Back before we knew that Andre Dawson would be adorned in the Hall of Fame as an Expo, there was some talk that, if he went in as a Cub, the Chicago organization would honor him by retiring his jersey. You'd think that I'd support this idea, since I love Andre Dawson in almost a gay way. But I'm not.
After all -- while Dawson certainly blazed his Hall of Fame trail in a Cubs uniform, while he is most certainly identifiable as a Cub above all other teams (at least in my semi-biased opinion), it is hard to argue that he meant more to the Cubs organization than a number of other guys whose numbers have not been retired. Therefore, before the Cubs raise the #8 flag in Chicago, they should strongly consider re-vamping their jersey-retirement system. Either that or they need to come clean and acknowledge that they are the biggest Hall of Fame marks in the history of the world, as they practically had to be goaded into retiring Ron Santo's number once they realized the Hall was too stupid to let him in. Ron Santo. As if they should've needed time to figure out that he is one of the great all-time Cubs.
My general take on jersey retirement is this: if there is a player who stayed with the team for a decade or more, who defined the team for a generation of fans -- whether he was Hall of Fame-bound or not -- then the team should honor him by retiring his jersey.
In Dawson's case, he's a bit short of that criteria, even though he was amazing as a Cub. In recent memory, though, the following players probably deserve props that the Cubs organization will never give:
- Aramis Ramirez - he has a way to go before he's really justified as a pick. But if Aramis remains a Cub through 2012 or so, and if he keeps hitting the ball, then it should be locked in.
- Carlos Zambrano - this will be his 10th season with the Cubs. Can you believe it? He's not even 30 yet! The Moose has been a Cubs since 2001, and he's been one of the best on the team since 2003. He shouldn't have to do much at this point to warrant being honored.
- Sammy Sosa - sure, he's a douchebag. Sure, we sort of hate him. He cheated. He dishonored the game. But he was a helluva player! 13 years in Chicago, 545 career homers as a Cub, there's no doubt that Sosa's jersey needs to be hung up in Wrigley.
- Kerry Wood eh, or maybe not. Yes, Wood was a Cub from 1998 through 2008. Sure, absolutely, he defined the team in his stay there. He pitched in more playoff series than any other Cub before him. He was also regularly injured and won a meager 77 games in his 10 years there. Not really worth honoring, even if we love him.
- Mark Grace - The Mr. Cub of the 1990's. Aren't you sick of seeing mediocre middle infielders wear his #17?
- Rick Sutcliffe - a borderline pick. He was a Cub for 8 seasons, 2 of which he spent mostly injured. But he also won the Cy Young, was a runner up another year for a last-place team, and definitively led the team until his last game pitched. And consider this factoid - despite his injuries, despite his two fewer seasons, Sutcliffe won 5 more games than Wood. Is that enough to honor him? Maybe not. But his name should be considered.
- The Golden Age Cubs. It'll never happen, but why the heck haven't the Cubs retired jerseys for Phil Cavarretta (a Cub for 20 years), Stan Hack (a Cub of 16 seasons), Andy Pafko (9 years a Cub), Gabby Hartnett (a 19-season Hall of Famer), Billy Herman (11 years a Cub, and a Hall of Famer), Charlie Grimm (12 years with the Cubs), Hack Wilson (a Hall of Famer based solely on his six years of greatness in Chicago), or Charlie Root (200 wins as a Cub)?
Maybe the Cubs are holding off for World Championships. Maybe it's good that they are so selective in which numbers they retire. Or maybe they could just break down and show some respect for their players.
I dunno. Perhaps an online sportsbook like Sports Betting World should set up bets as to what the Cubs will do with Dawson and with other greats. But based on past actions, and in all cases, it's probably safe to say that they won't do the right thing. You can bet on that one for sure.