Mark McGwire’s hands were tied when he finally admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs yesterday.
Once he accepted the job with St. Louis, it was only a matter of time before he answered the questions that were out there about him. To get back in the good graces of baseball, as well as doing his job as the St. Louis Cardinals' hitting coach, he had no choice but to address the issue.
Otherwise, this would have turned into the Barry Bonds circus that followed him around for the last few years of his career.
The question I really want to get to is whether McGwire was a Hall of Famer, and what effect his comments yesterday had on that; but first, let me get back to the rest of the story.
McGwire appeared contrite in his interview with Bob Costas on the MLB Network, with the necessary tears and breakdowns to show how sorry he truly was for what he had done. He said he only used them to help him recover from his injuries so he could play the game he loved.
But he was defiant when Costas asked him whether using steroids helped his performance on the field. He went back to the popular refrain from pill-popping sluggers “that steroids don’t help with hand-eye coordination and hitting a baseball.”
You know he’s right. It only helps someone who is already able to hit a baseball hit it that much farther.
His numbers increased during that period from an average of one homer every fifteen and a half at-bats to an incredible one every eight and a half.
Would home run No. 62 he hit to break Roger Maris’ home run record in front of the Maris family just been a long-loud out on the warning track instead of barely clearing the wall without the PED’s?
How many other home runs would have fallen short had he not decided to use steroids?
Mark McGwire struck out with the bat on his shoulder when he stepped up to the plate in the Congressional investigation on steroid usage in sports.
In attendance that day were families whose children had died because they were trying to emulate their athletic heroes, including Mark McGwire.
McGwire said he was only trying to protect his family by keeping quiet and not involving them in this mess. Now that he’s being paid to come back into baseball, protecting his family is no longer important.
Mark McGwire is no hero, but the question remains: Is he a Hall of Famer?
No one can argue the fact that he was a prodigious slugger, but what else could he do?
He wasn’t a great hitter. He had a career batting average of .263. He walked a lot, but that’s because of the home run threat he was at the plate, surely enhanced by his use of steroids.
He couldn’t run the bases very well, and he wasn’t anything special as a fielder. So his only real claim to be a member of the Hall of Fame is based solely on hitting home runs.
There always have been certain numbers in a sport based on numbers that guarantee you entrance to the “Hall:” 300 wins, 3,000 hits, and 500 home runs.
“Big Mac” ended his career with 583 dingers, which in the past and without the allegations of his steroid use before it officially became known yesterday would have made him a first ballot inductee.
It was almost like “Home Run Derby” with him. He had 1,626 career hits with about 40 percent of them being home runs. He had 780 singles in his entire 16-year career.
In comparison, Frank Robinson, who had 586 career home runs, had 1,757 singles in his career, along with well over twice as many doubles and triples as McGwire.
They say to be a Hall of Famer in the “steroid era,” you really need to hit 600 homers to factor in the differences in the game during that time.
McGwire fell short of that number, and the rest of his game was not Hall-of-Fame worthy. But to be blunt, how many homers would he have really hit had he not been on the “juice?”
I can’t tell you that and nobody has an answer to that question, but it would have been significantly less than his final total.
Would he have retired early as he suggested in the interview with Costas yesterday without the help of steroids?
These are all questions that need to be asked before deciding to mark the box next to his name on the ballot when it comes up again next year.
And was getting into the Hall of Fame an ulterior motive for McGwire to reveal himself? His vote total has hardly changed since he became eligible.
He’s been getting a consistent 23 percent in the voting in his four years of eligibility. That means the same people have been voting for him every year.
Did he think by admitting his past transgressions, voters would take pity on him and forgive and forget the past that McGwire didn’t want to talk about in front of Congress?
If that was his intention, then this was strike three in his quest for immortality.