Has there ever been a less-satisfying Baseball Hall of Fame vote? Doubtful. The borderline pitcher that the everybody's-a-Hall-of-Famer crowd wants in misses by five votes. Five. The best second baseman of a generation or two also just misses. The slugging outfielder with the horrible slugging percentage, whose candidacy seems to rest largely on a Hockey Hall of Fame good guy standard, sneaks in.
How perfect. How Cooperstown.
The big-tent people were grumbling Wednesday after Andre Dawson was the only player to receive the requisite 75-per-cent vote for admission into Cooperstown. The minimalists - myself included - were annoyed that Dawson made it in, outraged that Roberto Alomar was left out and taking some solace in a smidgen of growth in Tim Raines's vote total in his third year of eligibility. Mark McGwire … never mind.
In promising so much and delivering so little, Cooperstown showed once again that despite the flaws inherent in depending on a roiling, unkempt, conflicted, hide-bound, overly-engaged and - in some cases - marginally engaged voting pool, it is the only Hall of Fame capable of getting a rise out of anybody.
Hey, beats the hell out of getting all exorcised about a group of teenaged hockey players, no? Dawson, the marvellously athletic outfielder whose body failed him long before his spirit, was a flop when it came to delivering a World Series title to either the Montreal Expos or the even longer suffering Chicago Cubs and he'll break the hearts of one of those teams yet again when Dawson finally goes into the Hall of Fame on July 25. He can go in wearing an Expos cap. Or a Cubs cap. But not both, and it's the Hall that makes the ultimate decision.
"Yeah, we're going to sit down and discuss it," Dawson said, after being named on 420 votes out of 539 cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA), getting 15 more votes than the 75 per cent necessary to gain election in his ninth year of eligibility. "It's an important decision … but not at this moment. The fact is, I'm a Hall of Famer right now.
"I have some reservations about the cap I'd like to wear. I'll sit down with the Hall of Fame and hopefully make the right decision."
Gary Carter is the only player in the Hall of Fame wearing an Expos hat, even though he openly lobbied to go in as a member of the New York Mets for fear of facing the inevitable question from his grandchildren: Yo, Gramps. What's an Expo? Vintage Carter, that.
This is a decision with financial implications for the inductee, because memorabilia is more valuable when the signature is on a big-market team's stuff, as opposed to a defunct team. Dawson's fans no doubt hope he's above trolling for coin this time as he was in 1987 when he famously handed the Cubs a signed blank contract in the throes of collusion. Dawson ended up playing for $500,000 (U.S.).
Dawson's career is a tricky one for the Hall to parse. He won a most valuable player award with the Cubs, but he spent 10 years with the Expos and is in many ways the face of the team in the 1980s - the dynasty that never was. Yet Dawson said yesterday that moving to the natural grass of Wrigley Field prolonged his career - he didn't mention it padded his statistics - and offered the observation that had he not left Montreal's atrocious artificial turf he would have only been able to play for "two or three more years," and thus not made the Hall.
There is no doubt that Alomar will go in wearing a Toronto Blue Jays cap next year - becoming the first player to do so. He received 397 votes, the most for a first-year candidate without getting elected. The 73.7-per-cent vote total left him just eight short of election, and even the illogical way most voters add or delete players from their ballot each year and lingering memories of his spitting incident with umpire John Hirschbeck won't prove an impediment to his election. Larry Walker of Maple Ridge, B.C., will join the ballot next year as Cooperstown approaches Armageddon: 2013, the year when the names of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa appear.
You want to see the BBWAA do some fancy dancing, just wait until then!
539 votes cast, 405 needed to make the Baseball Hall of Fame:
- x-Andre Dawson 420 (77.9 per cent)
- Bert Blyleven 400 (74.2 per cent)
- Roberto Alomar 397 (73.7 per cent)
- Jack Morris 282 (52.3 per cent)
- Barry Larkin 278 (51.6 per cent)
- Lee Smith 255 (47.3 per cent)
- Edgar Martinez 195 (36.2 per cent)
- Tim Raines 164 (30.4 per cent)
- Mark McGwire 128 (23.7 per cent)
- Alan Trammell 121 (22.4 per cent)
- Fred McGriff 116 (21.5 per cent)
- Don Mattingly 87 (16.1 per cent)
- Dave Parker 82 (15.2 per cent)
- Dale Murphy 63 (11.7 per cent)
- Harold Baines 33 (6.1 per cent)
By receiving fewer than 27 votes (less than 5 per cent), Andres Galarraga 22 (4.1 per cent), Robin Ventura 7 (1.3 per cent), Ellis Burks 2 (0.4 per cent), Eric Karros 2 (0.4 per cent), Kevin Appier 1 (0.2 per cent), Pat Hentgen 1 (0.2 per cent), David Segui 1 (0.2 per cent), Mike Jackson 0, Ray Lankford 0, Shane Reynolds 0, Todd Zeile 0 are no longer eligible for election by the BBWAA.