Hall of Fame Debate – Mark McGwire

For those of you who know me know that my love for baseball is not just focused on fantasy leagues, but for the history of the game itself.  With that said, Ryan Lester of Lester’s Legends and I have decided to team up and debate Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

Numbers
Played 1986-2001 (16 Seasons)
1874 Games
6187 At Bats
.263 Batting Average
.394 On-base % (77th All-time)
.588 Slugging % (9th All-time)
1167 Runs
1626 Hits
252 Doubles
6 Triples
583 Home Runs – (8th All-time)
1414 RBI – (65th All-time)
1317 Walks – (35th All-time)
12 Stolen Bases
3639 Total Bases

One .300+ Season
Three 100+ Run Seasons
Eleven 30+ HR Seasons
 Six 40+ HR Seasons
  Four 50+ HR Seasons
   Two 60+ HR Seasons
    One 70 HR Season
Seven 100+ RBI Seasons (Two with 147)

Playoffs:  1 Ring, 28 of 129 (.217), 13 Runs, 2 Double, 5 HRs, 14 RBI, 18 Walks

Awards
1997 Rookie of the Year
12 All-Star Games
1990 Gold Glove
3 Silver Sluggers (1992, 1996, 1998)
10 Seasons with MVP Votes (3 Top 5 MVP finishes)

Top Ten Finishes
On-Base % – 4 Times (Led league in 1996 & 1998)
Slugging % – 8 Times (Led league in 1987, 1992, 1996 & 1998)
OPS – 7 Times (Led league in 1996 & 1998)
Runs – Twice
Home Runs – 10 Times (Led league in 1987, 1996, 1998 & 1999)
RBI – 6 Times – (Led league in 1999)
Total Bases – 3 Times
Extra-Base Hits – 6 Times (Led league in 1998)
Walks - 8 Times (Led league in 1990 & 1998)
Intentional Walks – 6 Times (Led league in 1999)
Hit by Pitch – Twice

Hall of Fame Yardsticks
Black Ink: Batting – 36 (41) (Average HOFer ? 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 110 (190) (Average HOFer ? 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 42.1 (123) (Average HOFer ? 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 169.5 (62) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Rotoprofessor’s Take
I know the perception around Mark McGwire; a steroid user, a cheater. We all saw his appearance in front of Congress, which left little doubt. The truth of the matter is, however, at that time it was not illegal in baseball to do what he did. If you are going to hold what he did against him, you are going to have to hold it against an entire generation, because no one knows for a fact who was clean and who wasn’t. Steroids were running rampant throughout the sport, and while I’d agree that the standards for being considered a Hall of Fame player have to be adjusted, you can’t disqualify him solely on that reason. Steroids or not, he still had to hit the ball. There are some players who I feel like you have to look beyond the numbers, especially during this era, not only the “Steroids Era”, but the era of the compiler. I know you can look at the number of hits he had or the number of runs he drove in and say that outside of his HR’s he just doesn’t stack up with the other players already enshrined. Maybe that’s true, but McGwire’s presence transcends the numbers. He was the dominant force in the game from 1996-1999, putting together a stretch like no other, hitting 245 HR and driving in 530 RBI. The rest of the league was so scared to face him that he walked 512 times. He completely dominated the game. No matter what the numbers were for his entire career, which were very good anyways, for those four years he was the elite. The one player opposing pitchers feared. Since McGwire, there have been other players who put up over 500 HR, take Jim Thome for instance. As of right now he has 541 career HR, but he was never truly the dominant force at the plate. To me, he’s not a Hall of Famer, but that’s a discussion for another time. Just because you reach 500 HR doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame player anymore. Dominating the game like McGwire did, that earns you my vote. He deserves to be there, along with the other greats, and he’d get my vote every year his name appeared on the ballot.

Lester’s Take
Mark McGwire hit a ton of Home Runs with a ton of RBI and Walks.  With his HR total, this should be a slam dunk case.  If you look at the Hall of Fame yardsticks, you can easily see it’s not a slam dunk case.  Half of them suggest he belongs.  The other half suggests he doesn’t.  That’s where I am at with Big Mac myself.  You have to appreciate the power numbers he put up.  However, you’d be lying to yourself if you if you think those numbers don’t come with baggage.  For starters, there was the whole Andro thing.  Granted it wasn’t against the rules at the time, but it’s pretty naive to think that Big Mac stopped there.  Surely, his appears before Congress didn’t help his cause.  I think you have to eventually let the cheaters in otherwise you are condemning a whole era.  I’m certain there will be guys who make the HOF from the era that somehow dodge steroid speculation based on their personality.  Evenutally the steroid guys will be addressed, but I’m just not sure the numbers are there for Mac.  There isn’t a Hall of Famer position player with 6000 At Bats that has fewer than McGwire’s 1626 Hits.  Without the power surge at the end of his career he likely wouldn’t have reach the 500 HR mark.  His first six seasons he averaged 36 HRs per year.  His last six he averaged 51 HRs per year.  Usually you don’t have your best production in the last six years of your career.  Even if he averaged the same production as he did during his first six years, you’d have to shave 90 HRs (six years at 15 HRs per year) off his total.  That would put in him at 493 HRs and on the outside looking in.  McGwire never had 30 Doubles in a year.   He didn’t score 100 Runs in a year until 1996, a decade into his career.  People credit him and Sammy Sosa with saving baseball in 1998, but come on.  It’s baseball.  We would have come back.  All they did was speed up the process.  Sorry, Big Mac.  You’d never get my vote.

 

There you have it folks.  Feel free to weigh in and take a side.

7 comments

  1. Ryan says:

    I’m taking Lester’s side. Wait, that’s me. You do make a compelling argument and I can see your rationale. If he did make it to Cooperstown, I would not be outraged.

  2. First off, It’s always refreshing to see his last name spelled correctly. It bugs me to no end seeing his last name spelled McGuire!

    Second, no one mentioned his OPS or OPS+, just listed the components of OPS at the top. He had a career .982 OPS, ranking him 11th all time. His career OPS+ was 162, tied for 12th all time.

    I can’t believe there could be any argument whatsoever against McGwire’s HOF candidacy that uses offensive performance as support. The only legit argument to be made against him revolves around steroid usage, and that’s it.

    Runs scored is team dependent and total hits and doubles are meaningless since OPS already includes those and much more. The HOF yardstick tests really need to be overhauled. They look way too heavily on traditional statistics like RBI and batting average and even give points for MVP and Gold Glove awards when we know how insignificant they have become given the ignorance of the voters.

    I hate to say this, but I agree with Eric, McGwire should be in the HOF, and there’s no doubt in my mind. Maybe I should have written an entire article about it seeing how long this comment ended up being!

  3. Ryan says:

    The OPS was enhanced by the enhancers. His Slugging % went up because of the cartoonish HR totals he tallied. Subsequently his On Base % went up because he was being walked because of those steroid-aided HRs. His OPS is as inflated as his HR #s

  4. Chuck says:

    I’ve seen the “steroids weren’t illegal at the time” argument floated quite a bit, and its just not true. Commissioner Vincent issued a memo in 1991 emphasizing and clarifying that steroids were against the rules of baseball. True, there was no enforcement measure, but by the letter of the law they were banned.

    Mac is one of many that I hope are never enshrined

  5. jdb says:

    I have no problem leaving McGwire out of the Hall of Fame – so long as you leave out anyone else who could conceivably have used performance enhancers.

    This includes Sammy Sosa (double demerits for pretending he couldn’t speak English in front of Congress, then committing perjury), Bonds (duh), Clemens (duh), Palmeiro (duh), Randy Johnson (acne, production late in career, quick injury downfall), etc.

    Also, all the teammates for guys who could have used steroids. What, they didn’t know? And the managers; sorry, LaRussa. And the journalists, since they were all in on it.

    Otherwise, put Big Mac in. Whatever the choice it has to be consistent and comprehensive.

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