Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Close the book on McGwire

OK, I'm just going to write this now to get it out of the way, then hopefully the world can let the subject rest...or at least the 5 people reading this.

Fact: Mark McGwire did steroids
Fact: Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris' single-season HR record while on steroids
Fact: Mark McGwire's admission of and apology for these facts stopped somewhere short of full contrition (OK, this might not technically be a "fact")
Fact: Major League Baseball did not have regulations restricting steroid use while McGwire was juicing

Opinion: Mark McGwire deserves to be in the Hall of Fame
Near Fact: Mark McGwire will not get into the Hall of Fame

There were definitely a couple things that didn't add up about Mark McGwire's steroid confession yesterday. He still claims he only did them to help speed recovery from injuries. Pretty much everyone alive believes that's a load of horsepucky. And it doesn't address why he started taking them in '93, before his body began to break down in a major way. Also, he said that he didn't fess up during the Congressional hearings because they wouldn't grant him immunity. Immunity from what? Has any baseball player named in the Mitchell Report been indicted? Would he really have been subject to criminal prosecution? Sounds a little fishy. That having been said, I believe the emotion that McGwire showed during his interview with Bob Costas was genuine. I believe he's sorry. Now all that's left is to decide what his legacy should be.

If you don't think Mark McGwire belongs in the Hall of Fame, that's fine. As long as your reasoning is that his stats don't warrant it. I can see an argument there. Despite being 8th all-time in home runs, he's only 66th all-time in RBI. Only 191st in runs scored. And as I've argued before, those two categories should be considered the most telling aspect of an offensive player's long-term value - the entire objective of the game being to score runs. His shortcomings in those areas are due to his abbreviated number at bats stemming from constant injury. I still happen to believe that he belongs in the Hall of Fame on the back of being 8th all-time in home runs, and one of the most feared hitters of his time. But if you disagree based on stats alone, I wouldn't put up much of an argument.

If, however, you're going to cite the "character clause" in the voting guidelines for the Hall of Fame, that's where I would have an issue. I don't see where the argument is here. Steroids were not banned from baseball at the time McGwire was using. That's it. Bottom line. End of argument. I don't see why there is a discussion about this. It's baseball's error, not McGwire's. MLB knew full well what was going on; anyone who tells you otherwise is either a fool or a liar. It's just one of the reasons that "Commissioner" Bud Selig is one of the worst things ever to happen to the game. If they had cut this thing off at the head, we wouldn't be having this conversation today, and players like McGwire may or may not have ended up with the numbers they did. But baseball WANTED the home runs; it NEEDED the home runs. So it stood idly by while who knows how many players juiced up. So now we're going to penalize the guys who saw the most successful results from taking steroids? A Hall of Fame without Bonds, Palmeiro, Sosa, Clemens, Rodriguez, Ramirez? If any of these guys used AFTER the drug policy was intact, then the punishment is justified. If not, forget it. It wasn't cheating. No one will nominate these guys for any integrity awards, but it wasn't cheating. It was a level playing field, and everyone had access to the same ALLOWABLE substances. There is simply no way to measure how much of an advantage it gave these players. So in absence of that, there is no way to tell what portion of their stats they earned, and what portion was inflated. Hence, you have to take the numbers at face value.

It is possible that one day, one player who has used PED's will get voted in, and that may open the floodgates for the others. But, as it stands right now, it looks like the Hall will be missing many of the game's purported legendary players. The whole thing is sad. A blight on a great game.

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