Pete Rose, upon being honored by – but not inducted into – the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame, said yesterday that Mark McGwire should be voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame (article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer here). That’s kinda like getting a political endorsement from Richard Nixon.
I would not vote for Mark McGwire if I had a vote for the Hall. Sportswriters are polarized and wringing their hands over this decision. But voting for the Hall is not an objective exercise – no clear criteria exists for what constitutes a Hall of Fame player. McGwire only led the league in home runs twice, never won the MVP award, hit only .217 in the post season (.188 in World Series games) (some stats via Baseball Hall of Fame website here). He had more strikeouts than RBI. He was a one-dimensional player.
But that one dimension is what most baseball fans crave – home runs. Of course, winning teams do more than just hit home runs. Note that McGwire’s 1998 Cardinals finished 19 games out of first place, despite his 70 home runs. True, those 70 home runs did much to bring Major League Baseball out of its post-strike slump. That is notable, but not Hall-worthy.
And of course there are the steroids. Surely there are many cheaters in the Hall of Fame, and perhaps the cloud of steroid suspicion surrounding McGwire will keep him out of the Hall. I do not think that his (indisputable) use of steroids should be the primary reason that he gets locked out of the Hall, but it should be the deciding reason. He was a good, but not great, baseball player. He hit home runs, but did not do much else. He broke the single-season home run record. Very notable. Very commendable. For me, his stats and career achievements teeter on the border of Hall-worthiness. The steroids push him off that border and keep him out of the Hall. Without the steroids, maybe he gets in. With the steroids, he’s out.
The only way McGwire gets into the Hall of Fame is with a $14.50 admission ticket, just like you and me.
One thought on “Rose endorses McGwire for Hall”
Interesting take on McGwire. I haven’t really thought about it before but you make a good argument. I am thinking kind of the same thoughts on Rickey Henderson (who I believe is eligible in 2 years). Has one big record he has broken in stolen bases but also leads with caught stealing as well. Good player but not great.
The steroids question is one that we may never get an answer to. More than likely he was probably using but so were a lot of other players in the league. I followed baseball after the strike moderately but when the McGwire/Sosa things happened (whose teams were also in the same division as the Brewers) I did start paying more attention. He and Sosa did do a lot bring baseball out of its slump but something probably would have done it anyway. The relationship between baseball and its fans always seems to reconnect with them, just look at 1919 White Sox controversy.
Even though Rose is a moron and made really stupid decisions, there is no question that he should be in the Hall. I think if he wouldn’t have taken the approach he did when he first got banned and professing his innocence he might have been in the Hall now. But denying it for 10+ years and then admitting it in his last year of eligibility for Hall of Fame voting did not help. I think there have been surveys that Hall of Fame voters have been given that said if he was on the ballot they would elect him. I understand baseball has to take a strong stance but also if they player willing admits that he did wrong (which I still don’t think Rose has done completely) I think the ban should remain but he should be in the Hall if he deserves it. “Shoeless” Joe Jackson is the same kind of argument, also really deserving to be in the Hall. He has been dead half a century so it is impossible for us to approach the same kind of argument. Baseball higher ups have to learn a little more about forgiveness.
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