Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame

Today, the Hall of Fame will announce its new inductees. Once again, Mark McGwire will not be welcomed into the club. Personally, I think it’s wrong. McGwire is being singled out for his potential use of performance-enhancing drugs, despite the fact that even if someone could prove that he used something besides andro—andro was clearly legal at the time, and has not been shown to have any ergogenic benefits—whatever it was would not have been against baseball rules. While some may argue that baseball has expressly forbidden the use of illegal drugs since the 1970s, it lacks the power to make such a pronouncement unilaterally. Not until after the players association and the owners agreed to the Joint Drug Treatment Program in 2002—after McGwire had left the game—were performance-enhancers expressly prohibited from the game.

In professional sports, however, athletes are employees of their clubs and are represented for collective bargaining purposes by unions. The clubs must therefore bargain over terms and conditions of employment, including and drug policies for, and drug testing of, athletes.

This is Bud Selig (Commissioner) and Robert Manfred (Executive VP, Labor Relations and Human Resources) in the Stanford Law and Policy Review (2004). You can find this quote on pages 258 and 259 of the Mitchell Report. Also, the history of arbitrator rulings on MLB’s drug policies make it clear that the league’s unilateral mandates are not binding.

It is also not clear that McGwire used anything. We only have the testimony of Conseco and the fact that he hit a lot of home runs. As I am quoted in the National Post today, I don’t think this is enough to convict him of steroid use. I do wish that he had spoken in his testimony before Congress, but I can understand why he would remain silent. It’s an all-or-nothing choice. Once you agree to testify, you cannot pick and chose what you want to reveal.

It looks as though McGwire will get enough votes to remain on the ballot for a while, and I hope that eventually the writers will get over their moral indignation and put him in the Hall. However, I won’t be surprised if McGwire declines his invitation.

8 Responses “Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    Well put JC. This has become a witch hunt and I’m tired of it. McGuire didn’t do anything illegal, much less proscribed by baseball. Steroids use in sports is a serious issue but it’s become a circus now. Every two-bit sportswriter and nitwit fan now has to weigh in on the matte and it usually comes down to, well, he looked bigger. Even assuming the worst, steroids didn’t give these guys skills they didn’t have before. You have done yeoman’s work is presenting scientific evidence as to what the various substances do and do not do. Not that anyone will pay any attention.

  2. David Pinto says:

    JC, not that’s not all we have. The FBI had McGwire’s supplier in the early 1990s. The Daily News reported extensively on this a few years ago. According to their reports, the FBI gave MLB McGwire’s doping schedule. In general, I think the proposition that McGwire used steroids extensively is pretty strong. How that should effect voters is a different matter.

  3. JC says:

    In my mind, that report is still pretty much a rumor that is not much more credible than Conseco. Would I be surprised if it turned out to be true? No. But it’s not enough to convict him in my eyes.

  4. Greyson says:

    The legality of the substances makes no difference to me as a fan, but it should be pointed out that whether or not they were baseball legal, they were clearly not USA legal. The one thing the Mitchell Report confirmed for sure was that the game was very very dirty for a long period of time, and that puts every record of that era under scrutiny. McGwire’s “testimony” before Congress sealed the deal.

    McGwire is a hack, plain and simple! I’m all for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, because whether or not the first two used steroids they were headed to the HoF anyways, but now they will have their plaques focused on rumors instead of praise which doesn’t bother me in the least. McGwire on the other hand was made by modern science! Just compare his stats with Boog Powell, Dale Murphy, Jim Rice, or better yet Juan Gonzalez or Jose Canseco, all of whom will probably never grace the Hall, but all of whom put up pretty similar numbers (and the last two with the likely help of steroids.)

    The fact remains, that every baseball player, owner, trainer, coach, and even arguably fans, were complicit in making the game as dirty as we now know it to be. In the end, we must treat the steroids era, just as we have the dead ball era, with an understanding that the game played in the ’80s and ’90s cannot be readily compared to other eras. Steroids will keep Bud Selig out of the Hall, as they should, and they should keep McGwire out too.

    If you’re going to stump for candidates, Dale Murphy and Jim Rice are much more worthy characters!

  5. JC
    I think leaving McGuire out is the BBWA attempting to right the wrongs that the sowed in the 90s. I worry that the trickle down effect is going to essentially tarnish any and everyone that played in baseball from 90 or 95 onwards.

    To be honest, I am disgraced. The majority of baseball writers already do not speak to me the fan, and instances such as these only further their opinions and knowledge less from what I feel to be accurate and true-just take a look at annual award voting, writers will give added votes to their hometown heroes and the players they know best for those two simple reasons.

  6. Jason S. says:

    For what it’s worth, I mostly agree with JC here. I do feel that it is unfair to penalize McGuire for something that was not illegal at the time he did it.

    I’m not sure if the writers will ever send him to the Hall of Fame. Baseball writers are very self-righteous. I remember very well how many of the swore in print that if Pete Rose would only “tell the truth” that they would surely vote for him for the Hall. As soon as Rose told the truth those same writers crucified him in print for lying and said they would never vote for him.

    I would disagree in thinking that McGuire would even consider turning down entrance into the Hall of Fame. Getting in would be vindication for him. Even Barry Bonds with all his pronouncements that he might also turn it down will not do so.

  7. “For what it’s worth, I mostly agree with JC here. I do feel that it is unfair to penalize McGuire for something that was not illegal at the time he did it.”

    Jason, I don’t think many would disagree with you here, if they did, then any player with a DWI or domestic disturbance would be eliminated from being in the hall of fame. What I think the BBWAA are trying to do is judge a person’s integrity and that of the game. Obviously the writers feel doing steroids and other performance enhances is cheating and not natural progress like surgery or other scientific advancements.

    Either way, this is a situation that I don’t agree with. I don’t agree that a players personal life should be mixed with their professional life. I don’t agree that writers are allowed to impose their ‘opinions’ without having ‘reason’.

  8. Kevin says:

    NOt sure where to start, but alot of people forgot that Mark McGwire saved baseball the year he hit 70 HRs. The comment that the FBI “had Mcgwire’s doping schedule” was NEVER confirmed – and therefore here say, like every other piece of evidence surrounding Mcgwire. He admitted to doing creatine to help him heal / strengthen his back (which was an issue with his entire career), but when it became a banned sunstance he stopped using it. By the way, if all this eveidence is out there, why wasn’t he listed in the Mitchel Report specifically? Let him in the Hall already, and hopefully Mark gets better advice from his lawyers this time around. He should have responded just as Petite did and this would be a non-issue.