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The Call of the Hall

First, does anyone find it somewhat odd that the official Cardinals site's hall of fame coverage is this story? Do you think that there is a more interesting, if perhaps more overcovered, Cardinals-related story regarding the hall of fame elections?


Now, one wonders whether or not Mark McGwire should make the Hall of Fame. I think that the question is somewhat more interesting than most do, particularly considering the questions that baseball will have to answer (or has answered) with respect to Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and the slew of people we don't yet know about for certain (I think the case against Clemens* is becoming as strong as that against Sosa, for example). The problem, however, is that baseball will never decide upon a single rule and follow that rule--every Hall of Fame decision will be left up to the whim of the sportswriters with respect to each particular player--the decision is inherently case-by-case.

Although one might make a case that McGwire should be admitted, while Bonds shouldn't (McGwire used androstenone when it wasn't banned by MLB; Bonds likely used various steroids when they were explicitly banned), such arguments are really based upon a very strict interpretation of the rules--not the spirit and logic regarding what, particularly, cheating is. Furthermore, "not being here to talk about the past" is pretty close to an admission of guilt. On the numbers, if McGwire gets admitted, then Bonds definitely should.

So, should Mark McGwire be admitted to the Hall of Fame? I say yes. I say, despite his issues and the allegations, he is still an important part of the story of baseball--he was a dominant player for a long time, and he won a world series with the A's, and was at the heart of baseball's biggest story**. He changed the game, and elevated the level of play amongst his contemporaries. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall, Ty Cobb is in the Hall. There are a lot of unsavory players that did 'everything it takes' to win who made the Hall. The difference is that those players all fundamentally affected the game as it was played in their era. It is hard to argue that Mark McGwire didn't do that.

If we were talking about a player like Rafael Palmiero--a player that was merely very good, and then, with the use of steroids, came to get Hall-worthy numbers--I think there would be much more of an argument. But McGwire isn't a borderline case. He had multiple MVP-quality seasons. He broke records. That 1998 season is part of the story of baseball.

That, for me, is the only meaningful Hall of Fame criterion--can you tell the story of baseball, (or, at least, an individual team) without mentioning this player? If so, then you should probably reconsider sending this player to the realm of immortality. But McGwire (as well as Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens) is a part of the game. He should be in the Hall.

*As an aside, why is it that an overaged, rapidly fattening, surly pitcher who had some freakishly good seasons at an old age so, so much more of a media darling than an overaged, rapidly fattening, surly hitter who had some freakishly good seasons at an old age? I know there's a lot more evidence against Bonds, but really...

**I actually support the induction of Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe for this reason, as well--what they did wasn't pretty, but they did alter the game, and it's strange telling the story of the sport while leaving those players out.