Mark McGwire, Pete Rose, and MLB's Hall of Fame Hypocrisy

Johnathan KronckeCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 23: (L-R)  Cal Ripken Jr., Pete Rose, Hank Aaron, Mark McGwire and Kirk Gibson stand together during the MLB Ten Most Memorable Moments ceremony before the start of game four of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim Angels on October 23, 2002 at Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco, California. Cal Ripken Jr. was voted number one. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Mark McGwire confessed to using steroids and HGH in his career. Shocking.

In addition, the sky is apparently blue, and Bugs Bunny will always outsmart Elmer Fudd.

Also, Pete Rose bet on baseball.

It's a lot to take in, I know. But in all seriousness, there is more that brings together the tainted images of Rose and McGwire than delayed confessions. And even more that keeps them apart.

Let's start with the common traits. Without question, both were extraordinarily talented players.

Rose was the ugly, snarling face of the Big Red Machine back in the 1970s who led his Cincinnati squad to two World Series titles and raised the career hits record to a near untouchable level.

McGwire, meanwhile, won a championship of his own with the Oakland A's before shattering Roger Maris' single-season home run record in 1998.

Following his retirement as a player, Rose became embroiled in controversy that eventually led to a lifetime ban from baseball. McGwire also suffered the slings and arrows of public humiliation, which forced him into a self-imposed exile from the game.

As a result of his scandal, Rose was formally banned from ever taking his place in the Hall of Fame. McGwire has also been essentially shut out of the Hall, though no official declaration has ever been made.

And finally, after years of hiding from the truth lying about their indiscretions, both Rose and McGwire delivered equally unsurprising and disingenuous confessions in the hope of being accepted back into the baseball community.

On the surface, it would seem the careers of these two men are virtually parallel. But look a little closer, and you'll find that their paths veer off in dramatically different directions. It is any wonder, though, how they've ended in the same place.

You see, while Rose and McGwire did violate the rules, Pete's crime is a minor assault compared to Big Mac's vicious killing spree.

Rose bet on baseball as a manager with the Reds. According to his long-overdue confession, he never put money on or against his own team, and all of his violations came after his playing days were over.

In other words, his career as it pertained to playing the game was entirely clean.

What he did on the field—pounding out a record 4,256 hits, winning Rookie of the Year in 1963, the MVP in 1973, and racking up 17 All-Star Game appearances—was a result of his own abilities and his fiery, competitive spirit.

The strongest performance enhancer he ever took was a little Gatorade between innings.

McGwire violated the rules as a player, taking substances to improve his performance on the field and gain an edge over his peers. He admitted to doing so off and on throughout the late 1980s and '90s, including during the '98 season in which he belted a then-record 70 home runs.

Whatever he or anyone else would have you believe about the efficacy of steroids and HGH, McGwire's achievements were the direct result of the competitive imbalance caused by his use of those performance-enhancing drugs.

He rebounded from injuries faster, prevented injuries from occurring altogether, and increased his durability over the long and grueling baseball season.

Some like to say Rose violated the sanctity of the game by betting on it. He didn't. He violated the sanctity of gambling, if there is such a thing. 

It was McGwire and all those like him who have tainted and dishonored a once-hallowed sport by dramatically and illegally altering the outcome on the field and in the record books.

Rose did not. And even if he lied about betting on games in which his team played, it still happened while he was a manager and has nothing to do with his days as a player. His earth-shattering career numbers remain as awe-inspiring as they are uninfluenced by scandal.

It is an absolute travesty and an utter joke that Pete Rose continues to stand on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in.

McGwire and others like him not only lived a lie, but played one, too.

Nothing about his career or those of Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Sammy Sosa, or even Roger Clemens can be considered clean. All broke the rules, all had a hand in tainting the game, and none deserves to be enshrined for their efforts.

On a personal note, I might personally ban every one of them from ever going near a Major League facility for directly and illegally disgracing the game on the field.

However, lifetime bans aside, at the very least they deserve nothing less than a ban from the Hall of Fame.

And yet, their names still appear on the ballot or will very soon. They are still talked about as some of the greatest talents the game has ever seen and that they would've been Hall of Famers even without performance-enhancing drugs.

But how can anyone know that? And more to the point, what difference does that make?

Let's say McGwire didn't start juicing until well into his admittedly dominant career. Let's say Bonds didn't seek out Balco's help until long after he was a veteran all-star.

Let's say five of Clemens' seven Cy Young Awards came before his trainer started injecting him with God knows what.

None of that, not one thing, changes the fact that these players cheated. They cheated the fans, the league, and the game itself.

Through their actions, the record books have become a bigger joke than their own denials, and baseball has suffered a tremendous blow because of it.

People like McGwire should never be forgiven for what they've done, and if that doesn't mean a ban from the game, it should certainly include exile from Cooperstown.

People like Rose can never be trusted enough to be let back in the game, but they have earned—not stolen or cheated or injected, but earned—their rightful place in the Hall.


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