Mark McGwire will hide out somewhere in Orange County today, maybe even smash some golf balls at a driving range working on his long game so he can enjoy the dream of perhaps joining the PGA Champions Tour when he hits 50 in a few years.
Instead, McGwire should have received a call from Jeff Idleson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, or someone from the Baseball Writers Association of America, with the news of his being voted into the Hall from the ballot of 23 eligible candidates (with up to 10 names allowed to be included).
It didn’t happen. That’s really no news (link here to the announcement). McGwire may celebrate a 100th birthday and never receive even a text message about it, no matter how many bars are showing on his cell phone.
Those empowered with casting the stones, uh, votes, decided the man who hit 583 home runs — specifically 245 of ’em between 1996-99, to help ignite the game after from some of its darkest days in the post-lockout days — was somehow not worthy. Again.
Rickey Henderson? In. Easily.
Jim Rice? In, at long last.
McGwire? He’s back inside, incognito, apparently ashamed to even put his face forward and make a case for himself. Because he’s guilty and it shows.
We’ll make a case for him instead.
Cowardly, some say, he refuses to admit to using illegal steroids during his playing days. That appearance he made before Congress a couple years ago cemented his legacy.
The evidence, apparently, is so overwhelming that we don’t even need a test to prove he did it. Which, in turn, helped him achieve all those things we marveled at during his 16 year career that sputtered to an end after 2001.
In a time when Americans voted for change just a couple of months ago, McGwire should have benefited from the doubters that continue to hang over him. But a change in attitude about what credentials are important, and what rumors aren’t, when it comes to honoring a person in baseball for his achievements are what we need at this point.
This court of public opinion thing is really getting old when it comes to the accountability of players now like McGwire and in the future, like Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds . . . all those guys who became super-human in the course of Canseco-documented time period with the help of a substance injected, rubbed on, snorted or somehow swallowed. Now, those who decided who’s in or who’s out continue to find it hard to swallow that, as keepers of the integrity of the Hall, someone of their reputation deserves a free pass.
When the 12-time All-Star McGwire became eligible for the first time in 2007, after his five-year period of waiting was up, needing 75 percent of the vote, he got only 128 of a record 545 ballots (23.5 percent). Last year, it was the same 128 (of 543 ballots, 23.6 percent).
This year, 10 fewer gave him a nod – 118 votes (of 539, 21.9 percent).
What are the drop-dead parameters for someone of Fame status? Aside from the impact he made from a fear factor, McGwire was off the chart on a Bill James point-system measure that helps put things into focus. With 100 points meaning a good chance and 130 translating to a cinch of a Hall of Fame career, McGwire had 169.5 points.
But this is subjective vote revealed Monday is one of non-confidence, without evidence, only with a whole lot of negative, vigilante mentality.
Full disclosure: I have no official say in this. I’m not a member of the BWAA. I don’t buy my way in with an annual fee, and don’t plan to start now so that, 10 years down the road, I put in enough time to officially be a voice in such matters.
I suspect plenty, but I have no proof. I don’t make a lot of decisions based on gut feelings. I have only a conscious, a sense of justice, an observer-of-the-game emotional bond, and some context.
I know there are others in the Hall far less deserving of the honor, but somehow, because they were either “good guys” to the media-voting crowd, kept their nose clean, or had their names solidified in baseball poetry — think Tinkers, Evers and Chance.
Frank Chance deserved fame. Joe Tinkers and Johnny Evers? Probably not (check this link).
If you’re going to have a real Hall of Fame for the sport of baseball, Rice deserves to be in it, even if it took him 14 years.
So does Steve Garvey, Maury Wills, Ron Santo, Dale Murphy, Jack Morris, Gil Hodges, Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly and Bert Blyleven.
And Pete Rose.
We don’t advocate removing anyone who’s already been put in based on their career achievements – 300 wins, 3,000 hits, 500 homers or whatever. But if, somewhere down the road, there was proof – proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which included an admission of guilt by the person and his request of resignation – that any of those players cheated during his playing days and thus altered all or most of his career statistics, then we’d be fine with their exit.
First, vote ’em in based on what evidence is there, before judging a player on hearsay, conjecture or widespread opinion.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame could just as simply decide that O.J. Simpson no longer deserves to be honored in its shrine, but it hasn’t. He was voted in based on his accomplishments on the field. What happened after that, well, it sparks conversation and perhaps the eventually a conclusion that, sure, he may not be the model citizen in this society we have in operation today, but he was a heck of a tailback when he came to running the ball and helping his team win.
When everything shakes out, McGwire may eventually not be judged to be the model citizen either. That shouldn’t deter from what he accomplished on the field, where it matters.
Check your self-serving self at the door and vote him in.
And then when you, as a parent, take your child through the Hall someday and see the McGwire plaque, start a conversation about tolerance, gossip, honesty, credibility and justice. Explain to your kid that, if you had a vote, you might have given him an admission ticket, but you can’t deny what he achieved.
If only in that respect, McGwire deserves the respect of having his carved face up there with Ruth, Gehrig and Mantle. And Tinkers, Evers and Chance.
At the very least, give McGwire a chance.