Joe Posnanski: Mark McGwire only one who got it

by on February 19, 2009 · 8 comments

First, if you don’t read Joe Posnanski (that link is only his blog, you can find him in the KC Star, national pubs, etc), you must start.  Poz is a brilliant writer, on many topics ranging from baseball to beyond.

Today’s topic from Posnanski on Sports Illustrated was particularly poignant for Cardinal fans.  Poz addressed the current steroid issue in baseball (I know, I know, I said I wouldn’t bring it up again) – and he addresses former Cardinal Mark McGwire’s role in the ongoing saga.

Specifically, Posnanski takes a look at McGwire’s stance during his appearance before Congress on March 17, 2005 (has it been that long ago?).  In hindsight, Posnanski writes, McGwire may have played the best hand.  I won’t spoilt it any more for you, but you should click the link above and read.

As an admitted McGwire fan back to his Oakland days (I still have pages and pages of his baseball cards stashed away in a closet somewhere) and probably an even bigger McGwire fan during his St Louis days (still have my ticket stub from the 500 and 501 home run game), it’s hard for me to know McGwire will never be elected to the Hall of Fame.  What’s perhaps more impressive is the willpower of a man who doesn’t seem to care (or perhaps, says the fan in me, his indifference to Hall election is his self-imposed penance for doing something he now regrets).

The fan in me wants to believe that this guy just put it together, with the support of a rabid bunch of red-clad backers, for some great seasons.

The realist in me knows that smoke equals fire with PEDs and baseball these days, and there’s a lot of smoke surrounding Big Mac.

Whatever you choose to believe, JoePo delivers a great evaulation of what has transpired in the steroid era with regard to player reactions.

I’d like to offer a tip of the cap to Sky at Beyond the Boxscore (@BtB_Sky) for posting the link to the Posnanski story on Twitter yesterday afternoon.

Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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Freddie February 20, 2009

I plan on mentioning in my upcoming podcast. I’m also a hug Big Mac fan and I’m hopeful these pompous ass writers who are preventing him from getting in will wake up one day soon.

PHE February 20, 2009

Hey Freddie-

While I agree that it’s a bit short-sighted for the HoF voters to play moral police, they do, unfortunately have license:

“5. Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

I’m not saying it’s right, but the voters appear to have taken their ‘character’ stand on steroids (albeit without any real proof in this case).

My big question, is if a Bonds or a ARod makes it into the Hall, will the Veterans Committee take a long look at Big Mac?

Cardinal70 February 20, 2009

There comes a point where the voters are going to have to start putting some of these guys in, in my mind.

No Clemens, no Bonds, no McGwire, no ARod? I never was big on Palmerio and Sosa, but they’d have cases too.

And what happens if say Griffey gets elected as “clean” and then something comes out to cast doubt on that? You can’t take him out. (Not that I think Griffey did anything, just as an example.)

When you realize that a large portion of the initial players caught were pitchers, you have to figure that the juiced hitters weren’t quite as far above their pitching brethren as you might think. In other words, they may not have been on a level playing field, but it wasn’t that tilted.

Discount their numbers some, say 15%. If you still think they are HOF, vote them in.

Sarah-bug February 20, 2009

I understand your point about “character” and smoke=fire and whatnot, but without proof, isn’t that just feeding into the notion of “guilty in the court of public opinion”?

I think the one thing I took from the A-Rod case is that things are not always what they seem. Rodriguez was the guy everyone pointed to as the antithesis of Bonds and Canseco because he didn’t fit the “steroid” image and therefore could be judged clean and yet somehow still superhumanly talented. People (mostly media) figured that A-Rod was the guy that did it “naturally”. He was almost the poster boy (thanks in part to the Yankees huge market) for how to play “right”. And we all know how that turned out.

So without test results from every player ever even considered for the HoF (much less admitted), how can they exclude guys like McGwire based completely on what they believe to be true? Because as it turns out (A-Rod), appearances can be deceiving.

I’m not trying to take any kind of stand on steroids, it just kind of concerns me how character hinges on gossip and rumors. I won’t even get started about people who got caught versus those who didn’t.

PHE February 20, 2009

@C70 – Well, that all depends on the moral tilt of the voters. If they think these guys cheated, then they cheated – they belong with Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

Now, the interesting point you bring up – how can you be sure Ken Griffey never juiced? How can you be sure Jim Thome isn’t on HGH? Everyone keeps pointing fingers at these guys as pictures of “real” baseball and innocence, but they were pointing at ARod four weeks ago too.

I was naive enough to think before that there was still a large contingent that never swayed from the straight and narrow. I have left that belief behind.

The steroid era of MLB has placed all players of that time into a “guilty until proven innocent (or until people just don’t care anymore” situation. Unfortunate, but true.

It’s like I said earlier – steroids weren’t officially banned until what, 2004? Why not just treat this like any other “live ball era” or what have you from previous times in MLB? Sure, the record books will be dominated by this era – but isn’t that bound to be the case eventually anyway? If everyone was juicing, was there any real advantage? How many home runs did Alex Rodriguez hit off of Roger Clemens from 2001-2003?

PHE February 20, 2009

@Sarah – you are absolutely right. As I just mentioned, baseball players from this era are now in the unfortunate position of being “guilty until proven innocent,” and McGwire is no exception.

In that frame, if McGwire knows he’s being assumed guilty – why wouldn’t he just say “I didn’t do it?”

The unfortunate part is that there’s probably little way to prove him either guilty or innocent at this point, so perhaps he just doesn’t care to bother.

Sarah-bug February 20, 2009

I get that feeling about Mac–that he’d rather just be left alone.

PHE February 20, 2009

That and/or he knows he got away with it.

< /devil's advocate >

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