Baseball Hall of Fame Case: Mark McGwire
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?
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.
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