January 07, 2014
Mark McGwire Will Never Make the Hall of Fame
I wrote this back in July 2010, but with the Hall of Fame vote results expected tomorrow, I thought it was timely to bring it back to the front. -BH
And he knows it.
There are certain stigmas players can't get over when it comes to Hall of Fame enshrinement: gambling, drugs, cheating, and monumentally frosty relations with sportswriters. Oh, and a low batting average or a high ERA.
What about an alcohol problem? Next round's on me, Mickey. Were you a racist brawler? Hey, Ty Cobb is in there as an original member. Did you engage in folk-hero-esque cheating as a player? Get in here Gaylord, you lovable scamp.
Gambling is pretty cut-and-dry. Pete Rose? Never means never, man. Hal Chase? Not gonna happen. Shoeless Joe? I don't care if you have the IQ of a raisin, you just can't accept money or the promise of money from a known gambler. Of course, there are others who dodged the gambling bullet (John McGraw (he owned a pool hall, for pete's sake!), Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb), and don't forget that Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays were briefly, officially exiled by Bowie Kuhn for conduct detrimental to the spirit of the game because of their post-retirement associations with casinos (as greeters, no less).
Drugs is less cut-and-dry, but let's just say that when your drug nickname makes it onto the front of your 1989 Topps card, you better just enjoy the moment there, Rock Raines, because while the Hall opens its doors for drunks, it does so with less frequency for known drug users. In fact, I think it's safe to say that if you were somehow involved in the Pittsburgh Drug Trials or perjured yourself in front of Congress whilst denying steroid abuse, you're not going to make it to the Hall. And honestly, the double standard is a shame. Especially in light of the "character" issue Hall voters use to judge players. So what – alcohol is ok but not drugs? Seems a little hollow. I mean, what if society was big into social drug use and drinking was considered a breakdown in morals? I'm guessing it would be the other way around, no?
What's important here is that between these two events — Pittsburgh Drug Trials and the House Committee hearing after the Mitchell Report — we're talking about a lot of talented players who will have the drug albatross around their necks forever. Guys like Dave Parker, Keith Hernandez, and Tim Raines, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and yes, Mark McGwire, to name but a very few. And in the end, it doesn't matter if drugs in any form were rampant or the accepted culture of the game: to make it to the hallowed Hall, you have to do it cleanly, on your own two legs.
So back to the original idea: Mark McGwire never making it into the Hall of Fame has nothing to do with statistics, though I think he's only a borderline Hall of Famer based solely on stats. And before that vein in your forehead pops, let me say this: being a prodigious home run hitter does not get you into the Hall of Fame by itself. You have to do lots of other things, too. Having a decent batting average helps, as does a relatively high hits total. McGwire was a career .263 hitter, with a total of 1,626 hits. Over a third of those were home runs.
Did you want McGwire in your lineup? Yes. Was it exciting to watch him break Maris's record? Of course. Did he take copious amounts of muscle-enhancing drugs? All signs point to yes. Were those drugs illegal at the time he took them? Ehhhh, no...
And this could be McGwire's saving grace: when he took them, the drugs he took weren't illegal in the eyes of baseball. But now, in this post-shit-hitting-fan period where we're debating his eternal baseball immortality, the drugs are illegal. And not only that, but the drugs association is a bad one to have. A very bad one.
Statistically, McGwire could make it. But it's going to take him a heck of a long time to garner enough support. For one thing, he denied, denied, and denied again. They he shunned the spotlight. And after a tearful admission, his case seems really weak. Weak like "I'm only saying this so I can work again" weak.
Sportswriters and Hall of Fame voters may have a tendency to worship the ground sports heroes walk on, but when it comes time to vote on enshrinement, the player's entire history comes into play — not just what they said recently.