Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Was McGwire GOOD Enough?

Rick Kaplan
Staff Writer
OAKLAND (November 30) – Forget about holding steroid or supplement use against him.
You say performance enhancers are an unfair advantage, that that they un-level the playing field?
There has never been a "level playing field." Sandy Koufax, Whitey Ford, and Gaylord Perry made sure of that. Koufax use illegal pain-killers, Ford and Perry brazenly doctored the ball. Aaron and Schmidt needed a boost to get through doubleheaders, and Mantle got help from his friends, like racketeer Denny McClain.
Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker bet on games. Do you think they were the only ones?
Tommy John, on the current list of nominees, got a new arm, and a new career, as have hundreds of surgery-enhanced pitchers since baseball’s first bionic experiment. And today’s stars, Bonds, Clemens, Giambi, Sheffield, and on and on, haven’t they have been just following in the tradition of those illustrious enhancers before them?

The real question is: Was Big Mac, a one-dimensional Sunday slo-pitch softball hitter, with that really ugly bottom hand swing, good enough to be voted into the Hall of Fame, regardless of what he had on his cereal?
Resoundingly, NO!

He couldn’t run, catch, or throw when he was hitting all those home runs. And that sullen face at the Congressional hearings wasn’t the first time we saw a joyless expression on this super-wealthy ballplayer who wasn’t having fun doing what most of us would have gladly done for free.

Where’s my ballot? I want to write in Dave Kingman.

Here’s the real meat of it to me: I suggest that there are four semi-scientific and highly arguable criteria–which constitute, in essence, a rubric for evaluating a player’s suitability–for selection to the Hall of Fame:
1. Did the player reveal an exuberance and "respect for the game" in their exploits on the field?
2. Was the player "worth the price of admission"?
3. Has the nominee been associated with winning teams and clutchiness/situational ability?
4. Did the nominee display command of at least three, and preferably four, of the classic five tools (for HITTERS: hitting for average, hitting for power, speed, throwing, and catching the ball . . . for PITCHERS: competitiveness,velocity, intelligence, control, stuff)
I believe these four criteria really simplify and focus the selection process.
They also explain why players like Willie Mays, Reggie Jackson, George Brett, and Tom Seaver seemed like such obvious first ballot choices. And why Jose Reyes, Ichiro, and Milton Bradley might be some day.
The above criteria really simplify the decision on McGwire. What do you think?
Imagine if these criteria were now the standards and former Hall inductees were re-evaluated. We can get rid of Jim Bunning, and install Luis Tiant to his rightful place in the Hall as one of the clutchiest, most exciting pitchers in the second half of the twentieth century.
The new standards would happily provide a rationale for evicting Gary Carter, Ryne Sandberg and Bill Mazeroski, for example, three recent inductees, and among the most atrocious choices ever made.
By the above criteria, Steve Garvey–possibly the most deserving position player, along with Tony Oliva, who has not been selected–is a first ballot. Jim Rice gets in. Rich Gossage, yeah.
Bert Bleyleven was kind of pedestrian, but he did throw 60 shutouts, and he was really effective for a hell of a long time. In.
Would you really call Jack Morris a great pitcher, a player "worth the price of admission? That 3.9 ERA is hard to swallow. And would you have passed up the premier of Jaws if he was pitching on the Game of the Week? No way he gets in in front of Tiant.
Ah, Hall of Fame selections, the filet mignon of Hot Stove League arguments!


1 rick { 12.01.06 at 12:24 am }

A lot has been made of McGwire’s all-time best 1 HR per approx. 11 at-bats. But in the post season, when it matters most, he has 5 in 129 ABs, with a .217 BA and 14 RBIs. In the World Series, it was a .188 BA with 1 HR and 2 RBIs in 48 at bats.

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