OPS+ of 162
100+ rbi seasons: 7
40 homer seasons: 6
The Case for McGwire
McGwire had some of the most dominant seasons a slugger can have. He hit 49 homers his rookie year, and from 1996-1999 was other-worldly (52, 58, 70, 66). He had 7 seasons with an OPS over 1.000 (1993, 1995-2000). He is currently 8th all-time with 583 homers, 9th all-time with a .588 career slugging percentage, and 12th all time with an OPS+ of 162. And of course the 70 homer record-breaking season in 1998.
The Case Against McGwire
McGwire only hit .263 in his career, a reasonable average but nothing particularly special. He was not known as a particularly good fielder, and missed substantial time due to injuries. And then of course there are the elephants in the room: The implications related to his use of androstenedione; the questions regarding whether he used steroids during his career; his testimony before Congress regarding performance enhancing drugs in 2003.
It is extremely difficult to get past that homerun total. 583 is good for 8th all time, and was 5th when he retired. McGwire’s numbers show him to be a hitter with an excellent eye and monumental power. One of my criteria has been whether a player was truly excellent for a sustained period, or simply above-average for a longer period. It is my opinion that McGwire represents a truly excellent player, specifically from 1996-2000, a span of 5 seasons.
Realistically, I don’t believe it was ever going to be Big Mac’s numbers which concerned voters. While his use of andro was within the rules of the game when he was taking it, his unwillingness to “talk about the past” while testifying to Congress is his bell which cannot be unrung. However, without proof positive, I simply do not see how we can judge him on things we simply do not know for certain.
There is always a lot of talk about judging was is good for the integrity of the game. But I just cannot see how it is that we as fans can judge him any differently because he was receiving more media coverage. Would we have had the same disdain if we received as much information about Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, or any of the other scandals of the early years of baseball?
I believe that McGwire represents one of the most dominant power hitters in an era that is filled with them. And without proof or an admission that he cheated, I think we have to look at his career based on the breadth of his performance. And that performance was excellent.
MY VOTE: YES