Monday, December 11, 2006


The big question confronting Hall voters, this months, is McGuire? Might I offer some insight, as a Hall Member, once a home run hitter, and recently, an author of a best selling book addressing it.

Everyone knows that someone in my position will tend to walk the fence on the issue. I won’t argue that, I’m human, and I see the same things you do, but I was in that world for 20 years myself, and know a little about the pressure. I’d ask the voters to look past the basic question, did he or didn’t he, and consider the era, and what fueled it.

Look back at the era, that in my book, Clearing the Bases, I call Finding the Abyss. The theme I intended to convey was that, the Commissioner, baseball owners, executives, and administrators, the print and broadcast media, as well as the fans, all got caught up in the power explosion, which was led by McGuire. We loved him, and Sammy, and the fact that they were saving our game. No one wanted it to stop, it lasted almost 10 years. It was a feeding frenzy, and everyone fed off of it, especially television and baseball’s licensees. How about baseball gives all the money back that it made off of Mark McGuire? No, instead, baseball, and those that benefit from it, will keep that money, but punish McGuire, by associating him with steroid use, and questioning his Hall of Fame entrance.

The point is, with no testing policy in place before 2005, and the expectations we put on those players, one must acknowledge that the approval they received daily, from media exposure, money, and fame, fueled their need for an “edge”. Thank God steroids weren’t available to us in the 70’s and 80’s. I, and many who will remain unnamed, would have been 40 lbs. heavier trying to keep up with the Jones, especially since the combination of leading the league in home runs and becoming a free agent meant millions. Think what it means today, choosing between Citation and Gulfstream.

As a player of his caliber, and fan expectation, in an era of electronic exposure beyond belief, where anything and everything is available, and a great many of your peers are getting bigger and more powerful, the temptation to join in was immense. What about integrity, honesty, clean living; maybe that’s what constitutes a Hall of Famer? Based on history, I don’t think so.

Ok, it sounds like I’m making excuses, and asking voters to condone the use of steroids just because “everybody was doing it”, well, to some degree I am, not so much on the player’s side, but the public. The public wanted to see his giant biceps and long bombs, and could care less what Mark McGuire was putting in his milk. He was baseball’s superman. Now you want to vilify him because he doesn’t want to own up, or admit, or even refute an involvement with steroids. Whoa! Now I’m not saying that if someone slips into the bathroom stall and sticks a needle in his butt, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. That borders on stupidity, and only Jose Canseco’s word is in evidence against Mark. Mark’s diet supplements were legal when he played.
What about his refusal to come clean before Congress? Yes, I agree, that could have been handled better, but we all know he was advised by his council to steer clear of any personal issues that might open an “abyss” of media scrutiny.

Until, and if ever, Mark chooses to admit to steroid use, you must give him the benefit of doubt. I guarantee you every Hall voting baseball writer got a months worth of articles from Mark’s career, and during the period from 1995 to 2003, they loved his every swing. In fact, I think most fans would agree, few players ever had as big an impact on baseball, including the two 1st ballot entries in 2007.

One last thing, this is only the beginning. Don’t forget over the next 10 years, dozens and dozens of players from that era will arrive on the ballot. So voters, you better treat that era for what it was, and what fueled it, and understand that what is more important than yes, or no, on McGuire, is how you interpret what constitutes Hall of Fame credentials in today’s version of baseball.