A lot of Hall of Famers walk around the Winter Meetings, and a common question they’re asked is what they think about PED users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens making it into the hall of Fame. Andre Dawson was one of them, and Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post asked him about the PED generation heading to Cooperstown.
His bright line — which, even if I disagree with, I can respect as intellectually valid, is that people who broke rules shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. But he creates problems for himself when he tries to parse their performance as opposed to their character and talks about those players about whom we are uncertain:
“Nobody can say when these individual started doing it. But all of a sudden late in your career you become twice as good a ballplayer as you were maybe in your first 5 to 10 years? That just doesn’t happen. That’s not the way it works.”
Andre Dawson went from 20 home runs to 49 in his 12th year in the league. That just doesn’t happen either, does it?
Of course it does. Because the run scoring context of the game changes all the time. In 1987, when Dawson won the MVP award — an award without which, he probably would not have made the Hall of Fame — baseball had what is widely believed to be a juiced ball. There are many who believe that, in addition to everything else that happened from the early 90s through the mid 2000s (i.e. steroids and smaller ballparks), the ball was again juiced as well. It is documented that it happened in the 1930s too.
If you’re anti-PED as a matter of ethics, fine, make your stand there. But the idea that people putting up unexpected numbers and having late-career surges, etc. is, by definition, unnatural, you just don’t understand the history of the game. And Andre Dawson himself is as great an example of that as anyone.