Write this down: Mark McGwire will be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just not now. And not anytime soon.
McGwire is finally eligible for election, and his presence on the 2006 HOF ballot is creating the predictable firestorm due to the suspicision (and overwhelming circumstantial evidence) that the former single-season home-run champion used steroids. McGwire is the first of what will long be known as baseball’s ‘Roids Era to be eligible for HOF induction and he’ll surely not be the last.
His presence on the ballot is overshadowing the guaranteed arrival of two all-time greats – 8-time batting champion Tony Gwynn and two-time MVP and Iron Man Cal Ripkin. Jr. Their induction speeches should be in the works.
If I were voting I’d also check off Bret Saberhagen, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, reliever Rich (Goose) Gossage and former Boston slugger Jim Rice. (Goose and Rice`fell just shy last year.)
All told 17 players are on the ballot for the first time, including former Toronto Blue Jays Tony Fernandez and Devon White, Bobby Bonnilla, Pul O’Neill, Wally Joyner, Harold Baines, Dante Bichette, Scott Brosius, Jay Buhner, Eric Davis and Bobby Witt.
Rice and Gossage are among 15 holdovers from last year’s ballot.
This will not be McGwire’s year. The wounds are too new, the healing still incomplete. But the former Cardinal will someday give his own induction speech because he deserves to be there. No one with more than 500 HRs has ever been denied the hall: McGwire has 583. The steroid haze has overshadowed the fact that McGwire hit 49 HRs in 1987, his second pro season and 42 in ’92. That’s a few seasons before the ‘Roids Era kicked in and McGwire pounded 52, 58, 70 and 65 homers from 1996-’99.
No one knows whether MM would have reach 500 without the juice. And, of course, since he did not fail a test we have no clear evidence that he used. But…
I’m not sure how long it will take MM to get elected. It’ll be a minute. And it will not happen until he comes, uh, clean and simply tells the truth. His pitiful testimony before Congress in February 2005 – “I’m not here to talk about the past.” – may have provided the catalyst that prompted an increased public outcry against drug use in baseball. He may have been worried about the statute of limitations regarding prosecution for drug use. But the damage he did by not only saying nothing but acting as if we were all stupid did more damage that any judge might have done.
For all intents, Mark McGwire is in jail anyway. He’s locked out of baseball’s embrace and locked in a cell of his own choosing. He has the key that will release him. Will he use it. Someday, yes.
At least he’s happy…
The Class of 2006 will be announce on January 9.