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A 'no' for Big Mac

Tainted McGwire fails to make my Hall of Fame ballot

Posted: Friday December 29, 2006 1:34PM; Updated: Thursday January 4, 2007 9:26AM
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Ultimately, Mark McGwire's performance in front of a Congressional hearing in March 2005 may keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Ultimately, Mark McGwire's performance in front of a Congressional hearing in March 2005 may keep him out of the Hall of Fame.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Also in this column:
The nine players on my ballot
• Twenty-three players who fell short

Upon seeing my filled-out Hall of Fame ballot, some will call me lenient, say I'm a soft touch or maybe even claim I'm a little too giddy with spiked eggnog this Holiday season.

I've heard of some voters who hand in a blank ballot, yet mine is going to be nearly a full card -- nine "yes" votes, one short of the maximum allowed. Maybe I'm voting for more than anyone else and maybe I'm a little too nostalgic about the stars of my youth. But not only have I checked off nine names in the ballot that went out this week, I believe I could make a decent case for a half-dozen more that I'm going to leave off.

Ridicule my ballot if you want to, but there's one thing I can say in my favor: I believe it is steroid free.

If I'm saying "yes" more often than most, then I am saying "no" to steroids. No to Ken Caminiti, no to Jose Canseco and definitely no to Mark McGwire, who has Hall-worthy numbers and feats. Those who claim his accomplishments aren't Cooperstown caliber are only kidding themselves. The man hit 583 home runs, including a then-record 70 in a season, and would definitely be on my ballot if I weren't so certain he built his legend on a needle and its powerful contents.

Yes, I know he didn't confess. But by now, he should have. One thing I like better about Caminiti and Canseco is they were more honest about it. However, Caminiti and Canseco just don't have Hall of Fame careers, meaning I don't have to ponder the paradoxical question as to whether honest cheaters belong in Cooperstown.

It's true McGwire helped save baseball. But he also did things that could have sent the sport on a path to ruin. With eight years to learn and reflect, there's almost no doubt in my mind McGwire was not only artificially enhanced but that he was more enhanced than just about anyone else.

McGwire denied taking steroids for years, right up until the point he was placed under oath. Then, with the circumstances changed and the stakes higher, he took a powder.

The only plausible reason to refuse to comment or cooperate to Congress is that he had plenty to hide. There is no other way to explain his performance. His defenders will claim he had a bad day. But if that's true, what about the 21 months he's had since then to explain himself? He continues to remain scarce, a contrast to the larger-the-life figure he cut in his later ballplaying years.

This isn't a court of law and he isn't on trial. But the question isn't whether to punish McGwire, it's whether to honor him. I can think of no good reason to do that now.

Some will claim steroids were not disallowed at the time, and that, of course, is 100 percent false. There was no testing for them during McGwire's career, and no spelled-out punishment. But they were neither permitted in baseball nor legal in our society.

Some will say that everyone did them, and I'll agree that many did do them. But I will say first that not everyone did do them, and most who did got away with it. While McGwire has never failed a test or confessed, in my mind he is caught. So on my ballot, his box is blank.

Every vote requires thought and judgment, and it's hard to think any of other explanation for McGwire's 70 home runs or his no-comment stance beyond steroids. If anyone can come up with something else plausible, I'm all ears. Until then, McGwire doesn't get my vote. Below is my complete ballot:


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