January 10th, 2007 07:27 EST
McGwire punished under unfair standard
McGwire`s home run chase of 1998 not only brought attendance and interest back to normal for Major League Baseball, it set the stage for the rise in interest and ticket sales that has set records in recent years. His dramatic friendly battle with Sammy Sosa made 1998 arguably one of the greatest baseball seasons ever.
The worst part of McGwire not being elected is the flawed logic that undeniably kept him out. Mark McGwire has failed just as many drug tests as the seemingly absolute archetypes of Ripken and Gwynn -- zero.
Call it the steroid era, and accuse McGwire all you want, but the fact is that even when McGwire had the Andro " in his locker, it was perfectly legal. Can you punish someone for doing something legal to try and benefit himself?
This is the equivalent of a business executive hiring a brilliant worker who is later found to be a murderer, then being fired for hiring the brilliant worker.
Morals should not be a factor, especially for those who pine for Pete Rose to be placed on the ballot. Rose was proven to have committed a cardinal sin in the game of baseball, and was banned from the game, yet some would willingly put Rose in the Hall before McGwire and sight Big Mac`s steroid use as their reason.
There was no policy on performance enhancing drugs, and it has been said by several players that they were widely used, by up to 85 percent of the players in the majors. McGwire was probably hitting a large percentage of his tainted " home runs off of pitchers that were trying to add velocity with drugs.
Plus, it takes a little bit of talent to hit 70 home runs in a season, even with steroids. They do not make your swing smooth, they do not improve coordination and they most certainly do not give the patience at the plate needed to get the right pitches to hit.
When speculation is cast aside, McGwire is a surefire Hall of Famer. As much as parents of shallow and easily influenced children will resent it, every player from the era between 1985 and 2002 cannot be banned from the Hall of Fame.
Mark McGwire has become a striking representation of Major League Baseball itself. McGwire`s denied entrance to Cooperstown is just a microcosm of the game`s higher standard in the eyes of the American public.
Somehow, where football and its players are given a pass and the benefit of the doubt on drugs, such as Shawn Merriman, baseball is constantly scrutinized and pressured to conjure up accusations and right wrongs that can never be proven. Whereas other sports can fix the problem and move on, baseball is somehow expected to rectify past actions.
McGwire, much like the game, can do nothing about steroids that may or may not have secretly revolutionized the game. All he can do is protect his personal interests, and fix the problem for the future.
The era cannot be accounted for and players cannot be punished for offenses that will never be proven. Nor can you deny all players of the era of the credit they deserve. Everything is relative: The upper echelon players should be considered elite, for speculation is a terrible reason to shun a great player.
If asked in September of 1998, a good deal more than the 75 percent of voters needed would have voted McGwire into the Hall of Fame, but somehow between his heroic homer and innocent celebration with his son, McGwire has been convicted of a crime in the court of public opinion, by people who seek to do nothing more than make him an example of an illegal steroid user, something they cannot prove he is.
The next 15 years could pass with McGwire unable to right the wrong in the eyes of the public. McGwire could miss out on having his face emblazed in bronze and placed alongside the men he should rightly be mentioned with.
If Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams built the grand stadium and high standard Major League Baseball lives in, then McGwire spearheaded its renovation, and leaving him out of Cooperstown would be a terrible injustice to the history book of the game.
The fact is that McGwire, Ripken, and Sammy Sosa were major players is pulling baseball out of the dark ages with their bare hands. I appreciate that deed, even if they were artificially strengthened. Hold McGuire and the game of baseball to that unreasonable higher standard if you must, but just remember that without him, baseball would never have reached it.