Should Mark McGwire, Other Admitted PED Users Ever Get into the Hall of Fame?
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Mark McGwire doesn't think he should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
More specifically, the slugger and new hitting coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers said he wouldn't vote for himself for induction into Cooperstown. As he explained on The Dan Patrick Show, McGwire doesn't think he's worthy of the Hall of Fame because of the rules prohibiting PED and steroid use in MLB now.
Furthermore, McGwire doesn't anticipate ever being allowed into the Hall of Fame, nor will he ever fight the fact that his admitted steroid use will likely keep him out.
As admirable a stance as that is—regardless of whether you think McGwire is genuinely contrite or is just saying the right things while holding a coaching position in MLB—the decision on McGwire's Hall of Fame status isn't really in his hands. As long as voters hold a grudge against admitted (and perceived) PED users, McGwire doesn't have a chance.
Maybe that's why it's easy for McGwire to carry out his self-flagellation publicly. People already know he used steroids during his career. He admitted doing so. But if McGwire shows remorse and beats himself up for it, McGwire becomes a sympathetic, perhaps even tragic, figure. He'll be even more so as the years go on.
That's a cynical view, I realize. McGwire might just want to get on with his life, do good work as a hitting coach and perhaps one day be considered for a managerial position in MLB. Third-base coaches and bench coaches seem to be the steppingstone jobs these days.
However, if McGwire manages to turn around a lineup that finished 13th out of 16 NL teams in runs scored and hit .252 as a team, he could get some consideration.
But is he right about the Hall of Fame? Will no steroid or PED users get in as long as "the guidelines" McGwire referred to are in place?
First of all, those guidelines aren't going to change. MLB isn't going to eventually alter the rules and decide it's all right if players jack themselves up with any and all kinds of pharmaceuticals to help them launch baseballs out of every stadium in the majors. Baseball arguably had that era already in the 1980s and 1990s.
If anything is going to change, it's how the writers who vote for the Hall of Fame view those who took—or allegedly took—performance-enhancing substances. Right now, anyone with even the hint of PED use is getting penalized by voters.
Poor Jeff Bagwell wasn't even accused of using steroids during his career, but he's apparently guilty by association with the era in which he played.
Eventually, however, voters will be confronted with the possibility of keeping some of the greatest players of all time out of Cooperstown. Barry Bonds has 762 home runs, the most in MLB history. With 354 wins, Roger Clemens ranks ninth on the all-time list. Mike Piazza has more career home runs than any other catcher.
None of those players will get the 75 percent of the vote necessary to be inducted with the Hall of Fame class of 2013. But after they pay the penance of not getting in on their first or second year of eligibility—after they can no longer be called "first ballot" Hall of Famers—these baseball pariahs may finally be included among the game's all-time greats.
This is purely my opinion, but I think voters will eventually come to the realization that too many players were using PEDs to single out a select few and penalize them for it. And if the playing field was relatively equal under such circumstances, then these guys were still the best of their era.
But if that does indeed happen, where does that leave McGwire? He has 583 home runs, currently 10th on the all-time list. Yet is that enough to get him into Cooperstown?
McGwire is a .263 lifetime hitter. He has 1,626 career hits. Those numbers don't scream "Hall of Famer," though he was certainly one of the best sluggers of his time.
So while it's commendable that McGwire says he shouldn't be voted into the Hall of Fame, he very likely won't be anyway—even if PED users eventually receive leniency from balloters.
McGwire's consolation will have to be a clear conscience. He doesn't have to put himself through the charade of being evasive and vague at a congressional hearing again. He doesn't have to lie whenever anyone asks him about steroid use. Maybe that really is enough for him now.
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