Posted: Tuesday January 9, 2007 3:01PM; Updated: Tuesday January 9, 2007 3:01PM
McGwire was named on a less of a quarter of the ballots in his first year of eligibility.
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The good voters of the Baseball Writers Association of America -- OK, so there are a few screws in there, too -- have spoken in the matter of Mark McGwire and the Hall of Fame. The word has come down from wherever such words come down from, loud and unmistakably clear. The word is, "No."
When you think about it, that's one more syllable than we've heard out of McGwire in the past several years.
It's stunning how much has been made of McGwire's suitability for induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Too much, in fact. The overworked, sometimes overmatched voters of the BBWAA, nearly 600 strong, have been wrestling for way too long with the issue of whether McGwire's alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs is enough to keep him out of the Hall.
Meanwhile, as all this sportswriter soul-wringing has been spilling out, do you know what McGwire has been doing? What one of the most prolific home run hitters ever has been up to? What he has had to say?
Of course you do. He has done nothing. Said not a word. Not one objection. Not one word in his defense. Not one solitary peep. And that brings up the most important question in this sadly drawn-out saga.
If Mark McGwire doesn't care about his place in the Hall of Fame, why in the heck should we?
Whatever you think about McGwire and whether he belongs in the Hall, the voters have made it abundantly clear that, for now, they don't think he belongs. When the results of voting were announced Tuesday, McGwire appeared on just 128 ballots, 23.5 percent. He needed to be named on at least 75 percent to be selected.
The decision by the BBWAA voters -- you have to be a member of the club for 10 years to vote on Hall of Fame candidates -- may not seem very fair today in St. Louis or Oakland or many other places. McGwire, if you haven't heard, hit a lot of home runs, in a lot of hurry, during his 16-year career. Nobody, in fact, hit quite so many quite so quickly.
Beyond the sheer numbers -- 583 career homers, including a record-shattering 70 in 1998 -- McGwire was, undoubtedly, one of the most feared sluggers on the planet in the late '80s and through the decade of the '90s. He scared pitchers. He changed games. He thrilled millions of fans.
All of those numbers and all of that influence in the game was weighed, or should have been, by the voters. It should have been weighed heavily. But in the end, not enough of the BBWAA voters could get past a broad suspicion that McGwire came by much of that success illicitly. In the end, not enough of the voters, many of whom sheepishly ignored the signs of performance-enhancing drugs in the game in the '90s, could turn away from the obvious when given a second chance.
Did the writers get it right? It's hard to say at this point, given what little is known about the Steroids Era and McGwire's particular role in it. But you have to give this to the voters; at least they didn't get it wrong. Voting a player in only to discover later that he used performance-enhancing drugs to pad his statistics and pump up his paycheck would be a travesty. As it stands now, voters still have many more years to consider McGwire's case and, if they decide, to let him in.
That, of course, may be the most distressing news of the day. We will be going through this for years as other suspected steroid users come up for consideration. Judging a candidate's morality during baseball's darkest era -- really, that's what all this comes down to -- won't get any easier in the decades ahead.
Maybe one day McGwire will come out of hibernation and set us all straight. Confess or deny. Confirm of condemn. Something. Anything.
Until then, though, the voters have done their part. They have spoken.