Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Mark McGwire

Last year, I went through and reviewed the case for a number of players for the Hall of Fame, and whether or not I thought that they deserved to be enshrined in the Hall. I’ll be doing this again this year, and for players I reviewed previously, I will revisit my vote and see if it has changed in a year’s time. Theoretically, this should remain the same, but there’s always a chance I am now a whole year wiser than I was last year. Today’s candidate is one that I looked at last year, Mark McGwire

McGwire was eligible for the Hall for the fourth time in the 2010 class (2009), and you can find what I wrote last year below. He finished the voting last year with 128 votes out of a possible 539 ballots (23.7%). This was his highest vote percentage to date, but I am really wondering what will happen this year after his admission to using steroids during his playing career.

This one is a little different, as I have changed portions of last year’s with these new revelations. You can see the original writeup here, with the new notes as well.

Player Profile – Baseball Reference.com

Career Accomplishments
583 homers
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. He admitted last year to using steroids during his playing career.


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. Even that was not the bigger story, as he admitted to using steroids in a press conference last year. He did this with the hope of moving past the story as he was set to be the new hitting coach for the Cardinals.

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. But it clearly becomes a lot more difficult to judge him with the admission that he used steroids.

My Thoughts This Year

It is more difficult for me this year for him than for any other candidate in my opinion. Clearly you have someone who was as dominant as they come in terms of a hitter, but someone who was on the wrong side of the argument with regard to steroid and performance enhancing drug usage. While I believe that his admission adds another piece to the story that has been Mark McGwire, I believe it was only a confirmation of something that had been widely viewed as fact previously. I don’t really think that it changes how his candidacy should be viewed, and as such my vote remains the same as last year.


6 responses to “Hall of Fame Ballot Review – Mark McGwire

  1. I so enjoy your stuff and I seldom dissent from your view, but Big Mac in The Hall? No way, poster boy for both PED and the end justifies the means. Both are the wrong message for our game. And, yes, ditto Pete Rose. Surely we don’t want to endorse managers or players betting on baseball.

    I love baseball’s history and stats and realize there are a few in The Hall that were not choirboys, but Big Mac is in a category I cannot endorse, regardless of his achievements on the field.

  2. since when does it matter if a guy is a jerk…or not?
    many, many players cheat.
    he was one of the most dominant players of his era…period.

    pitchers has been using spitballs for years.
    pitchers purposely throw 100 mph fastballs at batters heads to gain the advantage.

    you have no right to judge mcguire. just look at what he did on the field. if cheating eliminates him then you have eliminate many many others too…many of whom are already in the hall of fame.

  3. I agree with James. What if McGwire had been caught cheating while still playing? He would’ve been suspended for awhile and he couldn’t use steroids anymore. How many HR’s did his cheating lead to? I don’t know exactly, but I bet its more than a few.

    How can you be sure he would still be a Hall of Fame caliber player if he hadn’t cheated? Bottom line is he cheated and there needs to be some punishment for that. No Hall of Fame for him. He still made millions of dollars and still gets to be involved with baseball.

  4. No way McGwire gets in. Not even by VC vote. The numbers are inflated by admitted steroid use, and, if you strip away the stigma of steroids, the numbers look less impressive. McGwire missed a ton of time before his 70 HR stretch. He was not headed to the Hall of Fame before the late 90s, even though he did have an excellent rookie year and flashes of potential afterwards. Honestly, Jose Canseco’s stats deserve a mention for HOF consideration, but neither is going to ever be enshrined, given the stigma of the era. If I had a vote this year, I would not vote for McGwire but would replace a vote for him with a vote for any of the following: Blyleven, Morris, Murphy, Parker and I’d support Dick Allen, Ron Santo, Bill Madlock, and the toxic twins (Kaat and Tommy John) before McGwire. Other players that probably deserve a look before McGwire: Sosa, Bonds (never admitted, nor proven as a steroids user), Lee Smith, probably Edgar Martinez, John Franco, Mark Grace. One thing: I’d take Fred McGriff over McGwire, as far as a vote is concerned for the HOF.

  5. What leaves Mac as a no for me is my feeling that his best
    seasons came at a time that I think he wouldn’t have still been
    around. I think without the juice Mac would have been done after
    ’94 with a HR total in the 200’s.

  6. Pingback: End of Year Review | Jason's Baseball Blog

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