Like many other baseball fans, I sat in front of a television set and watched Mark McGwire plead guilty to using steroids during his Major League career with the Athletics and Cardinals.
A few things stood out: McGwire seemed sincerely sorry for what he did to stay on the field and in the lineup to help his team win games and how gut-wrenching it was to hold his guilt inside. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to hide the truth for so long. He said five years, but if he started using PEDs between the 1989-90 seasons, it is more like a 20-year secret. Also, I felt no different about his Hall of Fame credentials after the interview than before the interview.
Big Mac is not, in my opinion, a Hall of Famer. But not because of his transgressions. As a long-time member of the Baseball Writers Association, I have a Hall of Fame vote — and have not yet voted for McGwire, and will continue to not vote for him when his name appears on the ballot voters receive every December.
Yes, he hit a lot of home runs — 583 — but nothing else he did during a 17-year MLB career stood out. He never won a Most Valuable Player Award, not even in 1998, when he broke Roger Maris’s single-season home run record; he won only one Gold Glove Award; led the league only once in RBIs; and finished his career with 1,626 hits, barely halfway to the “magical” 3,000-hit mark.
These numbers also stand out: .201, .231 and .235. Those are his batting averages in 1991, 1989 and 1990, respectively, while playing 154, 148 and 156 games. Those batting averagtes are not exactly HOF caliber.
Mark McGwire was one of the finest gentlemen I ever interviewed after or before games. As a person, he always was the antithesis of Barry Bonds. I commend him for admitting what just about everyone I know suspected.
I can only imagine what Ken Griffey Jr. must have been thinking as he watched the interview. Junior had as many, if not more, injuries than McGwire during his career and has never, ever been linked to PEDs. Kudos to him.
Griffey, by the way, finished third in the 1998 Home Run Derby with a career-high tying 56 home runs with the Mariners. Only McGwire (70) and Sammy Sosa (66) hit more that season.
And so, while it’s a step in the right direction to come clean the way McGwire did, he gained my admiration — but not my Hall of Fame vote. And judging from the things he said during his interview with Bob Costas on MLB Network, coming clean is far more important than being elected to the Hall of Fame.
— Jim Street