Shifting the Hall argument

January, 12, 2009
The thing is done. Now we can stop talking about Jim Rice, until a respectful period has passed and we can simply add him to the list of good players -- Bruce Sutter, Catfish Hunter and Orlando Cepeda come to mind -- who don't really belong in the Hall of Fame but are there anyway. As I wrote earlier this morning, the election of Rice will do little to lower the standards of the institution, as it's unlikely that players like Dave Parker, Albert Belle, Dick Allen and big Frank Howard now will be knocking on the Coop's door (even though, it should be said, all of them were at least Rice's equal).

Of course, Andre Dawson might soon join that list, as he inched up again this year, to 67 percent. Meanwhile, his old teammate Tim Raines is stuck at 22 percent, which quite frankly might be the single most embarrassing number in the history of Hall of Fame voting.

You might have read somewhere that Raines reached base more times in his career than Tony Gwynn, and that's true: 3,977 times for Raines, 3,955 for Gwynn. Did you know Raines reached base 503 more times than Dawson? That Raines is 41st on the all-time list and Dawson is 96th?

You might have read somewhere that Dawson finished his career with a .323 on-base percentage -- exceptionally low for a 1980s outfielder/Hall of Fame candidate -- and that's true, too. Did you know Dawson's .482 career slugging percentage isn't anything special, either? Did you know Dawson's 119 career OPS-plus (OPS adjusted for league and home field) is worse than Raines' 123? Did you know on-base percentage should be weighted more heavily than slugging percentage? Did you know that for all the talk about Dawson's impressive combination of power and speed, Raines stole nearly 500 more bases?

I don't mean to pick on Dawson, but I find his and Raines' careers oddly linked, and not for the reason you might guess. Yes, they were teammates in Montreal for a number of years. But I wonder whether there has been a player whose Hall of Fame candidacy has been more affected by collusion than the candidacies of these two. In 1987, both Dawson and Raines were free agents. Neither received an offer commensurate with his talents. Dawson chose to play for the Cubs, for practically nothing, and wound up hitting 47 home runs and winning his only MVP award (not that he deserved it). Raines chose to wait and wound up having to sit out the first month of the season before re-signing with the Expos. It would be one of his best seasons -- he still managed to lead the National League with 123 runs -- but it would have been better if he'd been able to play in April.

Without collusion, Dawson probably isn't a future Hall of Famer. Without collusion, Raines might have picked up that MVP award Dawson got, in which case his Hall of Fame candidacy would look a lot better than it does.

For Raines, all hope should not be lost. In Rice's first year of eligibility for the Hall, he received just 30 percent of the vote. And the great thing about Raines' candidacy is that nobody has to make up a bunch of stuff.


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