When people ask for my opinion about Mark McGwire, his record-breaking season, and his steroid use, I simply put it this way:
“Watching Mark McGwire was like believing in Santa Claus as a kid. That moment I found out that everything I thought was real actually wasn’t was tough and changed my perspective on things. But it doesn’t change how I felt on Christmas morning.”
It took me almost a decade to come to settle on that analysis. To be honest, I was not one of the many who “knew” he was on something and turned a blind-eye to the issue. I was aware he was taking “Andro,” and accepted the explanation from McGwire and the media that it did nothing other than help him get a more efficient workout — the effect of a Gatorade, if you will. I honestly did not know any better.
When the steroid allegations came out, and McGwire made his infamous “I’m not here to talk about the past” statement, I felt sick. For years, I was a major McGwire hater, just sick to my stomach that I stood up for this guy who cheated the game and lied to fans everywhere, both young and old. But I’ve found my peace with the issue now and hopefully you have, too.
I don’t want to talk about whether or not McGwire “deserves” to get into the Hall of Fame. By now, you’ve probably made up your own mind. The numbers haven’t changed over the past 5 years. The supporters will cite his 583 homeruns, 70 HR season, gold glove award and his contributions to saving baseball. Detractors will cite his .263 career average, his failure to win an MVP award, and his steroid use.
The bottom line is: McGwire is better off without the Hall of Fame.
Think about it. How many casual fans across the country have heard of the likes of Josh Gibson, Joe Kelley, Rollie Fingers, Leon Day, and even Bruce Sutter? Those are all Hall of Famers. I’d say far more have heard of, say, Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and Mark McGwire. They might as well be the chairmen of the “We don’t need no stinkin’ Hall of Fame” club.
As someone who didn’t watch the playing careers of Pete Rose or Shoeless Joe, I can tell you this much: I know more about those 2 players than 99% of the players in the Hall of Fame. It works in other areas of the game, too. For instance, there have been 20 pitchers to throw a perfect game in baseball history, including 2 just this year. I remembered Roy Halladay threw one, but had to look up that Dallas Braden threw the other.
But I did NOT have to look up Armando Gallaraga’s name. He was the pitcher who will go down in history as the one we all know had a perfect game, got robbed by a bad call, and handled the situation marvelously.
And let’s face it; the 1985 Cardinals still get tons of love from sports fans around the countries who know the team got robbed of a championship by a blown call. Had they won, they’d probably be a forgotten team on a long list of past champions. Instead, it’s “oh my gosh, those ’85 Cardinals, they got ROBBED!” The same will be said for Gallaraga, Rose, and perhaps McGwire for decades, if not centuries, to come.
Obviously it’s not a bad thing to be on a list of champions, Hall of Famers, or perfect pitchers. But in the long run, it’s not so bad to be on the short list of “should’ve been.”