Tag: Mark McGwire

Mark McGwire Manages for 1st Time Following Andy Green Ejection

Following the ejection of San Diego Padres manager Andy Green, former single-season home run king Mark McGwire served as an acting manager Tuesday night for the first time in his major league coaching career. 

Green was tossed in the third inning of Tuesday’s 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates after arguing a balk call against Padres pitcher Colin Rea. That resulted in McGwire being elevated from bench coach to manager for the remainder of the game.

En route to piloting the Padres to victory, McGwire was successful on one of the two manager’s challenges he attempted.

Big Mac is in his first season with the Padres after previous stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

McGwire served as a manager for some split-squad games for the Padres during spring training and admitted that being a full-time manager at some point is on his radar, per Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

I’ve never ruled it out. When I had the opportunity to come and be Andy’s bench coach, it’s just a fantastic opportunity. I love challenges, and there’s nothing better than challenging yourself, especially in the game of baseball. I did it as a player. Now I’m doing it as a coach. You just have to know your personnel, you have to check in with them every day, you have to know the opposition real well. Really, it’s a lot of baseball sense. So, here we go.

With the 52-year-old former 12-time All-Star at the helm, San Diego overcame a 3-0 deficit to win 5-4 by virtue of three home runs.

McGwire has 583 career home runs and set the single-season mark with 70 in 1998 before it was surpassed by Barry Bonds. 

Green joked about the correlation between McGwire and the Padres’ power binge following the game, according to ESPN.com: “They took some good swings. Clearly when Mark McGwire is managing, they hit home runs.”

While it was likely a coincidence, the numbers seemed to back up Green’s assertion following the Padres’ third home run of Tuesday’s game, per Kirk D. Kenney of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Green will reassume his managerial duties Wednesday when the Padres and Pirates meet again, but Tuesday’s come-from-behind win was a great audition for McGwire with regard to potential managerial positions in the future.

McGwire has already served in multiple roles from hitting coach to bench coach during his time in the dugout, so manager is the next natural progression.

If the Padres’ performance Tuesday is any indication, McGwire might have what it takes to excel in that position, much like he did at first base for 16 major league seasons.


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Is Mark McGwire Being Sincere or Just Trying to Save Hall of Fame Dreams?

On a day when MLB announced its PED suspensions, one of the biggest names to admit steroid use sat down to talk.

Mark McGwire had a great career, but in an interview with ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi, the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ hitting coach said he wishes he was never part of the steroids era.

“I wish I was never a part of it,” McGwire said. “Just get rid of it. If it’s better to have bigger suspensions, then they’re going to have to change it.”

“I wish there were things in place earlier,” McGwire said. “They were put in in 2003 I think. I just really hope and pray that this is the end of it. Everybody, especially the players, don’t want any more part of it, and I hope this is the end of it. … I wish I was never part of it.”

McGwire admitted to steroid use in 2010 before becoming the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now with the Dodgers, McGwire has another chance to reflect on how performance-enhancing drugs are ruining the game.

But is McGwire being sincere or is he just trying to save his dreams of making it into Cooperstown?


The Steroids Era

There are some that argue that you vote players into the Hall of Fame based on if they were one of the best players of their era.

When guys like McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro played, it was the steroid era.

Despite the fact that it was cheating, it was still a part of the game and something that gave baseball fans a lot to be excited about.

Was McGwire one of the best players of his era? Absolutely.

He batted .263 with 583 home runs and 1,414 RBI. I’d say those numbers, under normal circumstances, would be Hall-worthy.

He and Sosa gave fans an exciting home-run chase in 1998, helping bring baseball back to relevancy in American households.

So, the numbers are there, but the prevailing attitude that cheaters must be kept out of the Hall, no matter what era, remains. Just look at Pete Rose, who was banned from the game for gambling on baseball.


McGwire Doesn’t Think He Should Go In

The biggest tell here is that McGwire has already said he doesn’t think he would vote himself for induction into the Hall of Fame.

During an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in 2012, McGwire said, “No, not by the guidelines they have now,” McGwire told Patrick. “I’ll never fight it. I totally respect the Hall of Fame. I have never fought. They have rules and restrictions, I totally abide by them.”

So if McGwire is saying he wouldn’t vote himself in because of his past, then there’s no reason why voters should.

McGwire understands the need to respect the integrity of Cooperstown.


Voters Are Speaking

When you look at the 2013 Hall of Fame voting results, a lot of voters are showing they aren’t tolerating steroid users.

McGwire was 15th in the voting, receiving 16.9 percent of the vote. That was down from 19.5 percent the previous year.

In fact, of the players on the ballot involved in steroid speculation, only Roger Clemens had half of the 427 votes needed for election. And he only beat that by one vote (214). Bonds had 206 votes, while Sosa had 71 and Palmeiro had 50.

Regardless of what players linked to steroids say now that their careers are over, the voters will continue to speak with their votes.

And if 2013’s vote says anything, that doesn’t look good for the likes of McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro and Clemens.

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Mark McGwire Regrets His Part of Steroid Era, Embraces Longer Bans for PEDs

MLB‘s steroid era won’t culminate in some end date or announcement the sport is completely clean. It will take place gradually, with regret that looms for decades.

According to ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi, Mark McGwire feels awful about his part in the steroid era, and he is ready to turn the page:

I wish I was never a part of it. Just get rid of it. If it’s better to have bigger suspensions, then they’re going to have to change it.

I wish there were things in place earlier. They were put in in 2003 I think. I just really hope and pray that this is the end of it. Everybody, especially the players, don’t want any more part of it, and I hope this is the end of it. … I wish I was never part of it.

It’s not worth it at all. 

The man who once blasted awe-inspiring home runs when the sport absolutely needed it is now the hitting coach for the red-hot Los Angeles Dodgers.

On Monday, fans similar to those who cheered for McGwire as he chased records and belted mammoth dingers were busy booing Alex Rodriguez for his part in an ongoing Biogenesis scandal.

MLB suspended 13 players for violating its drug policy, including Rodriguez, who in 2009 offered an emotional mea culpa for his use of PEDs between 2001 and 2003.

The times, they are changing.

As reported, McGwire admitted to using steroids when he broke baseball’s home run record in 1998. Now before you berate the man anew, remember how amazing it was to see balls fly out of the park just a few years removed from the 1994-95 strike.

A bulked-up McGwire and a buffed-out Sammy Sosa put butts back in the seats. Officials, fans and media looked away because the drugs now considered deplorable were making the sport a captivating spectacle.

Well, those steroids served their use and are now chewed up and spit out like a wad of used tobacco. Major league baseball, the media, fans and, most importantly, the players have all changed their tune.

Enhancing performance through pills, injections and shortcuts are out; playing baseball “clean” is very much in.

A little over a year removed from MLB’s current collective bargaining agreement being signed, players are already chiming in with calls for stiffer penalties on cheaters.

Nick Markakis recently stated he was all in for far stiffer penalties on players who test positive for any amount of PEDs. Dustin Pedroia trumpeted Monday as a good day for baseball, and Evan Longoria proclaimed caught players were being selfish.

McGwire is a big name and familiar face from an era that will never be forgotten, no matter how hard baseball tries.

What’s remarkable is the change that is taking place among players who now vilify colleagues who take shortcuts when they were once more likely to follow their lead.

The man who hit 583 home runs in his career touched upon that very thing:

It doesn’t matter what I think; I think it matters what the players think, and from what I hear every day in the clubhouse, they’re just happy it’s coming to an end. They’re happy that Major League Baseball is taking care of it and we can move forward. Hopefully this will be the end of it.

Baseball will never be truly clean. It’s a microcosm of the world and will always have those looking for an edge.

Don’t expect a specific date that will mark the end of an unfortunate era. Much as it slowly took over baseball, it will slowly dissolve from its ranks.

Just know that the epoch of juicers is in its final days. Thankfully, it seems like brighter ones are ahead.


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MLB Hall of Fame: It Should Include Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa, but How?

In an era where every player who has Hall of Fame-worthy numbers is scrutinized under the harshest of microscopes, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have become the steroid era figureheads, examples of what happens when your career is tainted with suspected or proven use of performance-enhancing drugs—but that shouldn’t deny them access to the hallowed grounds of Cooperstown, NY.

The MLB Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, and rightly so. For some fans, it’s the place they take their baseball loving son or daughter to show them the history and legends of the game they love. For others, it’s purpose is to determine the good players from the legends.

Hall of Fame voters shouldn’t punish presumably clean players (Craig Biggio, for one) for playing in an era where steroid use was rampant, simply for not knowing who was clean and who wasn’t. Players who have never failed a test now are often tossed in the category of “they didn’t get caught, but everyone was cheating so they probably were too,” which is a poor, lazy attempt to discard an entire generation of players and their records. 

What needs to be done, if the Hall of Fame is to achieve its former glory and respect for the process, is to find how to deal with the steroid era players. Clean or not, the players from that era obliterated records. Even with normal progression (players over generations have become more and more machine-like (Patrick Willis in the NFL, Albert Pujols in the MLB, etc) and as players become more naturally physically gifted, they will undoubtedly break the records of the players who played cards in the locker room instead of lifting and training. Its been long joked about how Babe Ruth, one of the ten best baseball players ever would down hot dogs during games. I doubt we’d see a player at his peak performance level sneaking a few ballpark dogs in the dugout anymore.

As times change, training, general skill level and a better understanding of the game put today’s players at a better starting point than they ever have had previously. 


To better make the case that players who are elite are just that much better today, look at Bonds’ first 13 seasons (up to the season prior to his 73 home run season). Clearly, Bonds was already a Hall of Famer if he retired mid-season.

2,010 Hits, 400+ doubles, 445 Home Runs, 1299 RBI, 460 SB and a .288 AVG.

That’s a Hall of Fame résumé if I ever saw one. He went on a historical tear after, ripping 73 HRs into the stands, and breaking the single-season record set by McGwire in the magical 1998 season.

Which brings us to the next man left out of the Hall this year: 1998’s other half, Sosa. 

For all his ups (10 straight seasons of 35 HRs, 100+ RBI, a member of the 500 HR club, an NL MVP and HR Derby Champion in 2000) Sosa’s career has been marred by corked bat incidents, steroid allegations, testimony in front of congress denying his use of PEDs, and his slightly awkward change in skin color leaving some to think that he was trying to look more “white.” Considering the oddities in Sosa’s career, he might not have as strong a case as the other players in this article. His batting average was only .273 and that is including likely steroid influenced years. Bonds’ statistics were outstanding before his use. 

Clemens, too, famously appeared before congress, denying use of PED’s through his illustrious career with the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays and Astros, which began a lengthy legal circus around his testimony. His career is almost unparalleled, and stands up well among the greats in baseball history: 354 Wins, 1.17 WHIP, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 Ks, seven Cy Young Awards and an MVP.


Career numbers like those will continue to be an inconvenient problem for the MLB and the Hall of Fame voters to say no to after a while, once context and perspective can frame the era. Too many pre-steroid era writers and voters refuse to consider the careers of the tainted players, though some were Hall of Fame worthy before their alleged or confirmed usage.

To fix the Hall of Fame’s steroid era problem, there isn’t one quick fix solution. Realistically, time may be the only thing to forward the conversation to a better solution than exclusion. Personally, I’d be OK with a ”steroid era wing” or at least a description of the allegations briefly stated on their plaques in the Hall. For example:


This makes a clear statement that while a great player, the integrity of his numbers is to be questioned and his career deserves a closer look than just a look at his stats. This statement could of course be amended per player, if they tested positively or were found to have cheated. 

No solution will be perfect, but much like when the NCAA sanctions a school, it’s not as if that team didn’t exist or no one saw the BCS game they won; and it’s certainly not as if steroid era players who hit more than 60 home runs and seven-time Cy Young award-winning pitchers never happened. They did, and baseball needs to recognize that. This era cannot be swept under the rug, and its records forgotten. If voters cannot agree to the candidacy of steroid tainted players, perhaps they should be replaced by veterans of the game, who may be a better judge to weigh the careers of the accused.

Who closer to the game, more knowledgeable, more trustworthy than former players, to be the key holders to the greatest club in all of sports? A jury of their peers.

When writers reflect back on this past era in baseball, they will note that several of its greats made the Hall of Fame. As for the list of lucky players, it will be up to time, and the voters, to tell us who they’ll be.

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No Easy Answers to the Steroid Problem for Baseball’s Hall of Fame Voters

For years, we all have known the day was coming when the stars from the steroids era would be on the Hall of Fame ballot. They all should get in. None of them should ever get in. Believing there is one answer that will resolve this problem in a way that makes complete sense is reserved for the Skip Baylesses of the world. The rest of us know this situation is far too complicated and that there is just no easy way to make it right.

There is no option that makes complete sense. More importantly, there is no option that will make anyone feel good about what is going on.

The question then becomes, what do we think is most important?  Preserving the history of the game? The dignity of the game? The respect for those who played before? Is there any way to do that? Will any option successfully address any of those questions?

Is it worse to keep out someone who might have been clean than it is to admit a cheater?

Are there players we think cheated but can say even without steroids, they would have been Hall of Famers? Should that matter?

Let’s take a step back. What happened in baseball? Marginal players took steroids to become good players. Good players to become great. And great to become legendary. We know about a few, there are many we suspect, and there are many, many more out there.

They each took something illegal that was not against the rules, that was not being tested, that those who ran the sport simply did not care about and that those who covered the game could not be bothered to care about (that is until someone un-likeable began to challenge sacred records).

I get why they cheated. It was a risk and to most players, it was worth the risk. Baseball players certainly are not the first group to see a risk/reward situation and decide the reward far outweighs the risk. Right now, if any of us were offered something that would make us better at our jobs and more money, wouldn’t we all take it? And wouldn’t most of us take it even if it were illegal if we thought there was little chance at repercussion?


I am not that far removed from college. How many people in college or grad school or med school or law school took something illegal to help stay awake, to help focus, to help study, in order to get a better grade on an exam?

So, I get it. But just because I get it, and the players are not the only ones to blame, does that mean what happened is ok? Does that mean there should be rewards as if nothing happened? I think no, but those are much more difficult questions to answer than most people that I see talking on TV want to admi

Baseball could have handled this much better. What if baseball several years ago gave its players a limited window to confess to what they did? A one-time get of jail-free card of sorts.

This could have been an attempt to put the steroid era behind us; to know who did what but to also stop the speculation. If a player was truthful, there would be no repercussions and it would not be used against them when it came time to vote for the Hall of Fame, an implicit acknowledgment by those who run baseball that they were as responsible for the steroids era as the players were.

Maybe that never could have worked, for no other reason than those who run baseball never wanted to truly accept any responsibility.

But should that let the players off the hook?

Just because I get why the players took steroids, and I get that we are all responsible for what took place, does that mean they should be in the Hall of Fame?

What if McGwire and Sosa and Bonds and Clemens had been voted in? What do they say during their induction speeches? Would we hear anything they had to say anyway?

I know those players were not the only ones and I know the reality is that most players were probably on something at one time or another.

I also know that steroids were not the first black mark on the history of baseball. For years, white players played only against white players. Had baseball not been segregated, would those same players from that era be in the Hall of Fame?

What about amphetamines? What about cocaine?

All good points.  This may be childish, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Right?

I have no vote (obviously) and will never have one. I don’t think there is a right answer and there definitely is not a good answer. For me though, I originally agreed with the idea expressed by Buster Olney and others, that we don’t know who did what, so we just have to vote everyone in who deserves it on their career alone.

I changed my mind though. I don’t know if I am right, but I don’t know if anyone can be right on this topic.  This isn‘t about either trying to feel superior, or about some notion of “what do I tell my kids?” 

But, being in the Hall of Fame is a tremendous individual accomplishment; there is no greater. Yes, the Hall of Fame is a museum, but the players inducted are inducted as a personal award. The Hall of Fame can have a section on the steroid era and explain it for history’s sake. But we don’t need the individual players being inducted to remember that history.

I understand, too, the argument that we don’t know everyone who was cheating, so it is unfair to punish the few we do know, when most players were likely on something. I don’t think that is reason to vote someone into the Hall of Fame.

Across the country, everyday in criminal courtrooms, people are convicted of crimes. We don’t know everyone who committed robbery, but that doesn’t stop us from convicting someone for robbery. There are even cases where multiple people are suspected of being involved in a single crime; we can convict one even when we don’t know everyone involved.

If I got caught cheating on a test while in college, could I have escaped punishment by telling the Dean I wasn’t the only one cheating? Or by saying, I only cheated that one time on one exam, but even without that exam, I still should pass? I’d probably have been laughed at.

There is no answer that makes me happy. But, I keep coming back to the idea of seeing someone we all know cheated being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of giving a speech. Of getting a plaque to hang next to Ted Williams, and Hank Aaron, and Willie Mays. Those are images I am just not comfortable with.

Induction is an individual honor that comes with many perks, including financial ones. Those who cheated the game should not get the benefit of any of those perks.

It isn’t to single the few out or to think that keeping them out of the Hall will make me feel better about what happened. It won’t. I understand why they did what they did; I can’t say I wouldn’t have done the same. But they did it, they took the chance and they got exposed.

There are consequences.

Returning to the criminal law comparison, when judges sentence defendants, often times there is mitigation that explains why the crime happened, and many times, one might even understand why the person committed the crime in a given situation. But, there are still consequences.

We will never know the full truth. That is one of many shames of what happened in baseball. It doesn’t mean we pretend we know nothing.

Tests or no tests, those who vote for the Hall of Fame were around the game during the steroids era. They each have ideas; they each have eyes and ears.  They each saw things during that time that they likely either didn’t truly realize at the time or that they chose to ignore. They are complicit in what happened as well. But they can’t ignore what they know.

So, if I had a vote, if there was a player that, based on the best information I can put together, took steroids, I don’t think I would ever vote for that player. I get what and why they did it; I don’t even necessarily blame them. I don’t think anything should be taken away, but they should not be given the honor of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Will some mistakes be made?  Unfortunately, yes. But maybe that is the price to be paid for allowing steroids to have had such an impact on the game of baseball for so long, while all involved acted as if nothing was wrong. All we can do is make the best decisions with the best information we can gather.

The Hall of Fame is about individual achievement, and baseball more than any other sport is about compiling numbers throughout one’s career. Steroids, at their most basic, were about finding a way to add more numbers in one’s career—maybe that meant adding muscle and speed, but often it was just about being able to get on the field quicker and for a longer amount of time.

That is no different than what likely went on before steroids with other substances or what goes on in different sports. But everyone in baseball knew steroids were there and acted otherwise. They all benefited at the time, and now there is nothing that can really be done. However, just because we know why it happened, and just because we know nothing can change the past, does not mean we need to honor those who we believe were involved.

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2013 MLB Hall of Fame: How Voters Should Judge the Steroid Era

The 2013 MLB Hall of Fame class has been all over the news lately.

The announcement comes Wednesday, Jan. 9., and this year marks the first time that the some of the game’s greatest but also most controversial players—Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Curt Schilling—are eligible to be elected.

MLB Network has brought in everybody and their mother to give their two cents on who should be elected and how the era should be evaluated based on the prevalence of performance enhancing drugs.

Opinions on the subject are widely varied.

Some experts and observers accept that it was just the era that these players played in and are willing to overlook cheating to include players like Bonds, who despite admitting to unknowingly using steroids, is still the all-time home run leader.

Another option was to induct them later and hold them off of the first ballot as protest. Some say that any player suspected should be kept from baseball immortality.

One final opinion that has been posed by former reliever Dan Plesac and others—one that I find completely absurd—is that it’s an all-or-nothing situation, where either everyone should be withheld or everyone should be considered as if they did nothing wrong.

Starting with allowing them in or postponing their admission: cheaters are cheaters. Bonds used a substance and he even admitted it. Inducting Bonds, who forever put a black mark on the entire league, into the same class as role models like Cal Ripken Jr. and Jackie Robinson goes against everything that the Hall of Fame should stand for.

I’m also of the belief that it withholding a vote until a certain amount of time has passed is silly. Either the player is a Hall of Famer or not. In the end, it’s not like there are different tiers of the Hall of Fame.

On the subject of penalizing anyone suspected, that goes against everything America stands for. As citizens, we are innocent until proven guilty and that should carry over to baseball.

It’s pretty easy to say who definitely took drugs. Positive tests and admissions of guilt are valid proof that players cheated. Therefore, they should never be Hall of Famers. It’s a much tougher call on players suspected of using performance enhancing drugs, such as Roger Clemens. I am a Clemens hater, mostly because I really dislike the Yankees and the World Series broken bat incident with Mike Piazza.

But he is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pitchers ever. Unfortunately, nobody could ever prove that he took steroids. Whether or not you believe that he was clean is your opinion, but just because you think he cheated doesn’t mean that he did. Clemens is a Hall of Fame pitcher, and if Ryan Braun stays clean and productive, he should make it too.

The all-or-nothing proposal is just silly. Making sweeping generalizations is usually not smart and that’s how stereotypes form. Penalizing players for just being in the steroid era, whether or not they had any link to steroids at all, is just wrong. Players should be judged on a case-by-case basis.

In summation, every player is different, so each should be evaluated individually. If they have been proven guilty, they are out. If they are not proven guilty, they can be considered. In my opinion, Bonds, Sosa and McGwire are out. When Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon become eligible, they are out too. Clemens, Bagwell and Piazza deserve to be in.

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Baseball’s Steroid Era Players Belong in the Hall of Fame…Somewhere

Love him or hate him, Alex Rodriguez will find himself among the greats at Cooperstown some day. Although it is a dark time for Major League Baseball, we need to learn to accept that the Steroid Era happened, and the only thing we can do about it is to prevent it from happening again.

Alex Rodriguez is one of the many faces and one of the greatest players of the Steroid Era. While many fans won’t acknowledge his records, and no matter how many asterisks are placed next to his name, each and every one of his 644 home runs has happened. Each of his 1,937 RBI are in the books.

Rodriguez, who turned 37 in last week, has an excellent shot of being the next player to reach the 3,000-hit plateau and needs only 128 more to accomplish the feat. He would be one of only five players in the 3,000 hit/500 home run club along with Willie Mays, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron and Rafael Palmeiro. He is also only 17 home runs away from sending another Hall of Famer, this time Willie Mays, down the all-time home run list.

He is also an admitted steroid user and used banned substances while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-03. 

According to an ESPN article published in 2011, the Steroid Era “refers to a period of time in Major League Baseball when a number of players were believed to have used performance-enhancing drugs, resulting in increased offensive output throughout the game.” Although there is no definitive start day like the Dead Ball era (1901-1919), it is credited to have began in the late 1980s through the mid-2000s. 

In 1961, baseball commissioner Ford Frick petitioned to have Roger Maris’ home run record kept separate from Babe Ruth’s, citing the length of schedule (teams played more eight more games when Maris his 61 home runs in 1961 than then did when Ruth hit 60 in 1927. Maris hit home runs 60 and 61 in the last eight games that season). Many baseball traditionalists felt the same way.

Now, today’s traditionalists feel that Maris is still baseball’s single-season home run king.

“The institution of the asterisk, the most important typographical symbol in American sport, (is) terribly unfair. To take away Ruth’s record was to take away something that was held so close to the hearts of the baseball establishment that they couldn’t see doing it. Nonetheless, Roger Maris, did it. He hit 61 home runs and the fact that it took 162 games; he also had to do it playing at night, to bat against the screwball, having to travel to the west coast for games, and to do it all with a parade of reporters I think is unfair.” -Daniel Okrent in Ken Burns: Baseball

Regardless, there is a huge difference between the extra eight games (and exactly seven at-bats) between Ruth and Maris, and the body-altering drugs and chemicals between Maris and players like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds or Sammy Sosa.

Another rule change that Frick was instrumental in was the widening of the strike zone so that Maris’ mammoth 1961 campaign never happened again, which opened the door to the “Golden Age of Pitching.” This launched the careers of Juan Marichal, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson and the dominant pitchers of the 1960s. 

Since there was a rule change implemented before those players started the dominant stages of their careers, should there be asterisks placed next to the names of those players too?

Baseball historians, while determining what records stand and which ones don’t, determined that everything after the year 1900 would be deemed the “Modern Era.” By this time, the strike zone was defined, four ball walks existed, the pitchers mound was 60 feet six inches from the now pentagon-shaped home plate. 

So because of the rules’ stabilization, Major League Baseball does not recognize records and statistics compiled in that era to be comparable to the statistics achieved today. Therefore records like Nap Lajoie’s .427 average in 1901 are the standard, whereas Hugh Duffy’s .440 average in 1894 (which is the highest single-season average since baseball’s inception) are not.

But Hugh Duffy still did it. And he is in the Hall of Fame.

Don’t get me wrong. Rule changes implemented by the Major League Baseball front office is no way comparable to injecting yourself in the butt with HGH and testosterone.

Just a quick disclaimer before we get into the juicy part: steroids are bad. They are wrong. Don’t do them. People who use steroids are cheaters. The damage that steroids users risk to their bodies far outweigh the athletic benefits of using them…not to mention the influence that professional athletes have on young and amateur athletes across the world.

Although there is no definitive start date of the Steroid Era, the pioneers of the era were the Bash Brothers Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco, who hit a combined 410 home runs while they were teammates with the Oakland Athletics from 1987 until 1992 when Canseco was traded to the Texas Rangers. McGwire was limited to only 74 games in 1993 and 1994 with foot injuries and the labor dispute…a dispute that would result in the cancellation of almost 950 MLB games, including the entire 1994 postseason.

Fans were disgruntled following the 1994 player strike and the 20 percent decrease in attendance from 1994 to 1995 reflected that.

However, in 1998, the home run phenomenon climaxed.

1998 was about three players: Seattle Mariner Ken Griffey Jr (one of the rare Steroid Era sluggers who hasn’t been linked to steroids), Chicago Cub Sammy Sosa, and McGwire (now with the St. Louis Cardinals)…all three in pursuit of Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Griffey was the early favorite. The reigning AL MVP fell five home runs short of tying Maris the season before and would finish the 1998 season with 56 again.  

The spotlight all summer was on Sosa and McGwire. The NL Central rivals were hitting home runs at a record-breaking rate and stayed almost neck and neck the entire way, and were tied at 55 apiece on August 31. But, while playing Sosa and the Cubs, McGwire hit his record-tying 61st off of Mike Morgan on September 7, then the record-breaking shot off Steve Trachsel the next night. McGwire finished the season with 70 home runs, which stood as the record until Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001.

The excitement of the home run had fans flooding stadium gates. There were 5,064 home runs hit in the major leagues in 1998, which was the most all time and the first time there had been over 5,000 hit in a season. There were more hit the next season (5,528). And even more the next (5,693). The amount of home runs hit in the National League had more than doubled from 1992 (1,262) to 2000 (3,005).

And it was exciting…until it was revealed that players had been using performance-enhancing drugs and all the splendor has turned into bitterness

But players can argue that ball players had been using advantages to get the upper hand over their opponent for decades. After all, Ty Cobb was notorious for sharpening the spikes on his cleats in an attempt to slice open opposing players’ shins, right? Or what about stealing signs? Or Joe Niekro’s emery board? Or Kenny Rogers’ pine tar?

Right. But they haven’t been injecting testosterone and hormones into their bodies to give them a chemically produced edge.

Although the Steroid Era is a black mark on professional baseball history, we need to acknowledge that it happened and take away things that can help improve the game. Steroids saved baseball. The Steroids Era is a part of baseball history, and the players from that era belong in Cooperstown. Perhaps not hanging in the same hallway as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Hank Aaron. But they belong somewhere.

Alex Rodriguez happened. He is a feared hitter that is capable of changing the game with a simple flick of his wrists. And, for that, he is Hall of Fame worthy.

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Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds: Glorified Cheaters





I’m talking about the MLB network, specifically, the countdown they’ve been airing about the 40 greatest individual seasons since 1940.

Four of those seasons belonged to Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. Bonds was ranked #1 for his 2004 season.

Well, MLB network, I’m not sure how to tell you this but, um, uh, er, well, those guys cheated.

Steroids? Human Growth Hormone? Performance enhancing drugs? Any of that sound familiar MLB network?

Apparently not.

There was no mention in the countdown that Clemens’, Sosa’s, McGwire’s and Bonds’ seasons may have been tainted.

No hint that any of their accomplishments were anything less than legitimate.

I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out why MLB network would include those players in a countdown like this. Maybe they were taking an “innocent until proven guilty” attitude.

But I think these guys have pretty much been proven guilty.

At the very least, McGwire should have been excluded, he has admitted using performance enhancing drugs.

By treating Clemens’, Sosa’s, McGwire’s and Bonds’ accomplishments as legitimate, MLB network is being disrespectful to the players who played by the rules.

Even worse, it sends the wrong message to kids.

It says to children, “If you cheat, we’ll not only look the other way, we’ll glorify your illegitimate achievements.”





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Has the Time Come To Let Mark McGwire into the Hall of Fame?

I believe Mark McGwire has paid his dues, and it is now time to let him into the Hall of Fame.

This is a topic that will inevitably run deeper than just the issue of allowing McGwire into the Hall, I am aware of that. He is really the first legitimate player from the steroid era entering his sixth year of eligibility. I would like to briefly take a look at some of the other eligible candidates before making my full case on behalf of McGwire.

First, the list of 27 players making their first appearance for Hall voting is vastly underwhelming. The best player on the list, in my humble opinion, is Bernie Williams. Now, Williams was a fine ballplayer, but he was not a Hall-of-Fame-caliber player.

This is not the Hall of Good Players, it is the Hall of Fame—reserved for the best of the best.

Unfortunately, the list of players making the ballot for the first time is just that: Good players, not great. That leaves the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to examine the 14 holdover names on the ballot and decide which of them are worthy of making it into Cooperstown.

This is where it gets dicey.

These are the players on that list. Next to their name, I will put the percentage of the vote they received in the 2011 voting as well as what year of ballot this will be for their consideration:

Barry Larkin 62.1, third year

Jack Morris 53.5, 13th year

Lee Smith 45.3, 10th year

Jeff Bagwell 41.7, second year

Tim Raines 37.5, fifth year

Edgar Martinez 32.9, third year

Alan Trammel 24.3, 11th year

Larry Walker 20.3, second year

Mark McGwire 19.8, sixth year

Fred McGriff 17.9, third year

Don Mattingly 13.6, 12th year

Dale Murphy 12.6, 14th year

Rafael Palmeiro 11, second year

Juan Gonzalez 5.2, second year.

There are several players on that list that I believe deserve to be in Cooperstown. The problem with the crop of players this year is that the list has no stand-out player that is head and shoulders above the rest.

The voting this year won’t be anything like 2007, when Cal Ripken, Jr. received 98.5 percent of the vote and Tony Gwynn received 97.6 percent; if anything, we may see two players just barely receive the needed 75 percent to get in to the Hall.

Looking back at BaseballReference.com, I examined what percentage of the vote McGwire has received over the past five attempts. Sequentially, it went as follows: 23.5 percent in 2007, 23.6 percent in 2008, 21.9 percent in 2009, 23.7 percent in 2010 and 19.8 percent in 2011. While he did dip in 2011, McGwire has averaged 22.5 percent of the vote in his five years of eligibility. This could be the year that number soars.

And why not?

Mark McGwire has paid his dues. Yes, he admitted—albeit a little late in the eyes of many—that he had in fact used steroids on and off for a decade, including when he broke the single-season home run record in 1998. McGwire does have a good argument on his side for being in the Hall, especially now as we are on the cusp of several accused steroid users being on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time in 2013.

McGwire came out and apologized for his actions, and truth be told, nobody knows how uneven the playing field truly was during the steroid era. From all of the names that have been floated around in The Mitchell Report, we as a fan base have to come to terms with that time period in baseball.

Looking at the career statistics that McGwire has put up, it is extremely hard to ignore him this season. He has 583 career home runs, which is good for 10th all time. He drove in 1,414 runs, had 1,626 hits and scored 1,167 times. His career batting average was just that—average—at .263, but it was his on-base percentage (.394) and slugging percentage (.588) that were incredible, giving him a career OPS of .982.

In 1987, McGwire won the AL Rookie of the Year Award and also broke the record for home runs hit by a rookie that year, belting 49. In 1999, he won the ML Lou Gehrig Memorial Award. He is a 12-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger recipient (1992, 1996 and 1998) and he won a Gold Glove in 1990.

Less we not forget that it was McGwire and Sammy Sosa who arguably saved baseball in 1998, after the ugly strike in 1994 that brought about a work stoppage. In my opinion, the game did not recover until the summer of Big Mac and Sammy racing to see who would break the single-season home run record.

McGwire has silently been loyal to the Cardinals, acting as the team’s hitting coach since 2010. The man has paid his dues, and I think it’s time to say we forgive him.

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Jose Bautista in Midst of Historic 2-Season Run, Where Will He Rank All-Time?

Jose Bautista‘s improbable rise to stardom in the Major Leagues is one of the best post-steroid era stories in baseball.

Recently Yahoo Sport’s Jeff Passan wrote a must-read piece (after you finish my article, of course) breaking down Bautista’s path to the Majors and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bautista has his doubters, for sure, that just can’t wrap their mind around the notion that a player who had never hit more than 16 homers in any season in his career could jump to 54 in a single season without the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Bautista explains, and Passan eloquently describes, that he was unable to make the necessary adjustments to become the hitter he is now because any decrease in productivity would have jeopardized his career.

Thus, he went through five teams before finding the stability he needed in Toronto. A team that would work with him and allow him to make the adjustments while remaining an everyday player.

As the results began racking up with each ball knocked over the fence, Bautista’s confidence grew, and he was able to unload on pitcher after pitcher on his way to his first home run crown in 2010.

The encore performance is underway, and so far he is on a run that could windup placing him amongst the greats of the game, clean and not steroid-tainted.

Passan writes:

“What he did remains inconceivable: evolve from a nobody, a piece cast off by the sport’s dregs, into the most dangerous hitter on the planet. He hit 54 home runs last year when no one else hit 40, and he followed up this season with the best two-month stretch since Barry Bonds.”

The stretch Passan is referencing by Bonds was his 2001-2002 season in which he had a combined total of 119 homers. The two-year span by Bonds ranks fifth on the all-time list of two-season homer totals.

Eight out of the top ten two-season home run totals are owned by players with ties to steroids, including Bonds’ run.

Mark McGwire ranks first with 135 homers between the 1998-1999 seasons.

The two top-10 performances by a player with no steroid implications? Babe Ruth in 1927-1928 with 114 homers, and Ruth again in 1920-1921 with 113 total homers.

The only modern-era player with such a stretch and no steroid implications is Ken Griffey, Jr. Griffey currently has the eleventh best two-year string of success with 112 homers in 1997-1998. Griffey also topped the 100-homer mark for two-year spans in 1996-1997 and 1998-1999 with 105 and 104 homers, respectively, during those spans.

Bautista currently has 75 homers with 92 games remaining in the season. If he continues on his current pace he would wind up with 48 homers according to ESPN. The combined totals would give him 102 for the 2010-2011 combined seasons, good enough for the 19th best two-season total in history, seventh best among players with no steroid connection.

Pre-steroid use, depending on when you believe that was, Mark McGwire never achieved 100 homers in two seasons. Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds only reached those totals during the years they allegedly were on the juice as well.

It is worth noting that today’s greatest power hitters, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard, have never accomplished this feat.

Future Hall of Famer, Jim Thome, has only reached the 100-HR-over-two-seasons plateau once in his career, between 2001-2002 (101 homers).

Bautista’s rise to stardom already has all the makings of a feel-good Disney movie with a happy ending and a lesson to be learned about determination and never giving up on your dream.

His present day accomplishments, though, have the makings of history written all over them.


Players With 100-Hr 2-Season Totals
Jose Bautista 2010 54 2011 ?? ??  
Player Year HR Year HR Total
Mark McGwire 1998 70 1999 65 135 *
Sammy Sosa 1998 66 1999 63 129 *
Mark McGwire 1997 58 1998 70 128 *
Barry Bonds 2000 49 2001 73 122 *
Barry Bonds 2001 73 2002 46 119 *
Babe Ruth 1927 60 1928 54 114  
Sammy Sosa 2000 50 2001 64 114 *
Babe Ruth 1920 54 1921 59 113
Sammy Sosa 1999 63 2000 50 113 *
Sammy Sosa 2001 64 2002 49 113 *
Ken Griffey Jr 1997 56 1998 56 112
Mark McGwire 1996 52 1997 58 110 *
Alex Rodriguez 2001 52 2002 57 109 *
Babe Ruth 1926 47 1927 60 107
Jimmie Foxx 1932 58 1933 48 106
Ken Griffey Jr 1996 49 1997 56 105
Ken Griffey Jr 1998 56 1999 48 104
Alex Rodriguez 2002 57 2003 47 104 *
Sammy Sosa 1997 36 1998 66 102 *
Ralph Kiner 1949 54 1950 47 101
Jim Thome 2001 49 2002 52 101
Babe Ruth 1928 54 1929 46 100
Roger Maris 1960 39 1961 61 100
* Player implicated as steroid user  


Brandon McClintock covers Major League Baseball for BleacherReport.com. You can follow him on Twitter:        @BMcClintock_BR.

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