Before Dale Murphy moved to the position, Andre Dawson was the best centerfielder in the National League, taking over from Lee Mazzilli and Cesar Cedeno.


1 Dale Murphy 1983 130
2 Dale Murphy 1985 129

3 Tim Raines 1984 125
4 Willie McGee 1985 124
5 Dale Murphy 1984 122
6 Dale Murphy 1982 117

7 Lee Mazzilli 1979 114
8 Andre Dawson 1983 112
9 Andre Dawson 1982 106
10 Andre Dawson 1980 105

11 George Hendrick 1977 102
12 Dale Murphy 1980 100
T13 Cesar Cedeno 1976 95
T13 Omar Moreno 1979 95
15 Von Hayes 1984 94
16 Cesar Cedeno 1980 93
17 Garry Maddox 1976 92
T18 Rick Monday 1976 91
T18 Andre Dawson 1979 91
20 Cesar Cedeno 1977 90
21 Chili Davis 1984 88
22 Dave Collins 1980 86
T23 Garry Maddox 1977 84
T23 Lee Mazzilli 1978 84
T25 Andre Dawson 1981 83
T25 Garry Maddox 1978 83
27 Cesar Geronimo 1976 82
28 Andre Dawson 1977 81
T29 Terry Puhl 1979 80
T29 Andre Dawson 1978 80

Note… Dawson’s best season, by percentages, was 1981, the strike year. Projected to a full season, it was equal to Raines and McGee as the best non-Murphy season by an NL centerfielder in this period.

Dawson was not the hitter Murphy was, largely because of his walk rate. His career high in walks was 44, set in 1980. From 1980 to 1991, the lowest walk total Murph would post was 44, and that was in the 1981 strike year (the worst full season he would have before 1989). Murphy also hit for slightly more power; Dawson topped a .500 slugging percentage just twice in his Montreal years, while Murph did it five times in the same period. A lot of that, however, is park effect. Dawson had a big stolen base advantage in his early years, until he hurt his knee.

Other than that, the two were pretty similar players — .280-.300 range hitters and Gold Glove centerfielders (before injury moved Dawson to right in 1984). Though Dawson ran more, both were excellent percentage basestealers, over 70 percent. Both were and are extremely well liked. Both came up in 1976, though Murphy didn’t move to center until 1980 because the geniuses running the team then couldn’t figure out that a a 6-5 guy might have some problems at catcher.

As I mentioned above, Dawson had knee problems, severe ones, which sapped his speed and forced the move from center, and later caused him to leave Montreal for the grass field in Chicago. Ironically, this might have extended his career. At least, it’s thought that the wear and tear of playing center might have been a factor in Murphy’s decline. Murphy was done in 1989, but Dawson, even though he was a year and a half older, remained an effective player for several seasons after that. At 35, he put up the second-best OPS of his career. He was a good player until he was 37 and a below-average but not useless player until he retired at 41.

What do those years, the years after his last starring campaign in 1990, mean? 92 homers, 573 hits. They’re the difference between him and Murphy. Without them, he has fewer homers and only a few more hits than Murph. These seasons were all pretty mediocre (his offensive winning percentage for the last six seasons of his career is under .500), but they aren’t totally valueless.

If I had to choose any one position player from the current ballot to go into the Hall of Fame… Well, I’d probably take Murphy for sentimental reasons. But realistically, Dawson is probably the best position player on there right now. He wasn’t the player at his peak that Murph was, but he was close — call it 95 percent. And he has a pretty sizable advantage in career value.

Dawson got 61 percent of the vote this time, and will probably get in within the next five years. (The odds are that Jim Rice will make it in on the 2007-08 ballot, and Dawson will have an excellent chance the year after that. Dawson was a better player than Rice at his peak and had far more career value.) Murph is in danger of falling off the ballot and isn’t close to election, but the difference between them really isn’t that great.

Andre Dawson Statistics –