Andre Dawson, Collusion, and the Hall of Fame

Andre Dawson was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame yesterday. Those of us who watched him when he played with Montreal Expos really enjoyed watching him. And there is no doubt he was a VERY good player.

And yet, as many sabremetricians will surely point out, Dawson’s performances probably contributed less to his teams’ winning percentages than did the performances of Bert Blyleven or Tim Raines or even possibly Jack Morris (I really am having hard time understanding why Robbie Alomar received so many votes).

Let’s face it. There is one important reason that Dawson was elected to the MLB Hall of Fame, and it is the same reason he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award in 1987 despite there being other likely more suitable candidates. Leading up to the 1987 season, Dawson made it clear that because of his ailing knees, he no longer wanted to play on astroturf but with his free agency would seek a contract with a team that had a natural grass outfield. He was especially interested in signing with the Chicago Cubs, but this was 1986-87, and no one would sign him to a contract…. No one, despite his potential contributions to a team. 1987 was, it turned out, a year of collusion among MLB teams, and most free agents found no takers other than their original teams (at monopsonistic salaries).

To deal with this collusive situation in the 1987 MLB, Dawson essentially signed a blank contract, gave it to Dallas Green (then general manager of the Cubs) and told him to fill in the numbers. This gesture, plus his overall good performance that season, helped Dawson win the hearts of fans and sportswriters. And it was this gesture that put him over the top in the MVP balloting that year and in the Hall of Fame balloting this year.

Without that action, Andre Dawson would be another very good player just on the cusp of being elected into the Hall of Fame. With it, he became a hero to many who were disgusted by the collusive behaviour of the MLB owners.

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Author: John Palmer

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