Tuesday, January 09, 2007

You put snot on the ball?

Baseball hall of fame voting results are in, but on the outside looking in is Mark McGwire.

He was a 12 time All-Star (every other 12 time All-Star is in the hall), his slugging percentage is almost 100 points higher than Reggie Jackson. He won a Gold Glove award for defense at first base, and hit a homer every 10.6 at bats, finishing with 583 (5th at the time).

At one point, he was considered a sure thing for enshrinement, but today he garnered 23% of the vote. He needed 75% to be inducted.

Many see this as a statement being made about steroids. But many problems abound in this regard. It would be one thing if we knew he took steroids, but we don't. The problem is that for McGwire, and other big home run hitters in his era there is a great cloud of suspicion.

Major League Baseball did not test for steroids until rather recently and it's suspected that a great many players dabbled. But, how do we know which ones? Some have admitted it (e.g., Canseco) and others have recently tested positive (e.g., Palmeiro), but that's about it.

McGwire was mentioned in Canseco's book and didn't perform very well at the congressional hearing on the matter. He should have pulled a Sosa and forgot how to speak English.

Ripken and Gwynn were inducted today, but how do we know they didn't take steroids? What about pitchers?

Hey, if you cheat, that's bad bull. I'm not a fan of such (e.g., Kenny Rogers and Dirtgate), but if it's not cheating, then it's not cheating.

Beyond that, baseball is a game where cheating seems part of the culture. Some pitchers put snot on the ball. Some hide a file or pine tar in their glove. Some put vasoline or some other slooge on the bill of their hat. Some put cork in their bat. Baseball seems to be a sport where truly it's only cheating if you get caught.

Sure, McGwire got bulkier over the years, but he was also known as a health nut and work out fanatic. He hit 49 homers as a rookie. He was a stud at USC.

The assumption is that he and others like him (e.g., Bonds, Sosa, etc.) used 'roids, but I'd be willing to bet there were a great many who were lower level players who used the juice to help them compete and stay in the league. They won't draw any attention, however.

Look, if the baseball hall of fame is about baseball, then McGwire had the best home run to at-bat ratio of all time. He's number 7 on the all time home run list. He and Sosa put baseball back on the map in '98 with their home run contest, which was sorely needed after the '94 strike.

If the hall of fame is about character, then a great many people are indeed questionable.

I'm not saying McGwire did or didn't. I don't know. My gut tells me that we'd likely be surprised by those who did and those who did not.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com explains his uncomfortable vote for Mark McGwire, criticizing baseball in the process:
Mark McGwire is the first prominent player tied to performance enhancers with Hall of Fame numbers to show up on this ballot. But he's only the beginning. So how do we know where to draw the line? How do we know which guys we should or shouldn't vote for if we want to make some kind of statement?

It was baseball that allowed all of this to happen. In a sport with no rules, no testing and no punishment for using the hottest substances of the day, this was no tiny problem, involving a few obvious home run trotters. This was the culture inside the game, just as amphetamines were part of the culture in the '60s and '70s and '80s (and beyond).

Admittedly, I am a Cardinals fan. I'm a fan of Big Mac as well. When he broke Roger Maris' record in '98, there were more than a few who renewed their affection for baseball.

For sports writers to eliminate that chapter (or the decade of the '90s) from the annals of baseball history because they think steroids were used seems beyond their task of determining those most important to the sport.

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7 Comments:

At 09 January, 2007 20:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But Gunny, when Congress asked McGuire if he took steriods, he took the 5th amendment. If he truly did not take steriods why didn't he just answer Congress with the truth and be done with it? The fact that McGuire refuses to end all speculation by stating the truth, has only caused others to wonder what is he hiding?

The bottom line is...yes, it has only been in the recent years that MLB randomly tested players for steriods (and maybe it's not so random...just those who appear to perform so well), but in this drug-crazed society, where every problem is answered with a drug, we need to start setting standards. It's time that MLB is a level playing field. And yes, it should have happened sooner than later...tough break for McGuire.

Further, you need to think of the consequences of voting McGuire into the Hall of Fame. It's true that the atheletes of our days are not necessarily great examples for kids to look up to ---but regardless kids still look to these atheletes as a role model. What message are we sending to our kids by allowing someone who is tied to steriod use into the Hall of Fame? That it's OK? And that if you take steriods, you too can get inducted into the Hall of Fame?

Even if you say that there's no hard proof that McGuire took steriods, I believe his silence has already shown proof of that.

 
At 10 January, 2007 13:29, Blogger GUNNY said...

It is a sticky situation.

Hypthetically, McGwire and others should be innocent until proven guilty, but for many he all but admitted guilt by not professing innocence.

I'll be the first to admit, he now bears the burden of proof of innocence. However, even if he came out today and professed innocence, it would do no good.

The whole trial was puzzling. Not that I'm advocating it, but lying was the way Palmeiro went and it worked for him. He later had problems when he tested positive, but that would not have happened for McGwire.

What if McGwire did do the 'roids with Canseco and then later quit? What if he tried it, but didn't inhale?

I don't know. I just think there's going to be a cloud over that whole era where any one of them could have used the juice and many allegedly did.

Since there's no way to really know, I guess I'm just thinking fairness dictates innocence until guilt is proven or professed.

The question your subtly asking is, "Isn't the lack of profession of innocence a profession of guilt?"

It is hard to argue with that, and I'm sure that's why he's been found guilty in the court of public opinion.

With regard to role models and such, I've often had concerns about that, but the halls of fame seem to pick and choose in that regard.

Lawrence Taylor, cocaine addict that he was, is in the professional football hall of fame, as is wife-beating Warren Moon. However, Michael Irvin, who also had some shady shenanigans, is not.

Pete Rose is not in, but that was not the choice of the voters. He has never been allowed on the ballot, because he may have bet on baseball.

I'm just not on board with the mindset that seems prevalent among the voters whereby they vote their gut on the issue of whether or not the guy partook of the 'roids.

The assumption is that big guys who hit homers must have, but what about the smaller guys who needed a little more pop in their bats?

 
At 11 January, 2007 22:07, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gunny wrote:
I'll be the first to admit, he now bears the burden of proof of innocence. However, even if he came out today and professed innocence, it would do no good.

Well the fact that he waited so long to profess his innocence makes one wonder if he’s telling the truth. His best opportunity was given when he testified before Congress. My memory is a little muddle at the time when rumors spread of McGuire’s use of steroids…why was there never a formal investigation carried out as to the truth of those rumors?

Gunny wrote:
The whole trial was puzzling. Not that I'm advocating it, but lying was the way Palmeiro went and it worked for him. He later had problems when he tested positive, but that would not have happened for McGwire.

Because you know for sure that McGuire would have never tested positive? Have you ever thought that McGuire kept quiet because he didn’t want to be caught in a lie…like Palmeiro? I don’t mean to beat on McGuire, but you’ve got to wonder about his silence…and really for anyone in a similar position as he was.

Gunny wrote:
Since there's no way to really know, I guess I'm just thinking fairness dictates innocence until guilt is proven or professed.

If a rumor concerning my reputation was going around, I would do everything within my power to state the facts so as to end all rumors. Your statement would be true in the court of law, but it is not true within public opinion. If McGuire was brought before the court of law with charges of taking steroids while playing in MLB ---yes the jury is expected to assume innocence until proven guilty. But there was no such thing…not even close to an investigation. If I was McGuire, I would have asked for an investigation to prove my innocence. Why didn’t he ask for this?

Gunny wrote:
Lawrence Taylor, cocaine addict that he was, is in the professional football hall of fame, as is wife-beating Warren Moon. However, Michael Irvin, who also had some shady shenanigans, is not.

Because none of them took drugs that enhanced their performance. The guidelines of the voters were in reference to their performance as baseball players. Not in the case of Pete Rose though…but he broke the rule that compromised his integrity as a coach. I think those are valid rules to ban a potential from the Hall of Fame.

 
At 14 January, 2007 15:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Big Mac used Andro. When he was using it, it was in his locker in front of media cameras, reporters, etc. It was not a banned substance at the time, though it is now. The point is, at the time he was using that particular substance, it was legal. It did become a topic, back then, but everybody made it plain that Mac *wasn't* cheating by using an illegal substance.

2) McGwire has always been a *big* boy. If you looked at him over the years, you wouldn't see a sudden "bulking" like you do with a particular BALCO Giants ball player.

3) Recently, some sportswriters and sportscasters have said that McGwire doesn't have the stats. That is just ignorant. Mac was a perennial All-Star and has some nice numbers.

4) I'd vote for Mac to be in the Hall. The burden isn't on Mac to prove he's innocent, it's on the naysayers to prove that he ever did anything to cheat.

 
At 19 January, 2007 02:13, Blogger GUNNY said...

Gunny wrote:
The whole trial was puzzling. Not that I'm advocating it, but lying was the way Palmeiro went and it worked for him. He later had problems when he tested positive, but that would not have happened for McGwire.

Anon wrote:
Because you know for sure that McGuire would have never tested positive?

and ...

Anon wrote:
If I was McGuire, I would have asked for an investigation to prove my innocence. Why didn’t he ask for this?

Well, MLB didn't ban steroids until AFTER the 2002 season. McGwire retired following the 2001 season.

In other words, steroids were not banned and tested for until after he was out of the game.

There could be no way to "prove" his innocence years later in 2005 when he was in the congressional hearing, for he had not been playing for quite a while.

Testing negative then would only have proved he was not on the juice at that time.

So, my reference to pulling a Palmeiro was that even if McGwire had done steriods, though we're not convinced he did, he could deny it and NOT be proven wrong.

Palmeiro vigorously denied it, but was still playing and got BUSTED as a 'roid warrior AND a liar.

 
At 30 August, 2009 01:01, Anonymous TSB said...

Cardinal homer: Put "Big Mac" in the hall!!! Never mind he doesn't deserve it. Talk about 1-dimensional player.

 
At 30 August, 2009 01:41, Blogger GUNNY said...

I don't know about one-dimensional. He did win a gold glove at first base and hit .299 or better 4 times in his career.

Plus, he got people watching baseball again after the strike soured the masses.

 

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