Dewey with his Hall of Fame-worthy mustache, ca. 1981/1982.
I’m not the first person to make the case for Dwight Evans being in the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for Dewey, he hasn’t even come close to making it. A strong argument, nevertheless, can be made for his induction. People need to keep making it until he’s in.
California native Dwight Evans was one of my favorite players growing up. He was a big part of the 1980s Red Sox. Along with Clemens, Boggs, Rice, and others, the Sox came tantalizingly close to winning its first championship since 1918.
Dewey even helped me remember my junior high locker combo “10-24-28” (Rich Gedman’s number/Dewey’s number/Todd Benzinger’s number).
Rice and Boggs and Clemens were so good that they overshadowed Evans. Dewey did his job well, but he did it quietly.
Fortunately, evaluating Evans’s worthiness for the HOF benefits from modern advances in statistical analysis (known as Sabermetrics). One can also evaluate him through simple comparisons to others who are in the Hall already.
Dewey’s lifetime hitting and fielding stats are strong. Over the course of 20 seasons, Evans hit 385 homeruns (putting him 66th all-time), drove in 1,384 runners (ranked 82nd), smacked 483 doubles (81st), and batted .272. He also won an impressive 8 Gold Gloves. Only 16 other players in the AL have had 8 or more.
Oh, and Dewey made the All-Star team 3 times and won two Silver Sluggers.
Not bad, right? But let’s look closer at those stats. Evans had a lifetime WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 67.2. We won’t get into the details of how WAR is compiled, but the higher your WAR, the better you are. Few players have been as good as Dwight Evans.
To put his value in perspective: Evans is 128th all-time in WAR. WAR applies to pitchers as well as hitters. So, not only is Evans better than most players, there are fewer than 100 everyday position players who have a better lifetime WAR. And that means every player since major league baseball began. Many players with a high WAR were playing in the days before cars, helmets, antibiotics, and African American MLB athletes. Many of them you’ve never heard of. Isn’t it supposed to be a Hall of Fame?
As of 2020, there are 236 players in the HOF. If he were in the Hall, Dwight Evans would be better than most of the guys in there.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Dwight Evans, ca. 1981/1982.
Let’s compare Evans to Hall of Famers of similar caliber. We’ll start with Barry Larkin.
Larkin has a lifetime WAR of 70.5, higher than Evans’s. He also won an MVP award, which Evans never did. But even when Larkin did win an MVP (1995), he failed to lead the league in a single hitting category. In fact, he never led the NL in a hitting category in his entire career.
Larkin has far more steals than Dewey and has a higher lifetime batting average. But he had fewer hits and doubles, and his OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) is .815, lower than Evans’s (.840). Larkin probably scored higher HOF points for being a shortstop, but he had only 3 GGs to Evans’s 8.
Nearly everyone else who has a higher WAR than Dewey is either in the HOF already, will be inducted, or probably never will because of personal scandals (i.e., gambling, cheating, or the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs).
Gaylord Perry is in the HOF despite being a confessed cheater who threw spitballs for most of his career. Don Drysdale, another spitball thrower, is also in the Hall. Drysdale didn’t even come close to having 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts. Had Dewey played one more full season, he would have finished his career with 400+ homeruns and 500+ doubles, which would have greatly helped his HOF resume.
Only eight of those players with a higher WAR than Dewey are still active. Another 14 are retired but have not been inducted, and four of them were dopers. Only three “clean,” long-retired players who are not in the HOF are ahead of him in WAR (Bobby Grich, Kevin Brown, and Graig Nettles).
If we look at OPS, Evans ranks 237th All-Time, with a .840 OPS. That’s almost as high as teammates—and HOFer—Jim Rice (.854) and Wade Boggs (.858). But neither Rice nor Boggs played as long as Dewey did. And neither won a single GG in the course of their career. If you look at Rice’s and Dewey’s hits, HRs and RBI, they are quite similar in terms of productivity.
Among hitters who played 20 seasons or more and who are not in the HOF, only four have a higher OPS. One is active, Miguel Cabrera. He will be a first ballot inductee. The others in the 20+ seasons, higher-OPS-than-Dewey club are Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jason Giambi—all of them dopers who will probably never make it in.
Dewey never won an MVP, but he probably should have—in 1981 and 1984 to be specific. In 1981, he led the league in HRs, ABs, BBs, OPS, and TB. He also won a GG and Silver Slugger. Who won the MVP that year, you ask? Rollie fucking Fingers! I’m all for a reliever winning the Cy Young. But the MVP too? C’mon!
Rollie Fingers. Dewey’s main competitor for the MVP in 1981 and in the mustache sweepstakes.
Evans had another MVP caliber season in 1984, where he led the league in games played, plate appearances, runs, and OPS. He also hit 32 HRs and drove in 104 runs. He batted .295, with 37 doubles and drew 115 walks. He won another GG, but he finished only 11th in the MVP voting. Yet again, the award went to a goddamn relief pitcher (Willie Hernandez).
And I haven’t even talked about 1987, Dewey’s best season. Or the fact that 1981 was shortened by a players strike that cut about 50 games from the schedule in the summer months.
One final comparison. Let’s look at how Dewey stacks up against Ozzie Smith. Ozzie made the HOF because of his defense. He won 13 Gold Gloves. That’s cool. He also had a cool nickname—the “Wizard of Oz” and could do cool flips between pitches. Ozzie had speed, and he played for a World Series winning Cardinals team in 1982.
But Ozzie Smith couldn’t hit for shit. He had only 28 HRs in his entire career. His OPS is a pitiful, pitcher-level .666. Yes, he stole more than 500 bases, and he was a great fielding shortstop. He has a higher lifetime WAR (76.9) than Dewey. But Ozzie Smith finished in the top ten in MVP voting only once. Evans? 4 times.
If you were manager and got to choose between Ozzie and Dewey, who would you pick? And if you’re not sure, doesn’t that suggest BOTH should be in the Hall of Fame?
The stats are pretty clear: Dwight Evans deserves to be in the Hall. I don’t mean to pick on Ozzie Smith. You could make many comparisons between Dewey and other HOFers, too (I’m looking at you, Tony Perez!). The point is not that these other players don’t deserve to be in the Hall. The point is that Dewey does.
Dewey was the whole package. He had a cool mustache. He had a cool batting stance. He hit for power, had a great arm, and he got on base a lot. In 1986, he hit the first pitch of the season for a homerun. During Roger Clemens’s historic 20 strikeout game, it was Dewey who provided the Sox with the 3-run homer that won them the game.
Dewey, ca. 1986. In 1986, Evans was one of the main reasons why the Sox came within one strike of winning the World Series.
Had the Red Sox won the 1986 World Series, Dewey—who hit 2 homeruns and drove in 9 and hit .308 with four walks—would’ve been the MVP. And from a personality point of view, I never remember hearing a bad thing said about Dwight Evans. That’s no mean accomplishment in a sports town as vicious as Boston.
Evans was a star slugger in the era before doping became rampant. He was a remarkably consistent player, hitting 10 or more homeruns in 18 of his 20 seasons. Dewey, in short, could do it all.
So, sportswriters, do the right hitting. Let’s put Dwight Evans in the Hall of Fame.