Congratulations to The Hawk on his induction into Cooperstown! That makes it a great day for Cubs fans despite the misery being brought about most days by this year’s team. Of course, it appears the current team decided to honor the occasion by taking a break from their usual suckiness for a few days as well. Two out of three from the Cardinals to celebrate!
Andre Dawson has been one of the more controversial recent selections to Cooperstown and I’ve enjoyed reading a lot of what has been written on the subject across the internet. I actually think Dawson is one of the lower end members of the Hall at this point but I still believe he is a deserving member. Similar to what they call the person who finishes last in their class in medical school (Doctor!), a Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer.
One particular piece from the blogosphere that I wanted to touch on here is the case against Dawson by Matt Meyers over at ESPN.com;
You have to be an ESPN Insider to see the whole article, so only a few people will be able to see the whole thing. But to summarize the article, Meyers tries to discredit the 1987 NL MVP award that Dawson won and any impact it might have had on his selection to the Hall.
Meyers is a stathead and I love statheads in the way that I love accountants. Good accountants make a good company better. But not many good companies let accountants make any of the important decisions. So I’m happy to have a good stathead in the front office. You just have to make sure you have someone in charge who can help the statheads see the big picture.
In his article, Meyers uses a number of advanced statistical measures to dissect Dawson’s 1987 season. And while he sticks to currently well known and accepted metrics (OPS, WARP, etc.), these metrics lead him to this statement as one of his conclusions – “Not only did he not deserve the award, he also might not have been one of the 10 best choices.” This is the point where he loses the big picture. And those of you who watched Dawson play that season know why.
Before I get into why Meyers isn’t seeing the big picture, I do want to say that I am not trying to argue that Dawson was absolutely, positively, 100% the right choice for NL MVP in 1987. I can accept arguments for some of the other contenders that year. The specific point I am arguing is ridiculous is that Dawson may not have even been in the top 10.
One of the hurdles the statheads face is that while they can understand what the numbers say, they struggle with what they see. In fact, it seems like some of them don’t spend a lot of time actually watching the game at all. And those that do watch the game seem like they focus on things they can measure rather than things they can feel.
I don’t know Matt Meyers so I have no idea how much baseball he watches. But I know how much I watched in 1987. And I know why I watched it. It was because of how many special moments Andre Dawson produced that year. How many ‘Wow! I’m so glad I didn’t miss that!” moments. Home runs, steals, throwing runners out, key singles, Dawson seemed to come through at every moment when we were praying for a hero that year. And even though the Cubs didn’t win a lot that year, I still watched a ton of games, more so than any other year. Because Andre Dawson kept producing special moments, and kept me coming back hoping for more.
Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy, who also writes at ESPN.com, talks a lot about how Pedro Martinez was a must see guy in his prime in the late 90s. How Boston sports fans never missed watching his starts just because of how many amazing things happened. How many strings of Ks, how many wild swings that missed by three feet, how many emotional fist pumps from Pedro. Dawson in 1987, McGwire & Sosa in 1998, Roger Clemens in 1986. Those are other similar types of years I can remember from my lifetime where I just didn’t want to miss a certain player.
Take a look at all of the MVPs from 1980-2009. See how many of those players you can say something like ‘Yeah, I remember him that year, he was unbelievable’. I can almost guarantee you that Dawson in 1987 will be on that list if you were alive then. Anybody remember Juan Gonzalez in 1998? I remember Juan Gonzalez but not that year specifically.
So Matt Meyers can argue about how much better other MVPs were statistically. But he is missing what most people consider the most important part of the game when he makes that statement that Dawson might not have even been in the top 10 in 1987.