Big Mac: Worthy of the Hall? I think not…and here’s why

November 28th, 2006 → 9:46 am @ // No Comments

For all the sturm und drang surrounding this year’s voting, the Hall of Fame has always had its share of ridiculous members. Two players — Johnny Evers and Joe Tinker–were inducted for no other reason than the fact that their names were included in a popular ditty. (Hell, even Murray Chass has been honored by the Hall.)

Still, this year’s voting will be especially interesting. Mark McGwire, who was a lock for a first balloter as recently as two years ago, now looks like he won’t make it in. (I’d bet he gets even less votes than Jim Rice.) This, of course, is because pretty much the entire world assumes McGwire’s transformation from Dave Kingman to Babe Ruth was chemically enhanced.

I certainly understand that school of thought. I also understand other sides to the issue. Put aside the fact that steroids are illegal — reason enough to consider steroids differently from other performance enhancing medical options, but stick with me for the sake of argument. How are steroids different from, say, Lasik eye surgery? Or Tommy John surgery? Don’t you think there are plenty of guys from any previous era that could have had their careers prolonged by a decade or more if they’d had these options available to them? And wouldn’t at least some of these guys have made it into the Hall?

What’s more, if McGwire — who has never tested positive — doesn’t get your hypothetical vote, how do you evaluate other players of what’s already known as the steroid era? Does this affect how you think about guys like Roger Clemens, who’ve been the subject of persistent rumors? Or, for that matter, Barry Bonds?

I’ve thought about this for a while, and have settled on a doctrine articulated to me by the Kansas City Star‘s Joe Posnanski (for my money, perhaps the best baseball columnist in the country). If I had a vote — and there’s absolutely no danger of that ever happening — I’d vote for guys like Clemens, and even Bonds, because they seem like Hall of Fame-caliber players regardless of whether or not they used steroids. (If it were ever established definitively that a player used, said player would not get my vote, because ‘roid use in the absence of medical necessity, unlike Lasik and Tommy John surgery, is illegal.) And I wouldn’t vote for guys like McGwire, who is the very model of a player who would never have even sniffed the Hall were it not for a remarkable mid-career surge that seems, on top of all of the other anecdotal evidence, to be the result of a healthy regimen of PEDs.

It’s an imprecise formula, to be sure. But I’m not sure if I can think of another one that makes any more sense.

Post Categories: Mark McGwire & Steroids

7 Comments → “Big Mac: Worthy of the Hall? I think not…and here’s why”

  1. redsoxtimes

    17 years ago

    I appreciate your stance on McGuire, and agree with it. But I think if you hold McGuire to those standards, you have to hold Bonds there as well.

    I understand your thought process, but I just have a hard time placing a hard line on this issue myself. I think it is fairly clear that Bonds is as guilty as can be. Thus he shouldn’t be given that benefit of doubt.

    On Clemens, I do agree with you. There is now a small cloud of suspicion, but is it enough to overshadow his HOF career? Not in my opinion.

    To be truthful, I hate that it has even come to this.

    I guess the statement I agree most with is:

    It’s an imprecise formula, to be sure. But I’m not sure if I can think of another one that makes any more sense.

    Red Sox Times


  2. tinisoli

    17 years ago

    Yes, maybe Dom DiMaggio would’ve been even better had he not been four-eyed, and who knows what today’s orthopedic procedures would’ve meant for players of yesteryear, from the HOFers to the mere mortals, whose careers were ended by torn ligaments and cartilage issues that are mere bumps in the road in 2006. The fact is, McGwire, Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield, Palmeiro, and others knowingly used illegal PEDs and in doing so they earned records, honors, and tens of millions of dollars that they otherwise would not have earned. Whether or not MLB had an explicit or robust policy banning steroids is not particularly relevant because those drugs were already illegal in the U.S. and the players knew that. (Let’s remember that the BALCO case is about the distribution of illegal drugs–not cheating in sports.) All athletes should, like anyone, suffer the consequences of breaking any law, but perhaps especially when their actions compromise the integrity of their profession, devalue past achievements of other athletes, and encourage people to use dangerous chemicals.

    Would we not want consequences and punishment for someone who, say, had a 4.0 GPA throughout high school but cheated on the SAT just to guarantee they’d get into Harvard? Would we say “Well, they had a great record and they’d probably have gotten in anyhow, so let’s just let them in on their past merits.” I don’t think so.

    I would like to see HOF voters place the perfect asterisk on the career numbers of McGwire et al by either keeping them out of the Hall or voting no on the first ballot. If we can’t have actual asterisks alongside the numbers 73, 70, 66, and so on, we might as well have the unspoken asterisk of keeping these guys out of Cooperstown. If for the next year or two we still don’t have hard evidence about their cheating, well, let’s just wait to see what happens. If by 2011 we still don’t know anything from Bonds’ trainer or whomever, then maybe then we can determine if we have to let McGwire in.

    The thing that seals my loathing of Big Mac is not the memory of him on the verge of tears in congress, it’s the more vivid memory of him hugging the Maris family after hitting 62. It was, to put it simply, a sham. I hope the voters will think about that moment. Somehow I suspect McGwire is haunted by that night, but we need to remind him that we are too, and we need to tell the other cheaters that their bullshit won’t be tolerated either.


  3. tjrsfca

    17 years ago

    The players know who took steroids, and they know what steriods can do for you in the near term. They haven’t been forthcoming with these details so we now have terms like “steriod era” and deep suspicion of a breakout year.

    There are lots of stories to this story, and one of them is the absolute lack of debate on the ethics of using steroids. There is a definition of ethics that we viscerally have, according to Plato and the test is simple: would you behave this way if everyone knew about it? Judging by McGwire’s performance at the congressional hearings, I would say he fails this standard. Unethical acts within he boundaries of the game are also known as “cheating” and that is the difference between using Tommy John surgery versus shooting steroids.


  4. gary

    17 years ago

    I’m not a clemens fan by any means, but lumping him in with bonds, when one has the smallest of suspicions while the other has a train load of evidence behind him, seems a stretch.



    17 years ago

    I agree completely that McGwire should not be in the Hall of Fame. Equating steroid use with laser eye surgery or Tommy John surgery doesn’t seem fair, though. I think the latter procedures, while involving new technologies, would be classified as restorative, putting the recipient’s tissue back in the condition of what is commonly accepted as ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’. Steroids on the other hand are used to enhance beyond what is commonly accepted as ‘normal’or ‘healthy’.


  6. umass_amherst

    17 years ago

    I think we’re all missing the point. Regardless of McGwire’s or Bonds’ stats and how PED’s affected them, their apparent use of them was irrevocably damaging to the game of baseball (I couldn’t find a copy of the BBWAA criteria, but it says something about positive contributions to the game). If the Hall of Fame is supposed to celebrate the positive contributions of those who played the game, you absolutely cannot elect guys who did so much damage to the sport, regardless of their statistics.

    This alone should keep both of them out of the Hall. I understand how fine a line it is to walk with all the innuendo, but don’t sportswriters make these tough decision about someone’s worth based on much more subjective criteria when looking at a guys statistics? These types of judgement calls are exactly what they get paid to do it. I find it infuriating when writers say “you gotta vote for all of them or none of them…because we can’t know for sure who used them.” Really, but you perfectly comfortable electing Bruce Sutter to the Hall?

    On another note, I hope the back lash against McGwire leads to more support for a clean, hard working player who was the most feared hitter of his generation…Jim Rice.

  7. […] Some say McGwire should be out, some say he should be in, some say they aren’t sure (though we’re not sure what information they’re waiting for). Our view is that McGwire is in, along with Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa and probably even Rafael Palmeiro, because steroids just don’t fire us up as much as they’re apparently supposed to. We promise this is the last time we’re going to mention that fact; we honestly just don’t care that much. […]


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