The Hat on the Hawk
(Editor's note: in case you missed it, we ran A Tale of Two Hitters on Friday night. If you read only one GROTA article that I've written, ever, it should be that one. Go read it if you haven't)
By now, we've probably all heard the big debate -- should Andre Dawson enter the Hall of Fame as an Expo or a Cub? For Cub fans it's a particularly interesting point -- obviously we love Dawson and want to see him in a Cubs hat, even if Chicago isn't the "deserving" team. Compounded on that is the recent story that the Cubs would retire Dawson's number were he to be inducted as a Cub -- compared in stark contrast with the former Expos organization, who unretired his jersey when they moved to Washington. Ignoring personal feelings and biases, there are points to consider on both sides.
- Dawson spent a decade in Montreal, where he played in 1,443 games. He collected 1,575 of his 2,774 career hits as an Expo, 225 of his 438 homeruns, 838 of his 1,591 RBI, and 253 of his 314 career steals. He won 6 of his 8 Gold Gloves in the Montreal outfield, and 3 of his 4 Silver Sluggers.
- Dawson's best season was with the Cubs, in 1987, when he slugged 49 homeruns and drove in 137 RBI. In fact, he hit 174 homeruns as a Cub -- that's 51 less than his Montreal production in 2,366 fewer at bats. Dawson had a higher OPS as a Cub (despite not arriving there until after his physical prime) and he was a 5 time All Star (compared to only 3 trips to the All Star Game as an Expo).
- Dawson says he wants to go in as a Cub. He says Chicago is responsible for his career's resurgence and he attributes Cub fans for their support as the motivation for him to keep playing on disintegrating knees.
Still, despite the Hawk's desires, it seems to be a no-brainer that he should be an Expo. When the Hall of Fame puts a hat on a player, it tends to be the hat he wore the most in his career. But there are a few other compelling reasons as to why he should wear the Big Red C.
On top of Dawson's own desire to go in as a Cub -- which should carry a lot of weight -- the Montreal organization has essentially rejected him. The Nationals do not really acknowledge their pre-existence as the Expos. As mentioned earlier, they unretired Dawson's jersey and do not have any days in which they honor their former Expos.
In the city of Montreal, they do not have any Veterans Days. They don't celebrate the Expos. The fans are ambivalent-at-best. In other words, it would mean nothing to them if the Hall of Fame enshrined the Hawk with the Curvy Red E.
In Chicago, Dawson remains worshiped, loved, and cherished. In the years that he's been gone, right field has been patrolled by a 600-homerun-hitting monster, an Asian Sensation, a rage-filled douchebag, and an assortment of cast-offs. None have had the staying power of the Hawk. It would mean everything to the Cub fans and the Chicago organization if the Hall of Fame put that Red C on his plaque.
In other words, while enshrining Dawson as an Expo would be historically accurate -- yes, he spent more years there and accumulated many of his accomplishments -- it wouldn't mean anything to anybody. It would pay backhanded tribute to an organization that did not deserve it while ignoring the desires of the player being honored.
Besides -- and this is also important -- if Dawson hadn't come to Chicago, he wouldn't have become a Hall of Famer. It's simple and it's true. Look at the numbers from his previous three seasons before coming to Chicago: 407 games played, a .262 AVG, 60 homeruns, 255 RBI, these are not the numbers of a Hall of Famer in the prime of his career, and yet they were exactly that. When Dawson came to Chicago, he arrived as a player on the decline looking for a few more years before calling it a day on his career. When he departed Chicago six years later, he left as a future Hall of Famer.
Therefore, without bias, Dawson should be a Cub in Cooperstown.