Monday, March 28, 2005

Mark McGwire vs. Pete Rose

Does Mark McGwire deserve a spot in the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame? A few years ago the answer was positively yes. But now with the stain of steroids tainting so many ballplayers from what will now be known as the “juiced era,” it appears that McGwire could be left out.
A recent survey of baseball writers who cast Hall of Fame ballots revealed that McGwire would indeed miss the mark if the vote were to be held today.

Mark McGwire could miss out on making the Hall of Fame because of baseball's swirling steroids scandal, heightened by his refusal to answer specific questions before Congress, an Associated Press survey showed Thursday.

I think this is unfair and I hope that in two years when McGwire becomes eligible for induction this will all have mostly blown over. McGwire should not be penalized after-the-fact for doing something that was not illegal at the time. The fact that steroids were not made illegal before 2002 is a failure on the part of the baseball owners and management and should not be used now to punish players who may have used steroids prior to that time.
So barring Mark McGwire from the Hall of Fame for using steroids prior to 2002 would be like barring a pitcher who threw spitballs prior to 1920 when that practice was banned. And we know that a lot of pitchers who threw spitballs after 1920 are also in the Hall today.

McGwire’s Hall of Fame predicament is nearly the opposite of Pete Rose’s. I strongly believe that Pete Rose deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and I’ve written about it here and here.
What Pete Rose did was illegal (gambling), but it did not effect his playing career. What McGwire did (allegedly) was not illegal, but it most certainly would have impacted his playing career.

Some people will now say with some legitimacy that this scandal should diminish McGwire’s accomplishment in breaking Roger Maris’ single-season homerun record. But baseball is an inexact science and there have been many changes over the years that make direct comparisons between generations of ballplayers difficult at best. Look at all the medical technology and advancements in personal fitness and training that ballplayers today take advantage of that was not available before. Today’s batters can watch videos of opposing pitchers and study them in depth before having to face them on the field. Then there is all the advancement in equipment over the years - better bats, balls, gloves; nicer stadiums with better lighting; better travel accomodations and, of course, lots better pay. Who is to say which of these, if any, has given today’s players an advantage over their historical counterparts?

I think it is inevitable that baseball records will continue to fall whether the players are juiced or not. We should judge the players based on their talent on the field according to the rules of the game at the time they were playing. They should not be penalized for moral lapses off the field (Rose) or for failing to answer questions before Congress years after they have retired (McGwire).

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