Rozner. “I didn’t play against more than a few Hall of Famers ….
“You knew something was wrong when numbers were getting obliterated in a short period. That many great players don’t just show up like that. It just doesn’t happen. You don’t see 40 Hall of Famers show up out of nowhere in five years.”
Of course, it’s possible that the 1990s and early 2000s simply did see a dramatic uptick in the elite talent of the league, but Dawson’s point is well-taken: the offensive numbers really did change dramatically in that era.
“The guys who took steroids disrespected the game, and disrespected the history,” Dawson continued. “Our history relies so much on the numbers, and the numbers have been destroyed.”
That point, right there, is easily resonates with me the most strongly. The singular reason that the Steroid Era upsets me so much is because it really jacked with the numbers. And, in baseball more than any other sport, the numbers are so important. Now, we don’t know what to make of them. It pisses me off.
That said, I still don’t know what we do with those feelings. Where we direct them, what choices we make in light of them. And that’s what the Hall of Fame decisions remain so difficult.
Whatever you think of Dawson’s career or his legitimacy as an inner circle Hall of Famer, I’m pretty impressed by his candor and his willingness to open up. All of his thoughts in Rozner’s piece are worth a read, including his impassioned thoughts about what juicing did to the players in the era who did not juice.
Increasingly, I’m not sure I agree with his take on the Hall of Fame – reluctantly, I’m coming more and more over to the “it’s just a museum, and it should tell the whole story” way of thinking – but I certainly can’t criticize it. When you read his thoughts, it’s not like he comes across as a bitter exclusionist who wants to keep the Hall as small as possible because it enlarges his own stature (the way I envision the veteran’s who kept Ron Santo out for so many years). Dawson has a sincerely held belief about the impact of the Steroid Era on the performances of those who came before, and those who tried to compete fairly in that era.
His stand has to be credited, even if you don’t agree with it.