Thoughts on Mark McGwire

Unfortunately, I’ve had a glut of things pass across my desk so I haven’t had the chance to read much about Mark McGwire’s admission that he used steroids. How do I feel about this? I’ll recycle an old post.

This will be short and simple.

For the third year in a row, Mark McGwire did not receive sufficient votes from the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to be elected to the Hall of Fame. The explanation is simple: many writers feel that his performance was aided by performance-enhancing drugs. There are certainly several sources for accusations, but they have some credibility problems. Others point to his continued excellent performance into his thirties and his bulging biceps. McGwire fits the profile of a steroid user, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he admitted to using them. McGwire hasn’t helped his case by refusing to testify under oath before Congress; however, that is the advice that every lawyer would give to his client in these circumstances.

I don’t want to pick a fight regarding whether or not he used steroids. I don’t really care. My argument is simple. Let’s assume McGwire used hard-core anabolic steroids every day of his baseball career. He didn’t violate a single baseball rule. Mark McGwire played his last baseball game in 2001. It wasn’t until 2004 when anabolic steroids became a punishable offense despite the fact that serious doping regulations had been instituted in nearly all other sports. McGwire shouldn’t be excluded any more than any other player who drank amphetamine-laced coffee prior to its ban. He’s being barred from the Hall of Fame for doing something that people wish was against the rules but wasn’t.

6 Responses “Thoughts on Mark McGwire”

  1. spark says:

    Mark McGwire is not being barred from the Hall of Fame as Pete Rose is. He is being given a chance to be voted in through the customary procedures. The fact that he has not garnered much support is due to the fact that he chose to do something that most voters consider wrong. He was engaging in illegal activities that directly led to an increase in his on-field production. If you don’t want people to vote players in based on their personal opinions then you should move to make the hall a statistic only based process where you let a computer decide who is deserving.

  2. Unfortunately, spark is right.

    The guidelines for HOF voting clearly state that the voter should take into account character, integrity, etc.

    Does taking steroids fall in the “good” category of either of those? No. Was it against the rules? Arguably not. Does admission and apologizing start to tilt the scales the other direction? I think it should.

    Ultimately, it’s just another good reason to take the voting away from the BBWAA. The writers have gotten too self-righteous, too self-serving, and too agenda-based to be tasked with such a large responsibility.

    Sorry writers, you can’t dictate to someone (or to me) whether an apology was sincere enough, or covered enough ground.

    Perhaps some of these writers should think about their own integrity and character when they have an agent’s or owner’s hand up their rear end.

  3. dan says:

    I don’t know why this point isn’t made more by everyone discussing this, but here goes again:
    1) Mark McGuire broke the law when he used prescription steroids.
    2) He did this specifically to improve his baseball play.
    3) It worked, whether by increasing his HR total per plate appearance or by increasing his playing time, as he stated was his goal.

    Given that he broke the law, and without having broken the law he would not have performed as well as he had, and indeed likely would not have played well enough to get into the HOF, can we therefore not consider this when considering his HOF credentials? Or is breaking the law to increase your sports performance irrelevant to the game of baseball itself? Are there no rules in baseball about not breaking the law to improve your performance? Or, if there are not, should there have been, but there were not because the rules had not caught up to technology?

    Or, look at it this way, suppose McGuire had injected an illegal substance into the bodies of every other player in baseball, which caused them to wear out faster than him. This substance would have no other side effects long term except to make them more prone in injury, and less likely to perform at a high level over the course of a season. As a result, he outperformed the rest of baseball.

    I understand there is a significant difference in what McGuire did and the hypothetical above, but the result is the same: McGuire used an illegal substance to gain an unfair competitive advantage over his contemporaries, and it worked.

    Why again are so many ok with this?

  4. Devon says:

    I see your point JC, and I think we’re on the same page.

    If McGwire isn’t voted in, I think they should consider throwing a few players out of the Hall of Fame. Why? Some admitted in 1969 to taking a variety of things in order to gain an “unfair” edge… …so wouldn’t it be more consistent and fair to keep them all out of the Hall or let them all in?

    That being said, I don’t think any player was right to take steroids. I just think there needs to be consistency in one way or the other. Doesn’t that make sense?

  5. Marc Schneider says:

    The writers don’t do a particularly good job in the HOF voting, but I’m not sure who would do better. Obviously, as the commenter above indicated, the standards are subjective, but I don’t know how you eliminate the fact that people will always have their own biases. The commenter thinks McGuire’s apology was sincere–fine, but I don’t see what his view should dictate any more than others’ view that it wasn’t. The point is, unless you simply discard the character standard entirely, it’s going to be subjective regardless of who does the voting. I think this commenter is a bit self-righteous.

    I don’t necessarily agree with Dan that McGuire should be kept out, but I do agree that it’s not an unreasonable position; others here seem simply outraged that anyone would be offended by his taking steroids. The fact that others cheated is irrelevant to whether McGuire should get in; some people murder and don’t get caught–does that mean all murderers should not be punished?

  6. Marc Schneider says:

    Also, JC, your argument that anabolic steroids were not illegal under baseball rules is besides the point. They (and amphetimines)violated federal law. Whether they were illegal under baseball rules is irrelevant. Just because cocaine is not specifically banned by baseball doesn’t mean it’s ok to use it. Plus, it’s pretty clear that the players understood that using steroids was a no-no. Otherwise, why would they have hidden it?