Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The right call on Mark McGwire

This year anyway, there's no room for Mark McGwire, once the major league record holder for home runs in a single season, in baseball's Hall of Fame.

Most of the talk about whether he belongs has assumed he's otherwise qualified and focuses on whether he used steroids. The question should be moot. With or without steroids, McGwire wasn't good enough for long enough to be in the Hall of Fame.

McGwire hit a lot of home runs (583, seventh-most all time), but in 16 seasons:
  • He had four great seasons. Those years, 25 percent of his career, accounted for 42 percent of his home runs and had 37 percent of his runs batted in.
  • More than 41 percent of his runs batted in were himself (on home runs). Nobody in the 500-home-run club had such a selfish bat.
  • He was in his league's top five for RBI four times.
  • He hit over .300 in a full season once.
  • He had 1,626 career hits (460 fewer than the next closest 500-home-run guy, Harmon Killebrew, who had 573 home runs in an era that favored pitchers).
  • He didn't inspire great fear in pitchers. To wit, he led his league in intentional walks once and had three top-five finishes in that category.
  • He had three top-five finishes in MVP races (Albert Pujols, by comparison, has six in his six-year career).
  • In 42 postseason games, he hit .217 with five home runs.
  • The only category besides home runs in which McGwire is in the top 25 all time is strikeouts.
Many people still believe 500 home runs, like 3,000 hits or 300 wins by a pitcher, should guarantee entrance into the Hall of Fame. I prefer to let voters make that decision, and for now, they say the one-trick pony stays out in the corral.


gorillaboy said...

Sounds like you should be a HOF voter! One other statistic that I hear the Sportstalk yaps mention is how many championships did he help win? He won once in Oakland and none in St Louis. If I recall correctly, he never did well in the playoffs.

On the other hand, he did help baseball re-emerge after the strike cancelled a World Series. He and Sammy Sosa probably brought fans back into baseball when there was much resentment. Whether they used steriods or not, that should probably be recognized and considered. Sometimes contributions outside the field are HOF-worthy.

After saying that, I'm not saying I disagree with your thesis.

Alasdair said...

Well, indeed. I notice that the latter-day opponents of McGwire and Sosa spend a lot of time talking about how it was really Cal Ripken who saved baseball, but I agree with you that the home run race was the really big deal...

gorillaboy said...

I was reading your response when I heard the following story on the radio. Thought you'd be interested and I found a copy online.

Lawmaker asks: Why McGwire Highway?

where a proposal is being introduced to rename the Mark McGwire highway perhaps because of the steriod concerns.

Johnny Yen said...

I completely agree with the HOF's decision. What's more, I'm glad to see Tony Gwynn finally get some recognition. WTF-- the guy regularly hit into the high 300's and a couple of times flirted with .400, and got zero recognition. Part of it may have been that he was with a small-market team. One old friend has gone as far as to say it was because he was black. Whatever the reason, I'm glad to see Gwynn and Ripken get in.

MWR said...

Tony Gwynn got zero recognition???

Stewart Sternberg said...

I am a baseball slave. I agree entirely. I hope Maguire, Sosa, and Bonds never get into the Hall of Fame. How dare they sully the wonder of our Spring Past-time. Ripken, absolutely deserved inclusion. Probably had a spot reserved for him these past ten years.

I love reading a baseball post in January. Thanks.