Friday, December 01, 2006

With or Without Steroids, McGwire Doesn't Make the Grade

The Winter Meetings get started next Monday. I expect a lot of action and I expect the Cubs to be in the middle of much of it. Don’t be surprised if they sign a FA pitcher and make a trade for another one. It should be exciting.

In the meantime, let me jump into the discussion about the players that become eligible for the Hall of Fame this year. Like everyone else, I expect Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken, Jr. to be first ballot HOFers. They both deserve it and the baseball writers love them, so they should start getting their acceptance speeches ready.

On the other end of the spectrum are former players who will likely not get enough votes to remain on the ballot for a second year. These players include Dante Bichette, Scott Brosius, Ken Caminiti, Devon White, Bobby Witt, among others.

In the middle sits Mark McGwire. The former home run machine will be a tough call for baseball writers. Several, including Tim Kurkjian, are making the argument that McGwire should not be penalized for alleged steroid abuse that has never been proven. Other writers claim that they will never vote for McGwire due to his alleged steroid abuse. Yet others say that they feel McGwire deserves to be in the HOF, but they can not in good conscience vote him in on the first ballot. All of these arguments have their merits, but they all focus on the wrong thing. With or without steroids, Mark McGwire does not belong in the Hall of Fame.

For anyone who followed the homerun race in 1998 between McGwire and Sammy Sosa, you have to admit that it was a thrilling time. Every night we’d watch as Big Mac and Slammin’ Sammy made their bid to beat Roger Maris’ single season HR record and to out slug the other. It was an exciting time.

But what else did McGwire do during his career. Sure, he hit a lot of other homeruns. He ended his career with 583. But other than that, he didn’t do much. He was a one dimensional player who was very good at that one dimension, but didn’t bring much else to the game.

McGwire had a .263 lifetime batting average, meaning he wasn’t a particularly good hitter. He had a lot of power, but he otherwise didn’t hit very well. calls McGwire a “glorified Dave Kingman.” He also wasn’t a particularly good fielder. All he really did well was hit homeruns.

There's an adage when it comes to the HOF. If you hit 500 homeruns, you’re automatically in. Balderdash! There’s no longer anything magical about 500 homeruns. McGwire, Sosa (588), and Rafael Palmiero (569) all have more than 500 career homeruns and none of them belong in the Hall. The HOF should be for players who did more than just hit homeruns.

With McGwire’s name on the ballot for the first time this year, all of the talk has centered around whether he did or didn’t use performance enhancing drugs, and if he did, does he deserve to get into the Hall. In my mind, it simply doesn’t matter. If you judge his performance on the field and completely ignore the PEDs question, Mark McGwire simply doesn’t make the grade.

But you know who does make the grade? Andre Dawson. I’m not just saying this because I have an autographed “Hawk” jersey hanging in my house. I’m saying it because he was perhaps the most complete player of his era. Dawson’s started his career as ROY in 1977. He went on to compile an impressive array of stats including a career .279 batting average over 21 seasons and 438 homeruns. Don’t get these stats confused with McGwire’s. The two HOF nominees played during very different times.

Dawson won the NL MVP with the Cubs in 1987 and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting four times. He played on eight all-star teams, won eight gold gloves, and was twice named the Sporting News NL Player of the Year. He did all of this while hobbling around on two of the most chronically painful knees the game has ever seen. He was feared by opposing teams and revered by his teammates. Andre Dawson was the type of player and had the type of career that was made for the HOF. Now it's up to the baseball writers to do the right thing and put "The Hawk" up on stage in Cooperstown with Gwynn and Ripkin.


At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Charlie said...

McGuire is is roid head and doesn't belong in the HOF. He should be in jail, not in the HOF.

At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Brick said...

ESPN is reporting that the Cubs have made an offer to Ted Lilly. He's not my first choice, but if he is a #4 guy in the rotation and we still get a #2 guy, I'd be okay with it. Right now, there are a ton of teams looking for starting pitching and very few good FA pitchers out there. Hendry better make a move soon or we're going to have to count on Prior, Wood, and Miller.


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