Andre Dawson: ‘I didn’t play against more than a few Hall of Famers’

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Andre Dawson is pretty much the definition of a borderline Hall of Famer. He led his league in homers once and RBI once, both in 1987. He never led his league in average, on-base percentage or slugging percentage. He finished at .279/.323/.482 with 438 homers and 1,591 RBI in a career divided evenly between center field and right field.

Dawson, though, seems to think he’s inner-circle, though perhaps it doesn’t help that he’s being egged on by Barry Rozner in a Daily Herald interview.

“The thing is, I played a long time in the majors, and a couple more in the minors, and I didn’t play with that many Hall of Fame-caliber ballplayers,” Dawson said. “I didn’t play against more than a few Hall of Famers.”

Of course, any Hall of Fame selective enough to only elect a few of the best players over a 20-year span wouldn’t have Dawson for a member. It also probably wouldn’t be popular enough to draw crowds and stay in business.

But then, this interview is more about PEDs and what they did to poor Andre’s numbers.

“The guys who took steroids disrespected the game, and disrespected the history,” Dawson said. “Our history relies so much on the numbers, and the numbers have been destroyed.”

It’s an ironic argument coming from a guy who wouldn’t have made the Hall of Fame at all if not for the rabbit ball year of 1987. Dawson had his league-leading 49 homers and 137 RBI that year and won a undeserved MVP because of those numbers. He finished just 10th in the league in OPS despite being aided by Wrigley Field, and while Dawson began his career as a top-notch defensive center fielder, he had lost range and moved to right by 1987.

Maybe that’s not entirely fair — Dawson had nothing to do with the conditions of 1987 — but the fact is that Dawson averaged 22 homers and 81 RBI in the four years surrounding that season. Give him another one of those instead of his 49 and 137, and it’s doubtful the writers vote him in.

Still, this is really about drugs. Let’s go back to that.

“I’m mad about what they did to the game. I think of Hank (Aaron) and Willie (Mays) and Mickey (Mantle), it makes me really angry,” Dawson said. “We worked really, really hard to get to a certain level. They did it with drugs.”

Really, those are the three players you bring up? Two amphetamine abusers and a guy in Mantle who would have put pretty much anything into his body?

Maybe you should just crawl back into the ivy, Andre.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.