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Baseball Hall of Fame Case: Mark McGwire



Mark McGwire is the most controversial name on this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame ballot. Guilty or not, he will be forever remembered as one of the posterboys for the steroid era. To start, we will be looking at his career assuming he was clean, then we will discuss the steroid issue later on.  His career stats can be found here.

Pros For Induction

There’s one simple pro here: the dude hit a crapload of home runs. 583 of them, to be exact, which is good enough for 8th All-Time.

Not only did Mark McGwire hit a lot of home runs, he also did so at a faster rate than anyone else in Major League history, hitting one out of the park every 10.6 at-bats.

Due to his power, McGwire was feared by pitchers. That combined with patience at the plate led to a lot of walks. Despite his low batting average (more on that later), his on-base percentages were generally high, putting him 78th all-time, ahead of hall-of-famers Rod Carew, Joe Morgan and Honus Wagner.

One criteria used by many when voting for the Hall of Fame is whether or not the person was ever considered one of the best players in baseball. Certainly, his plentiful All-Star appearances and 5 appearances in the top 7 places on MVP ballots help this cause. That said, was McGwire really one of the best, or is everyone swayed by those gaudy home run totals?

Cons Against Induction

Other than home run totals, Mark McGwire doesn’t stand out in any other statistical categories. Yeah, he drew a lot of walks, especially in his top home run seasons later in his career. As was stated before, this did raise his OBP.

In other categories though, not only does McGwire come up short, the numbers expose that he really had nothing to offer beyond power. One would expect that a guy who is 8th all-time in home runs hit would at least be somewhere near the top of the leaderboards in RBIs. You have to go pretty far down the list to find McGwire, as he is 62nd all-time. Not a bad total, of course, but certainly shocking when you consider how many home runs he hit.

The fact of the matter is, other than hitting home runs, McGwire couldn’t hit very well at all. His career batting average is .263. Several times in his career, he had more home runs than singles. If you didn’t get a home run out of him, you weren’t going to get much at all.

Saving the biggest “con” of all against McGwire for last – We don’t know if his numbers were tainted, and if they were, just how much they were tainted. We do know that he used androstenedione, which is now illegal. As far as steroids or anything else, the suspicion will always be there.

If McGwire’s home run totals, the foundation of his case for Cooperstown, were inflated, then this makes his already borderline case even weaker. In McGwire’s era, 500 home runs is not a guarantee for the Hall without some other stats to go along with it. Also, if one assumes that he was on something, certainly if he was not on something, pitchers would not have feared him as much and his walk totals would have been lower. Of course, much of this is just speculation and it is up to each voter to decide whether or not speculation should affect their vote. Certainly, McGwire’s “I’m not here to talk about the past” speech in front of Congress does nothing to convince them.

The Verdict
The fact is, there is too much controversy around McGwire to vote him in right now. Even if he was 100% clean, he still would not be guaranteed to be in the Hall since pretty much all he did was hit home runs. He would probably make the cut, but it would be nowhere near unanimous. Certainly, there are worse players in the Hall of Fame, and nobody could argue against having one of the top home run hitters of all time in the Hall, but the cloudiness surrounding his past will keep him out for now.
Will He Get In?
Certainly not this year. McGwire received 23.5% of the vote last year. It will be interesting to see how that changes a year later, taking into account if some writers were making a one year protest, or if the Mitchell Report will have any effect. If McGwire can make a big jump this year, then his candidacy will look much better in future years. If he remains around that same total, then it will be clear that he won’t be making it in any time soon.

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  • HartleyGulbrand

    We see athletes as our modern gladiators and we respect their dedication and skill. We have created a hall of fame for the greatest of them. But I don't think that any player that has been proven to use anabolic steroids should ever enter it. As long as they're not legal, it's called cheating, and that attitude has no room in the hall of fame.

  • HartleyGulbrand

    We see athletes as our modern gladiators and we respect their dedication and skill. We have created a hall of fame for the greatest of them. But I don't think that any player that has been proven to use anabolic steroids should ever enter it. As long as they're not legal, it's called cheating, and that attitude has no room in the hall of fame.

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