The Baseball Writers Association of America is all set to vote on a slew of steroid era players and will certainly cause quite a debate. Bonds, Clemens, Palmeiro and Mark McGwire lead the way on the ballots. All were considered surefire Hall of Famers during their careers but the cloud of steroid use has tainted that. Some refuse to vote for any suspected steroid users. Others will only consider their careers prior to suspected PED abuse. For me, if I had a vote, I know one vote I’d make regardless of steroid accusations or not. Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer.
McGwire burst onto the scene in 1987 with a league leading and rookie record breaking 49 home runs. In his rookie year he brought everything to the table (or plate) as he hit for a high average, drew walks and even showed some agility on the bases with 4 triples. Teamed with Jose Canseco, the Bash Brothers were born and the Oakland A’s would ride the success of their stars to 3 straight World Series appearances.
McGwire would later “save baseball” with his chase of Roger Maris’ home run record. He would surpass the total of 61 home runs twice with 70 in 1998 (then the record) and 65 in 1999.
He would retire with the most impressive home run rates in the history of the game, clubbing a ball over the fence once every 10.6 times he stepped to the plate. B y comparison, Babe Ruth did it every 11.8 times he came to the plate and Barry Bonds took 12.9 appearances.
While impressive, McGwire wasn’t a great all-around player. For his career he finished with a .263 batting average and struck out nearly as often as he got a hit (1596 K: 1626 H). In fact, in seven season, McGwire would finish with more K’s thank hits, including his record breaking 1998. Hobbled by injuries, McGwire would only play more than 140 games 3 times in the final ten seasons in the Major Leagues despite playing first base, one of the least physically demanding positions on the diamond. When he was available, McGwire’s defense was anywhere from mediocre to poor.
A closer look at his career statistics only emphasizes the one-note theme of McGwire’s career. While being known as an on-base machine, McGwire only surpasses 100 walks 5 times. He also failed to turn that on-base ability into what really is important in the game of baseball: runs. McGwire surpassed the 100-run mark only three times and only in seasons in which he hit at least 50 home runs. By comparison, he scored nearly 500 runs less over his career than fellow ballot-mate Rafael Palmeiro.
The statistics show a home run hitter who did little else, but the true comparison comes when held against the peers of his time. McGwire never won an award for being the league’s MVP. In fact, over his career he would only receive a total of 3 first place votes for the award.
In my opinion, this alone is reason to make McGwire a borderline Hall of Fame candidate, if not remove his name from consideration. When you factor in the steroid accusations, you have to wonder where his career might have been without artificial aid.
Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer. While he wowed us with his home runs and was part of one of the most exciting summers in the history of baseball, McGwire’s career as a whole is not worth celebrating. Fans can visit Cooperstown and see the story of the late 80’s Athletics and the home run chase of 1998, and that will be enough.