Mark McGwire and one-dimensional players

Though Scott Ouroboros has tried his best to start a bidding war the Matt Holliday News Snake seems to be eating its own tail—when last the bidding over his services ran out of juice there were the twin specters of the Cardinals offering him a preposterously long contract worth a lot of money and the Orioles doing, or at least thinking about doing, same, and here we are in the wake of the Jason Bay signing with a chance to watch the exact same drama play out

Nothing's changed in the meantime, except that each man at the table has fewer secondary options than they did before. Jason Bay and Mark DeRosa are off the table as alternate options for the Cardinals, and the New York-New York-Boston big payroll hydra has expressed in no uncertain terms its indifference to this year's Mark Teixeira

I've got to imagine this means things go faster from here, and I have to hope it means they go cheaper; Baltimore, now as then, quickly refuted the story of their own interest in Holliday, and until a plausible second dance partner shows up the Cardinals would be offering their purported eight year deal as competition against... their purported five year deal. I have to think this ends up some place in the middle, which would be beneficial for each party. I can't imagine, even with evidence appearing to support it, Holliday ends up with less than $100 million, but I also can't see him ending up with seven or eight years. 

If things don't work out—I hear Jack Cust would listen if the Cardinals called... and that's my segue. Think about it, then hit the jump: is Jack Cust a one-dimensional player?

Jack Cust I might give Mike Nadel, speaking here about someone whose dimension, or dimensions, were considerably larger—

Here's my favorite stat to illustrate just how one-dimensional McGwire was: Although he averaged 61.25 home runs from 1996-99 - the top four-year HR stretch ever - he never once accumulated enough total bases to rank in the top 55 single seasons in that category.

And that was McGwire at his performance-enhanced best.

He was the classic all-or-nothing hitter ... and far too often he produced nothing.

Total bases, of course, say almost nothing about whether a player is an all-or-nothing hitter, and notable in its absence, given he uses it as a reason for almost picking (the eminently deserving) Tim Raines later in the piece, is on-base percentage, which will tell you almost everything about how often a player produces nothing. McGwire's career OBP was .394, 64th in baseball since 1901

That it was related to his other dimension, hitting home runs more frequently than anyone who ever lived, is not just irrelevant, it's self-evident. Of course a player's plate discipline is often related to how cautiously he needs to be pitched. That's like saying that, defense and stealing bases really just being a function of a player's speed, Carl Crawford is a one-dimensional player. Lou Brock ran like the wind and played awful defense; Juan Gonzalez had incredible power, and like McGwire showcased it before the new live ball era, but he never walked more than 51 times in a season. If McGwire had one skill, he leveraged it better than almost every other player who had it; he worked it on two dimensions. 

A real one-dimensional slugger, like our erstwhile Juan Gone—he is truly a sight to behold. Mark McGwire walked as much as any three one-dimensional sluggers put together. (For instance: Steve Balboni (273), Richie Sexson (588), and Gonzalez (457), who collectively walked exactly one time more than McGwire.)

He walked 728 times more than Andre Dawson ("so superior to McGwire in every way (other than raw power) that I'm kind of insulting the Hawk by mentioning him in the same paragraph with Mr. I'm Not Here to Talk About the Past" [get it, because that one time he did not talk about the past]) in 3109 fewer plate appearances, which is extraordinary. If you add 3000 plate appearances in which he did not get on base to Mark McGwire's career total, one big oh-fer-3000, you get an on-base percentage of .276, which is 24 points closer to Andre Dawson's OBP (.323) than Mark McGwire's real on-base percentage is. 

What bothers me the most here is the revisionism that seems ascendant in a lot of the rationale of sportswriters with Hall votes who are about to be challenged by the likes of Barry Bonds to come up with new ways to separate players who used steroids and will make the Hall of Fame from the ones who used steroids and will not. If any of it is backed by, say, the advanced stats that see Mark McGwire less fondly than we did, ten years ago, that would be fine. But to say that McGwire would not get your vote whether he talked about the past or not, and then repeatedly talk about the past—that's disingenuous. 

Mark McGwire did not do anything as well as he hit home runs. That's okay; he was the best home run hitter, by volume, of all time. Lou Brock and Nolan Ryan didn't do anything very well, except for run the bases and strike batters out. That's why they're not inner-circle Hall of Famers, not why they're not Hall of Famers. Mark McGwire had one skill, but he utilized it in two ways. I think that makes him a two-dimensional player. I think those two dimensions were extraordinarily useful to his teams. If you need more than that to have a good time, it must have been a long wait for Avatar.

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