Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What About McGwire?

The Baseball Crank has a good post up on Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame. Crank says put him in. While I don't think it's a slam dunk that he goes in, I do say "give him an up or down vote" based on his numbers—not the politics of steroids.

I've definitely shifted wildly on this topic, but Crank makes a good case for McGwire on his merits, and after the preposterous antics of some HOF voters this year, it's east to swing back over to McGwire's side...

1. He was putting up pretty prodigious numbers before there is any indication he was juicing.

2. He never got caught, and there is really no evidence that proves he did steroids.

3. And if he did, MLB had NO policy and a ridiculous blind-eye stance. And that goes double for the writers. The same writers who are railroading McGwire now were fawning all over "Big Red" when he was breaking records and they ALL knew what was going on. McGwire was basically doing what was tacitly allowed at the time. Retroactively punishing him now is crap.

4. Frankly, without his Senate (non)testimony we likely wouldn't be having this debate, and that is a bullshit reason to keep somebody out of the HOF.

Now, there are legitimate statistical arguments against McGwire as a HOFer. I'll hear those arguments, but hypocritcal sanctimony by the writers should NOT be the leading reason he doesn't get in. If you don't think he's a HOFer, make the case, but don't tell me you're protecting the game and the Hall—you writers had a chance to do that years ago, and you failed miserably.

McGwire's numbers are here. There is plenty there to bolster both arguments. In fact, taking another look at the numbers is enough to give me pause about putting him right in (his failure to earn an MVP or even finish high most years is particularly damning).

But, prior to '93 and '94 (the lost injury years) McGwire hit 220 HRs over six seasons. That's an average of 36 HRs a season, and remember, 36 bombs was pretty good back then—good enough for a Top 3 finish in five of those seasons—and he led the league with 49 when he won Rookie of the Year.

So, McGwire was a pretty fearsome homerun hitter even back when most folks acknowledge he was clean. He was on a pretty good pace before injuries cost him a couple seasons. Was that when things changed? Did he compensate for that by "cheating" after he came back? Seems like it (if he wasn't already). He stayed healthier and his numbers bulged along with his physique.

Without the drugs McGwire would likely fall short statistically, and for that reason, I can see an objection by fans. But with writers, it rings a bit more hollow.

Major League Baseball turned more than a blind eye to steroids, they rode on the acne-ridden backs of those players to recover from the strike. "The Ladies owners love the long ball."

And the writers did not do their due diligence, instead they became a literal cheerleading squad for McGwire as he chased Maris. They didn't care then, so they shouldn't pretend they do now.

One of Crank's commenters sums up with this:
"The bottom line is regardless of whether he juiced or not, he did not violate the rules that were in place at the time he played. Therefore, every record set is valid and should stand."

Exactly. Aside from the fact that it wasn't against the rules (but, oddly, was illegal) there is no way to even PROVE that he did the steroids at this point. Unless they're going to bust out some ten year old urine (a la Lance Armstrong) this is all speculative.

My honest opinion? McGwire will wait a few years but eventually get in. Same with Bonds—they'll punish him by keeping him from being a first-balloter. As for the other borderline cases from the steroid era, the bar will probably be raised, and numbers besides HRs will gain importance.

UPDATE: Jason Stark at ESPN agrees...
We saw hitters on steroids face pitchers on steroids, as hundreds of players all around them used the same stuff, looking for the same edge. But we've never heard most of their names. So I feel more comfortable voting for players like McGwire than I do trying to pick and choose who did what, and when, and why.

If more evidence emerges, I always reserve the right to change my mind. But for now, I've cast an uncomfortable vote for McGwire -- and I might very well find myself doing the same for every great player of an obviously tainted generation.

If I could prove the innocence of the players I believe were clean as easily as I can assume the guilt of the men I think were cheaters, I might vote differently. But sadly, none of us can really prove much of anything.

So do we really want to be consistent about this issue? Well, if we do, we should either vote for all the best players of that era or none of them.

Stark had another good column on all the candidates (including McGwire) yesterday.

Oh, and Peter Gammons cast a vote for him. That's good enough for me.

ESPN's Pedro Gomez on the other hand is exactly the kind of sanctimonius asshole I am talking about. He takes his "sacred responsibilty" so seriously he won't ever vote for McGwire...
Again, the basic beauty of baseball is that you can trust your eyes. For many of us, our eyes told us something was wrong with what McGwire was accomplishing late in his career.

Yeah, dick? Too bad in all of the years when the Oakland A's were your fucking beat you didn't trust those eyes and investigate what they were supposedly telling you. yet, you'll bitch about it after the fact. You can shut the fuck up now.


Mike said...

I will consider Gomez a complete asshole.

I HATE that kind of bullshit.

Mr Furious said...

It would be bad enough if Gomez spent his career as some studio hack back in Bristol. But the fact that he actually covered the team (and McGwire) for years and never said "Boo." is fucking outrageous.

His bio from the column in question [emphasis mine]:

ESPN's Pedro Gomez has been voting for the Hall of Fame since 2001. He covered the Oakland A's home and away nearly every day from 1992-97 for the San Jose Mercury News and Sacramento Bee and then became the national baseball writer and later a general columnist at the Arizona Republic before becoming an ESPN bureau reporter in 2003.

Mike said...

What a fuckin jackass.

I nominate him, along with Bush, for Asshole of the Week honors.

If your readers are allowed to nominate that is. I don't wanna usurp anything!

Mr Furious said...

Right now it's Gomez, the writer from Chicago, Bonds, and, as always, Bush...