Sunday, July 26, 2009

Looking Towards Cooperstown 2010

Today, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame honored three former players and one broadcaster with enshrinement into the premier institution in all of sports. Rickey Henderson, Jim Rice, and Joe Gordon were forever immortalized with plaques in baseball's hallowed ode to the American pasttime. As baseball players and fans, both past and present, celebrate the tremendous accomplishments of these remarkable gentlemen, I'd like to take a look forward to the Hall of Fame inductions of 2010 and three men that I feel are deserving of immortalization in upstate New York.

Andre Dawson

Nicknames "The Hawk", Andre Dawson played 21 seasons in the major leagues for the Montreal Expos, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Florida Marlins. In 2,627 career games The Hawk amassed 2,774 hits, 438 homeruns, and 1,591 runs batted in. In addition, Dawson stole 314 bases despite battling chronic knee problems (undoubtedly agitated by playing on the artificial surface in Montreal's Olympic Stadium). Dawson finished his career with a .279 batting average, a .323 on-base percentage, and a robust .482 slugging percentage. The Hawk finished in the top 10 in batting average 5-times and 8-times in slugging percentage.

An 8-time all-star and 4-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Dawson was the recepient of the 1977 Rookie of the Year award. 10 years later, in 1987, he won the National League Most Valuable Player award after batting .287 and leading the league with 49 homeruns and 137 runs batted in, a .568 slugging percentage, 341 total bases, and a respectable .328 on-base percentage. He accomplished all of this while playing for a last place Cubs team. He was the runner-up in MVP voting twice, after the 1981 and 1983 seasons. Dawson was also an outstanding defensive outfielder. He was an 8-time Gold Glove Award Winner, including 6 in a row from from the 1980-1985 seasons. Dawson finished his career with a .980 fielding percentage and 157 outfield assists.

In 1993, Dawson joined Hall of Famer Willie Mays as the second player in Major League Baseball history to hit 400 homeruns and steal 300 bases. In 1994, Dawson was awarded the Hutch Award, given to the active player that best exemplifies the fighting spirit and competitive desire to win.

Ron Santo

Ronald Edward Santo played 14 seasons for the Chicago Cubs and 1 season for the Chicago White Sox. In 2,243 games, Santo hit .277 with 2,254 hits, 342 homeruns, and 1,331 runs batted in. Santo had a career .362 on-base percentage and a .464 slugging percentage. Exhibiting exceptional patience at the plate, Santo led the league in walks 4 times and 2 times in on-base percentage.

To say that Ronny was an outstanding fielder would be a gross understatement. Widely considered the best 3rd baseman of his generation by his peers, Santo was a 5-time Gold Glove Award winner and amassed a respectable .954 fielding percentage.

Santo was the poster child for durability. He played in 160 or more games 7 times in his career at arguably the most demanding position on a baseball diamond with the exception of catcher. Santo played his entire career with Type-2 diabetes but didn't disclosed his condition to fans, teammates, or ownership until after his career had ended. Santo undoubtedly paved the way for athletes with diabetes to play not just baseball, but all professional sports.

In 1973, Ron was awarded the Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, given to the player that best exemplifies character and integrity both on and off the field.

Bert Blyleven

Born in Zeist in the Netherlands, the "Frying Dutchman" played 22 seasons in the big leagues for the Minnesota Twins (twice), Texas Rangers, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and California Angels. Known for being a notorious dugout pranksters that frequently set his teammate's shoelaces on fire, Blyleven was a 2-time All-Star, 2-time World Series champion, and the 1989 Comeback Player of the Year.

Blyleven amassed 287 career wins (27th all-time) with a 3.31 earned run average and 3,701 career strikeouts, which is 5th all-time in Major League Baseball history. Bert completed 242 of the games that he started in his career. He led the league in shutouts 3-times and in innings pitched twice. Bly finished in the top 10 in wins 6-times, in strikeouts 15-times, and in earned run average 10-times including finishing 2nd twice.

Bert Blyleven is widely considered the best pitcher in major league history not yet elected to the baseball Hall of Fame.

Here's to the hope that Bert, Ronny, and The Hawk will all get that long-awaited call from Cooperstown in the summer of 2010.

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