Debating whether Mark McGwire should be in the baseball Hall of Fame

20 Apr

As much fun as the Big Mac was to watch on his historic home run race he is not a Hall of Famer. I won’t argue the steroid or human growth hormone (HGH) angle this point, I will argue what he did on the field. McGwire was as one dimensional a player as I have seen since Dave Kingman who by the way isn’t in the hall either despite his home run hitting prowess.

While McGwire’s 583 dingers are impressive, in an offensively inflated era they don’t carry as much clout as bygone eras. His .263 batting average is pedestrian by hall standards, his post season numbers are abysmal, and even as a first baseman his fielding was poor. He had almost no range or arm in the field. Had he not been in the national league he would have been a designated hitter.

What we have to consider is where do we draw the line? Only 20 years ago a player with 450 homers was considered an almost sure thing for the hall of fame (HOF) however with Dave Kingman who was comparable to McGwire skills wise they drew the line. We look at the immense amount of young one dimensional players hitting homers in cracker jack ballparks and see that over the next 20 years the 500-600 home run club is going to become so diluted what once made it special is gone. Adam Dunn stands out as a current player who does nothing but hit homers and is quickly on his way there.

The drug issue can be debated. Canseco for whatever his opinion is worth claimed Mac began using in the 80’s. Mac claims he used only over the counter supplements but refused to answer questions put forth by congress on the subject. In doing so he sullied his reputation and gave the game a black eye just as much as Sammy Sosa’s “No hablo” defense scheme. People can argue whether performance enhancing substances really enhanced him but there are two points to make here. The first is that performance enhancing drugs were and are illegal- regardless of the sports stance on these. They are controlled substances he took without a prescription and they did in fact violate the MLB policy on such substances although testing, enforcement and punishment was laughable in that era. Secondly if we are to believe multiple sources claiming his use of these over almost all of his career, all his numbers are tainted. There is no litmus test for a before/after comparison as with most players.

McGwire was wildly popular, seemingly talented, and in general a nice guy. I’ve met him personally and he was very likable. The thing to remember is that beyond the numbers the HOF does have a morals clause in the voting which was all but ignored until this era. It is however there. McGwire cheated, he broke the law, and the consequences of such actions are seemingly going to be his denial to the HOF. As much as I like him this is the right choice, there has to be a time where we break with the standards of the past and stand up and do things that are right and not just popular.

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