Sunday, December 28, 2008

I hate Tony LaRussa but . . .

... I think he's right when it comes to Mark McGwire being a character guy. LaRussa recently pointed out (when asked about two of his former players' chances to make the Hall - McGwire and Rickey Henderson) that McGwire walked away from 2 years and $30 mil left on his contract with the Cardinals after a .187/.316/.492 year because he wasn't performing at an elite level. Setting aside the steroid issue (momentarily) McGwire is a character guy, plus his numbers make him a shoe-in for the hall. He had 583 career homeruns, but also had a career .394 OBP and a .982 career OPS. Henderson, the greatest lead-off hitter ever (according to most) had a career OBP of .401, only .007 better than McGwire. And don't forget McGwire hit 50 hr's as a rookie, without any juice.

In a nutshell, I think steroids was a baseball issue, and not an individual player issue. Certainly evaluate a player in the context of the player's era, but don't leave a player out of the hall because of steroid use in the '90's. Right now, steroids are the only issue keeping McGwire out. If you want to use steroids against a guy like Rafael Palmero, with a positive drug test after steroids were banned, that's another issue. But making McGwire pay the ultimate (baseball) price for it is wrong.

I don't like Henderson. For a long time, he was my least favorite player. But he's a no-brainer. Man, I hate that, and I hate agreeing again with LaRussa again, but there you go.

I would love to hear your thoughts on McGwire's Hall credentials.


VeniceLover said...

McGwire's home run total is hall-worthy. I don't think anyone questions that. However, I would point out that he never won an MVP award and his batting average (.263) would have to be one of the more anemic averages among HOF inductees, if he's elected.
I'll go out on a limb and argue that character should not play a part of hall balloting, the tacit implication being that even Pete Rose should be in the Hall based upon his on-the-field performance.
However, the issue that I grapple with is how McGwire's stats would have read had he never used steroids. Might he have hit 'only' 400 dingers instead of 583? My gut tells me at least half of his home run total during his last six or seven seasons were a result of him (as well as the baseball) being juiced. Had he hit 'only' 400 HR, I doubt if he'd make the hall - at least not on the first ballot. Obviously, there's no way to know what his stats would have been like had he followed the rules, lived clean, and chosen to use only his natural talent. With all due respect, Dave, I'm not willing to give Mac the benefit of the doubt. I will remember him for the black eye he gave baseball. Sadly, I will remember him not for his baseball talent - which was tainted - but for his refusal to answer questions posed during his Congressional testimony. McGwire should not make it on a first ballot and perhaps never. There are just too many questions about what he would have accomplished over a career as a player without steroids to vote him in.

Dave Zahniser said...

Thanks for the comment VeniceLover. I guess my point is that because we have no way of knowing how some of these guys would have performed absent the steroids (and I think the fact McGwire took steroids is not even open to debate any more) we only have the stats to go by. Otherwise, you're pretty much left with saying no one gets in who played during the steroid era.

Regarding his performance in front of congress, would you rather he didn't show up? Fake like he didn't understand (like Sosa)? Lie (like Palmero)? He did what he had to do; show-up but refuse to answer. He had to know this would be seen as an admission, but also would not get him proscuted. I respect the guy for not lying about it.

On a baseball note, his average doesn't bother me with the .396 OBP and the .588 slugging percentage. And lots of guys are in the hall who never won an MVP.

I'm not pushing for McGwire as a HOF'er. I'm arguing against using the steroid issue to keep him out. Arguing his numbers (real numbers, not what-if numbers) is 100% legit.

VeniceLover said...

Dave, I'll agree with you on one point. McGwire's BA shouldn't keep him out of the HOF, and I really wasn't suggesting that it should. However, I think you would concur that a lifetime .263 average pretty much sucks for someone in the Hall. I checked, just for my own satisfaction. Only one HOF first baseman (Killebrew) has a lower BA than McGwire. "Killer" had a .256 lifetime average. I was pretty hard pressed to find ANY position players in the Hall with lower averages than McGwire. Like I said, I wouldn't vote against him based on his average, but perhaps if he's elected he deserves a display near the women's professional baseball section. I'm sure some of them had batting averages a lot better than Mac.

By the way, Dave, useless trivia time: Three individuals in the Baseball HOF are buried in Kentucky. You should be cast out of our rotisserie league if you miss one of them. Can you name all three?

Dave Zahniser said...

So VeniceLover is at least someone who knows I live in Kentucky (and that my league is roto, not head-to-head).

I agree that the average is low. But as you point out, it didn't stop Killebrew, who by the way is one of the great underrated sluggers.

I'm going to stop this comment now and make a post out of the rest of my thoughts on this topic.