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Mark McGwire is getting more HoF support. As he should.

Dec 1, 2009, 1:29 PM EDT

Let’s make it a Hall of Fame trifecta. I missed this over the weekend, but here’s Ken Davidoff of Newsday, explaining why, after years of resistance, he has decided to vote for Mark McGwire on his Hall of Fame ballot:

Every era has its taint, whether it’s gamblers, steroids, racism or
something less pernicious such as ballpark dimensions. Our job is to
sift through the nonsense, take the emotion out of the conversation and
determine the best players of the era.

A McGwire induction in Cooperstown wouldn’t be the most uplifting or heart-wrenching. That’s all right.
Life is complicated. We can discuss what happened and what it means.

My thoughts exactly. The guy is a product of his era, and there’s no basis for me thinking that he was any better or any worse a person than hundreds of others in the game during that time or during previous eras when gambling and segregation made a mockery of the competition.

Within the context of his era, Mark McGwire was a superior player. To blackball McGwire is to deny that reality. Likewise, to vote for him is no capitulation to cheating. History will do a better job of judging the era and its players than a quorum of writers who lived through the era can.

I know a lot of you will disagree. Before you do, however, I recommend that you give Davidoff’s reasoning a look first.

(thanks to reader Rick Bender for the heads up)

  1. Francisco - Dec 1, 2009 at 1:48 PM

    By allowing the “taint” you lower the bar. The HoF is not about lowering the bar. If you lower the bar then Canseco passes under and into the HoF. Sosa, Palmiero, Clemens – shall we go on?
    Yes McGwire was a superior player, who cheated then bold faced lied to Congress. By that logic you let in Pete Rose who by all accounts was a player exceeding McGwire’s enhanced performance with sheer athletic ability.
    Writers have a responsibility to the game, to the integrity to the history. Let in McGwire and you cheapen the HoF, you lessen the rules, you slide down the slope.

  2. Levi Stahl - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:01 PM

    McGwire didn’t lie to Congress. He claimed his right to refuse to testify. You may not view that as the most honorable decision, but it’s far from a “bold-faced lie.”

  3. Paul - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    The crazy thing about this article is that the guy is “not sure” about the hall of fame for ROBERTO ALOMAR. The guy might be the best all-around 2B who ever lived, and this dope isn’t sure about voting for him for the hall? Guys like this should have their votes taken away. It should be intuitively obvious to anyone voting for the hall that Alomar is a first-ballot guy, no questions asked.

  4. James K. - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:02 PM

    Canseco is not HOF caliber. I don’t even think he’s really close, he had 3 really good seasons, that’s it. The writers have no such responsibility either. Nor does lying preclude one from HOF consideration. Basically I disagree with everything in your comment. Davidoff has come around, unfortunately I don’t think many others will.

  5. Connecticut Mike - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:06 PM

    I agree, Craig. McGwire was one of the best sluggers of his era, and should be in the Hall. His exclusion is just so much sanctimoniousness on the part of sports writers who need something to write about.
    To the above poster, I do not recall that McGwire “bold faced lied to Congress”. I believe he opted not to answer questions that might incriminate him in some way, as was his right. Furthermore, induction of McGwire does not mean that Canseco, an inferior player, is inducted into the HOF.

  6. Bill@TDS - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:30 PM

    Baloney. Pete Rose broke a rule that he knew gets you permanently banned from baseball. All we have on McGwire is a suspicion that he may have taken something that was against the law (but not even necessarily the rules of baseball) for him to take. There’s no “logic” in that comparison at all.
    It’s not “lowering the bar.” The guys you mentioned other than Canseco are probably all Hall of Fame players, and Clemens is one of the five or so best pitchers who has ever lived. And if you’re envisioning some kind of ethical or character-based “bar,” none of those guys can lower it any further than Ty Cobb or Cap Anson has set it.

  7. Shely - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:53 PM

    Sorry, I do not agree with your assessment or your logic. When Mac was thought to have taken roids in playing the game, it was not against baseball rules. I am from Cincinnati, and do not believe Pete deserves to be in the HOF, because he broke rules in place and the rules said specifically that you would be thrown out of the game if you break them. Then Pete lied about it to officials. Later, he fessed up that he had bet on the game. Mac did not lie to Congress. He refused to give testimory, which is his right. It may seem like he is being a wiennie & protecting himself by not fessing up, but that is the law. Other than than, Canseco is a joke if he is considering the hall. He would have never been considered. Should Mac get in, maybe, however, it is strictly a matter of opinion, and based somewhat if you like him or not. Rose may be considered only after his death, if at all.

  8. DallasNorth50 - Dec 1, 2009 at 2:57 PM

    Bill@TDS, since when and for what possible reason do sports leagues have to outright & explicitly ban something that is illegal? The laws of the land apply to all within its borders, including sports leagues and their players. The fact that McGuire and others did steroids, which were and continue to be against the law, is inherently an act of dishonesty, and what is cheating but an act of dishonesty?
    The bottom line: steroids = illegal activity = dishonesty = cheating!

  9. Lorna - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:04 PM

    So if someone broke a federal or state law they should not be allowed in the Hall of Fame? And what level of infraction? Just felonies or misdemeanors as well?

  10. Shely - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:22 PM

    I am not so sure that your assessment is correct. Mac took the roids early in Oakland,when many athletes were experimenting with all kinds of chemical enhancers. It is not definite that the brands of stuff taken were illegal at the time. It certainly was not against baseball rules until later when the use was stopped. This is not a clear argument, and one can be on either side with some logic to each. it is a clear matter to me, of; I like the guy so it is OK, or I hate him and he should be thrown out of the game.

  11. Jberardi - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    So, using a federally banned substance should prevent a player from getting into the HOF? The Hall would be an awfully lonely place if that rule was ever really enforced…

  12. BillyBob - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:27 PM

    Mark McGwire probably used steroids but that hasn’t been proven nor has he admitted to it. He declined to answer questions before the House Government Reform Committee which was better than getting up there and giving false testimony. Maybe every baseball player elegible for the Hall of Fame in the last 30 years has taken steroids. We don’t know do we.

  13. JohnNorthey - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    If doing something illegal gets you kicked out of the Hall then we better pull up a truck. Ty Cobb is the most obvious law breaker, but we also have Babe Ruth (drinking during prohibition) and many other very big names. Mix in the efforts many HOF’ers made to prevent non-whites from playing and you’ve got a pretty ugly crew to yank out.
    If there is no rule about not being allowed to vote for them (such as with Rose and Joe Jackson) then their actions on the field should be the #1 consideration with off-field stuff being mixed in (such as steroids) for marginal cases.
    In a few years we have the ‘nuclear’ ballot – Clemens, Bonds, Sosa, Piazza on the steroid side with Biggio (and Schilling among others) on the non-steroid side. If the current fuss continues we’ll still have Palmeiro and McGwire on the ballot too plus near HOF’ers who will get support in Walker, Juan Gonzalez, David Wells (over 230 wins) and others. Phew. Now there is a ballot that would be tough to stick with just 10 names, especially if guys like Bagwell, Raines, Larkin and Alomar don’t get in by then.

  14. Chris - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:34 PM

    The problem with concluding that McGwire deserves a spot in Cooperstown because “[w]ithin the context of his era, Mark McGwire was a superior player” is that it assumes all players in his era were also taking steroids (or HGH, or horse tranquilizers, or whatever he took). You are measuring McGwire against his peers, and judging him to be among the very best players in that group.
    But (assuming he did, in fact, take performance-enhancing drugs)McGwire used PEDs specifically to raise his performance relative to that peer group. Taking McGwire’s accomplishments at face value necessarily diminishes “lesser” accomplishments by players who didn’t resort to illegal drugs.
    For example, Greg Vaughn finished third in the NL in home runs in both 1998 and 1999 — behind McGwire and Sosa both times. Isn’t it fair to conclude that Vaughn might be remembered differently if he had actually led the league in HRs in those years, rather than having finished third?
    I have no idea whether Vaughn took PEDs — who knows, maybe he did — and I’m not saying he would be a HOF candidate but for McGwire’s and Sosa’s allegedly-enhanced performances in that era. But his reputation, and that of all other players in the league, is ultimately based on his performance relative to those who, as it turns out, were juicing. And that is grossly unfair. So let’s not simply chalk up anyone’s refusal to vote for McGwire (or Bonds, or Sosa, etc.) to mere sanctimony. If you believe, based on the best evidence available, that McGwire’s case for admission to the HOF rests on an unfairly-achieved margin of performance relative to his peers, then it’s certainly reasonable to withhold a vote for him.

  15. Richard Gadsden - Dec 1, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    If taking a substance that is against the law is cheating then let’s kick Babe Ruth out of the Hall of Fame for drinking during Prohibition.

  16. dlf - Dec 1, 2009 at 4:12 PM

    Ferguson Jenkins and Paul Molitor … pack up your plaque … your departure from the shores of Lake Oswego is required. Illegal activity = cheating! Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle … sorry, but that Red Juice contained illegal performance enhancing drugs. Head for the door immediately.

  17. Josh - Dec 1, 2009 at 10:10 PM

    OK, you guys are all correct: there should be no rules or standards for the HOF except whether a guy kicked butt on the field. Did he do anything else? Was he a bad person? Did he probably cheat, did he refuse to defend himself or tell the truth? Did he likely participate in perpetrating a fraud on you, the baseball fans, and did he affect competition and fair play, also robbing you, the fans? WHO CARES, you say! I LOVE (probable) cheaters!
    Everybody gets into the HOF, then. Great choice, baseball fans. No one will ever confuse you people with deep thinkers.

  18. Josh - Dec 1, 2009 at 10:19 PM

    Oh, and let me add: by this sorry logic, it’s never OK to start doing the right thing. If there’s one scumbag in the Hall, then by the ‘roids apologists’ logic we can never exclude any other bad guys. Just great. Really.

  19. MM - Dec 1, 2009 at 10:49 PM

    Josh, either you didn’t read all the posts or you didn’t understand them. All cheaters should be kept out. It’s doubtful though that we will ever know who these cheaters are. Some already hold major league records that aren’t going to be taken away from them. MLB isn’t going to correct this problem or even try. And baseball sports writers will not put enough effort into it to make a difference. There will be talk about steroids for years and years to come but basically MLB will try to say as little as possible about it so as not to tarnish the reputation of more players. Did all the players take something at sometime. Who knows.

  20. Francisco - Dec 2, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    You guys are right. I mean Maris didn’t take roids and Sosa, McGwire and Bonds all made a mockery of his feat. Let them in and why we are at it, let’ all go just go take a giant leak on his record.
    It is a farce. And refusing to justify “refusing to testify” as his right is a rather lame argument. You call it a right, I call it semantics. Also claiming that Rose broke laws and Mac didn’t make it alright for Mac to get in and Rose to not – makes absolutely no sense. If you are going to allow players in based upon performance only irrespective of performance, than put them all in. None of this double hypocrisy.
    Mac, Sosa and Bonds stole the most hallowed records – and for that they should never be allowed sniff at the Hall. It is an affront to Maris, Ruth and baseball. Someday these jock-sniffing writers will let him in, and I’ll be there with post-its with * on them putting them on anything that says ‘McGwire’.

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