Major League Baseball Hall Of Fame votes are in and the results will be revealed soon enough. We can debate over which (if any) of this year's first-ballot players deserve to get in or how good certain relief pitchers should have to be for induction. But I've never been someone to shy away from the elephant in the room, so let's just dive into the debate everyone has an opinion about:
Should Mark McGwire be in the Hall Of Fame?
Mark McGwire is by far one of the best players in baseball history. Let's look at the raw numbers:
12 time All Star
3 Silver Sluggers
1 Gold Glove
583 Home Runs
With the bar for getting into the HOF set at about 500 home runs or so, McGwire makes it in based on his home run total alone. He could have had even more if foot injuries didn't limit his playing time in the last few seasons and force him to retire earlier than he should have.
Aside from all that, McGwire was a force unlike any other in his career. He was Barry Bonds before Barry Bonds was Barry Bonds (if that makes any sense). Like Bonds a few years later, people knew when McGwire was at bat. Pitchers feared him because he seemed like he could launch any pitch in the strike zone out of the ballpark. Lets not forget that he set the single season record for home runs at 70. Sure, there are suspicions that maybe 1 or 2 of the 4 he hit in the last 2 games of the season might have been grooved to him, but that's just speculation.
Speaking of suspicions, have you heard that McGwire is thought to have taken performance-enhancing drugs? McGwire's ties to the Steroid Era are the main reason people say he should not get into the Hall Of Fame. This is absolutely unfair. McGwire was a mountain of a man hitting record-setting numbers of home runs at a time where many players were thought to be using steroids and HGH, but is that now enough to keep a man out of the Hall Of Fame?
McGwire never failed a steroid test.
McGwire has never had his name come up in connection to BALCO or any other shady business.
McGwire's name was not on the Mitchell Report.
Suspicion of steroid use alone should not be enough to discredit someone's accomplishments. There is no hard evidence (or any kind of evidence for that matter) against McGwire. We know just as much about McGwire juicing/not juicing today as we did in 1998. Yet in 1998, he was "saving baseball". If you think McGwire was juicing this whole time, why was it "ok" in 1998 and "not ok" now?
You can't keep someone out of the Hall Of Fame for cheating if you don't have any proof of said cheating. Yes, McGwire didn't help his case by stammering at the steroid hearings in 2005 in front of congress and a national audience, but that's still not proof. We have players in the Hall Of Fame that have admitted to (and brag about) cheating. If you elect admitted cheaters, keeping someone out without any proof is just ludicrous.
It's sad, and I hate that things work this way, but in the Steroid Era, having a lot of circumstantial evidence against someone is enough to keep them out of the Hall Of Fame, if not forever, then at least long enough so that we can get a proper perspective on the whole era and how it fits into baseball history. The beauty of the Hall Of Fame is that we can keep McGwire out until everything gets sorted out. If 10 years go by and half of all MLB players come under suspicion of steroid use, then sure, let McGwire in. But if 10 years go by and there's no ties to any other players the way that there was to McGwire, it might be enough to keep him out forever. Like I said, it's sad that that's the world we live in. but it's the truth. Sure there are cheaters in the Hall Of Fame, but I don't think any of them admitted to cheating before being elected, did they?
But all steroids aside, would McGwire still be a sure-fire Hall Of Famer if he had proof that he's 100% clean? Sure, he hit a ton of home runs, but that's about all he brought to the table. McGwire hit home runs and walked. He also struck out quite a bit, having 11 seasons with more than 100 K's. Let's not forget Mark's awesome career batting average of .263 either.
Hmmm...hits home runs, walks, strikes out a ton, hits in the .260's...
Isn't that Adam Dunn?
Whether he juiced or not, McGwire played in an era where everyone's home run totals were inflated. Blame it on expansion or juiced balls or steroids. Either way, the home run isn't as prolific as it once was. Now I will admit that taking away the almost 600 homers that McGwire hit is taking away a big chunk of his career, but if you do, he's just not that great. Maybe great, but this isn't the Hall Of Great we're talking about here. I think a lot of players could have similar careers if their only job was to swing for the fences and grow mullets.
Add to that the fact that McGwire has long been linked to steroid use (Andro, anyone?) and has completely disappeared off the face of the Earth after the disaster in front of Congress, and you have someone that isn't guaranteed a spot in the Hall.
"I'm not here to talk about the past."
Well guess what, Mark? The rest of us are. And in this day and age, refusing to tell us that you have always been clean is just as bad as admitting to juicing. You should know that.