Posts Tagged ‘Hall of Fame’

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The Passion of Mark McGwire

January 23, 2009

The recent actions of Mark McGwire’s brother, selling an incriminating account of his brother’s performance-enhancing drug (PED) use to book publishers, are yet another sad chapter in the story of a man who is credited with saving baseball from the post-strike nadir of its popularity in the mid-1990s. We will not comment here on whether or not Mark McGwire “deserves” to be in the Hall of Fame. While we do not believe the writers are particularly skilled analysts of career performance, this kind of moral question does fall within their domain. The scribes spend time with the players, understand clubhouse culture, and are the keepers of baseball’s legacy. 

We will, however, point out that it’s very, very likely that Mark McGwire never did anything against the rules at any point in his career. Anabolic steroids did not become illegal in the United States until 1990, when Congress added them to Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. McGwire openly admitted to using “Andro”, a substance that has since been banned from baseball, but it was banned after McGwire publicized his use of it, not before.

This blog is not taking the stance that what McGwire did was honest, but in all the discussion about his infamous Senate subcommittee testimony and Hall of Fame credentials, the conversation often appears to make an assumption that McGwire was a “cheater”. Cheating requires breaking the rules, and at the likely points in his career when Mark McGwire is suspected of using first anabolic steroids and then Andro, neither was illegal under the laws of baseball or the laws of the United States. Pete Rose broke baseball’s cardinal rule, a rule that is posted in every clubhouse of every professional team. Mark McGwire probably screwed around with a variety of drugs that were dangerous to his health, and may have helped him hit a few more dingers. If he did use the PEDs in question, he wasn’t breaking rules at the time.

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Kent Retires

January 23, 2009

Growing up around the American League, we never realized how truly great Jeff Kent was. Kent, the 40 year-old second baseman, announced his retirement today, ending a career that spanned 17 years, playing for six teams. Kent will almost certainly get into the Hall of Fame, as his 377 career home runs are more than any second baseman ever. Upon hearing that number, one might think, “OK, he was a productive hitter at a traditionally weak position. Is that really Hall of Fame-worthy?”

The answer should be a resounding “yes”. According to Baseball Prospectus, Kent generated about 110 wins over replacement (second basemen) over his 17 years in the majors, including a three year span with the Giants where he produced over ten wins a year. To put that in context, the recently elected Jim Rice never had a single season where he produced ten wins (his only season above eight was a 9.6 in 1978), and averaged barely two thirds the position-adjusted production per year that Kent put up.

Kent isn’t a Hall of Fame candidate because the current members who played second base are weak. Kent should be a Hall of Famer because he was an exceptionally productive player across the span of his career.