It seems like everyone is lining up to take their turn bashing Mark McGwire. The latest is Fergie Jenkins. It seems he wants Big Mac to apologize to the pitchers McGwire faced en route to his then record-breaking 70 HRs.

Fergie is quoted as saying “You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced. You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”

Is he serious? Surely he can’t think that McGwire and the select group of sluggers that have been exposed were the only ones using steroids. Surely he must know that a large portion of those pitchers he feels were victimized were using as well. The problem with this witch hunt is the blame that’s being distributed to such a small percentage of the guilty parties.

While the steroid era is a black eye for the sport, it’s not the only time players used illegal substances to gain an edge. For years amphetamines have ran rampant in MLB clubhouses. These greenies were taken as a pick-me-up to help endure the marathon season that baseball is.

Now I don’t like some of McGwire’s responses, especially when he said he wished he never played in the steroid era. Not exactly taking responsibility. However, if you read between the lines, he’s subtly letting on just how big of a problem this was. You just don’t know who used and who didn’t. So please spare us with the notion that Albert Pujols, Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken, Ken Griffey Jr., and whoever else had a squeaky clean image never used because you just don’t know. Once upon a time they said the same thing about A-Rod.

Now an early look at the NL Central.

1. Can the Cubs’ offense bounce back?
Geovany Soto had a miserable season hitting .218. He was brilliant in Triple-A Iowa in 2007 and had an amazing Rookie season. I fully expect him to bounce back in 2010. Even if he is an average of his past two years, he’d have a decent season. Just don’t reach for him. Assuming Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano can stay healthy, they should have better seasons as well. Marlon Byrd hit 70 percent of his HRs at Rangers Ballpark so I expect him to take a step back in Chicago. At his age (34), I don’t expect Derrek Lee to match the 35 HRs and 111 RBIs. As a whole, though, I do think the Cubs will be much-improved on offense next year thanks to the addition by subtraction of Milton Bradley.

2.  Can Carlos Marmol get it done at Closer?
His BAA was equally nasty as a closer and a setup man, though his ERA and WHIP both improved when he took over at closer. He has both the stuff and demeanor to get the job done. I think he can be a high-end closer next year despite entering the season with just23 career Saves.

3.  Is Joey Votto set to bust out big time?
Joey’s average and OPS  soared dramatically in his second full season. Despite playing in 20 fewer games he had 13 more runs, six more doubles, one more HR, the same amount of RBIs, and 11 more walks. As long as he stays healthy, Votto should emerge as one of the games best hitters.

4. How about Jay Bruce?
I’m not sure he’ll light the world on fire, but he should be improved. Hard not to when you hit .223. I’m encouraged by the way he played in September when he hit .353 with 4 HRs and 16 RBIs in 34 ABs.

5. Is Lance Berkman’s dip a sign of things to come?
I don’t think so. He’s about as steady as they come. Gone are the days of 40 HRs and 120 RBIs, but he should still be good for 30 & 110.

6. Is Tommy Manzelli going to be a viable fantasy option?
I don’t think so. He didn’t exactly put up monster numbers for Triple-A Round Rock last year, hitting .289 with 68 runs, 9 HRs, 56 RBIs, and 12 SBs in 530 ABs.

7.  Is Casey McGehee for real?
He had an impressive Rookie season hitting .301 with 58 runs, 16 HRs, and 66 RBIs in 355 ABs. I like the way he responded in September hitting .337 with 5 HRs and 26 RBIs after struggling in August hitting .241. I wouldn’t want him as a starter, but his 2B/3B eligibility make him a decent bench option.

8.  Can Garrett Jones continue to be a power threat?
He certainly hit his share with 21 in 314 ABs for a 14.9 AB/HR ratio. It is highly unlikely that he can maintain that ratio. His OPS of .939 was also significanly higher than the majority of his minor league stints.

9.  Will Mark McGwire be a distraction?
I don’t think so. He came clean early enough where is shouldn’t be much of an issue for the Cards.

10.  Will Ryan Franklin continue to be an elite closer?
Franklin was one of the surprise closers last year when he recorded 38 saves with a 1.92 ERA. His numbers were significantly worse after the All-Star break.

0.79 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, .165 BAA
3.33 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, .284 BAA

While he was a pleasant surprise last year, I see no reason to believe he can match his 2009 production.


In the least surprising news of the newly turned calendar year, Mark McGwire admitted to using steroids. He finally addressed the past, which he did not want to talk about during the Congressional hearing.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as far as the Cardinals are concerned, as he doesn’t bring the distraction to Spring Training. He is the team’s new hitting coach.

I once vilified McGwire and all of the steroid users, but to me it’s hard to single a couple people out in such a tainted era. If you say “I told you so”, please direct it at the era and not Big Mac. At least he finally came clean unlike Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the hundreds of other players that used.

The 2010 Hall of Fame Ballots have been released. I am admittedly more lenient than most in terms of who I think is worthy of enshrinement. That said here is how I break down this year’s crop.

Slam Dunk
Roberto Alomar

Let them In Already
Bert Blyleven
Andre Dawson
Jack Morris
Mark McGwire
Lee Smith

In a Couple Years
Barry Larkin
Edgar Martinez
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Tim Raines
Don Mattingly
Alan Trammell

Kevin Appier
Harold Baines
Ellis Burks
Andres Galarraga
Pat Hentgen
Mike Jackson
Erik Karros
Ray Lankford
Fred McGriff
Shane Reynolds
David Segui
Robin Ventura
Todd Zeile
continue reading »

The 2009 Hall of Fame Ballots have been released.  I am admittedly more lenient than most in terms of who I think is worthy of enshrinement.  That said here is how I break down this year’s crop.

Slam Dunk
Rickey Henderson

Let them In Already
Bert Blyleven
Andre Dawson
Jack Morris
Dale Murphy
Dave Parker
Tim Raines
Jim Rice
Lee Smith

In a Couple Years
David Cone
Mark Grace
Don Mattingly
Alan Trammell

Harold Baines
Jay Bell
Ron Gant
Tommy John
Mark McGwire
Jesse Orosco
Dan Plesac
Greg Vaughn
Mo Vaughn
Matt Williams

Past Chronicles
Dick Allen
Roberto Alomar
Richie Ashburn*
Earl Averill*
Harold Baines

Dan Bancroft*
Jake Beckley*

Albert Belle
Jim Bottomley*
Pete Browning

Jim Bunning *
Bert Byleven
Joe Carter
Orlando Cepeda*
Rocky Colavito
Earle Combs*
Dave Concepcion
David Cone
Roger Connor*
Larry Corcoran

Mike Cuellar
Bill Dahlen
George Davis*
Andre Dawson
Larry Doby*
Bobby Doerr*
Jimmie Dykes (Player/Manager)
Dwight Evans
Rick Ferrell*
Wes Ferrell
Chuck Finley
Steve Finley
Nellie Fox*
John Franco

Gary Gaetti
Steve Garvey
Lefty Gomez*
Luis Gonzalez
Dwight Gooden
Joe Gordon
Mark Grace
Bobby Grich
Charlie Grimm (Player/Manager)
Ron Guidry
Chick Hafey*

Billy Herman*
Keith Hernandez
Orel Hershiser
Whitey Herzog (Manager)
Gil Hodges
Ralph Houk (Manager)
Shoeless Joe Jackson
Travis Jackson*
Tommy John
Bob Johnson
Addie Joss*
Jim Kaat
George Kell*
Joe Kelley*
George Kelly*
Tom Kelly (Manager)
Chuck Klein*
Jerry Koosman
Bill James & Pete Palmer
Barry Larkin
Tony Lazzeri*
Freddie Lindstrom*
Mickey Lolich
Ernie Lombardi*
Fred Lynn
Sherry Magee

Roger Maris
Rube Marquard*
Billy Martin (Player/Manager)
Dennis Martinez
Edgar Martinez
Bobby Matthews
Don Mattingly
Gene Mauch (Manager)
Carl Mays
Bill Mazeroski*
Fred McGriff

Mark McGwire
Bid McPhee
Johnny Mize*
Paul Molitor*
Jack Morris
Tony Mullane
Dale Murphy
Graig Nettles
Hal Newhouser*
Lefty O’Doul
Tony Oliva
Al Oliver

Buck O’Neill & Minnie Minoso
Dave Parker
Wes Parker
Lance Parrish
Vada Pinson
Boog Powell
Tim Raines
Willie Randolph
Pee Wee Reese*
Allie Reynolds
Jim Rice
Phil Rizzuto*
Brooks Robinson*
Pete Ro$e
Amos Rusie*
Jimmy Ryan
Ron Santo
Curt Schilling
Red Schoendienst* (Player/Manager)
Ted Simmons
Enos Slaughter*
Lee Smith
Rusty Staub
Vern Stephens
Dave Stieb
Mel Stottlemyre
Harry Stovey
Sam Thompson
Luís Tiant
Joe Torre
Alan Trammell

George Van Haltren
Arky Vaughan*
Mo Vaughn
Bobby Veach
Mickey Vernon
Frank Viola
Bucky Walters
Mickey Welch*
Lou Whitaker
Deacon White
Bernie Williams
Vic Willis*
Maury Wills 
Hack Wilson*
Ross Youngs*
Veterans Committee Ballot

* Signifies actual Hall of Famers

Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor and I have decided to team up and debate Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame worthiness.

Played 1986-2001 (16 Seasons)
1874 Games
6187 At Bats
.263 Batting Average
.394 On-base % (77th All-time)
.588 Slugging % (9th All-time)
1167 Runs
1626 Hits
252 Doubles
6 Triples
583 Home Runs – (8th All-time)
1414 RBI – (65th All-time)
1317 Walks – (35th All-time)
12 Stolen Bases
3639 Total Bases

One .300+ Season
Three 100+ Run Seasons
Eleven 30+ HR Seasons
 Six 40+ HR Seasons
  Four 50+ HR Seasons
   Two 60+ HR Seasons
    One 70 HR Season
Seven 100+ RBI Seasons (Two with 147)

Playoffs:  1 Ring, 28 of 129 (.217), 13 Runs, 2 Double, 5 HRs, 14 RBI, 18 Walks

1997 Rookie of the Year
12 All-Star Games
1990 Gold Glove
3 Silver Sluggers (1992, 1996, 1998)
10 Seasons with MVP Votes (3 Top 5 MVP finishes)

Top Ten Finishes
On-Base % – 4 Times (Led league in 1996 & 1998)
Slugging % – 8 Times (Led league in 1987, 1992, 1996 & 1998)
OPS – 7 Times (Led league in 1996 & 1998)
Runs – Twice
Home Runs – 10 Times (Led league in 1987, 1996, 1998 & 1999)
RBI – 6 Times – (Led league in 1999)
Total Bases – 3 Times
Extra-Base Hits – 6 Times (Led league in 1998)
Walks - 8 Times (Led league in 1990 & 1998)
Intentional Walks – 6 Times (Led league in 1999)
Hit by Pitch – Twice

Hall of Fame Yardsticks
Black Ink: Batting – 36 (41) (Average HOFer ≈ 27)
Gray Ink: Batting – 110 (190) (Average HOFer ≈ 144)
HOF Standards: Batting – 42.1 (123) (Average HOFer ≈ 50)
HOF Monitor: Batting – 169.5 (62) (Likely HOFer > 100)

Lester’s Take
Mark McGwire hit a ton of Home Runs with a ton of RBI and Walks.  With his HR total, this should be a slam dunk case.  If you look at the Hall of Fame yardsticks, you can easily see it’s not a slam dunk case.  Half of them suggest he belongs.  The other half suggests he doesn’t.  That’s where I am at with Big Mac myself.  You have to appreciate the power numbers he put up.  However, you’d be lying to yourself if you if you think those numbers don’t come with baggage.  For starters, there was the whole Andro thing.  Granted it wasn’t against the rules at the time, but it’s pretty naive to think that Big Mac stopped there.  Surely, his appearance before Congress didn’t help his cause.  I think you have to eventually let the cheaters in otherwise you are condemning a whole era.  I’m certain there will be guys who make the HOF from the era that somehow dodge steroid speculation based on their personality.  Evenutally the steroid guys will be addressed, but I’m just not sure the numbers are there for Mac.  There isn’t a Hall of Famer position player with 6000 At Bats that has fewer than McGwire’s 1626 Hits.  Without the power surge at the end of his career he likely wouldn’t have reach the 500 HR mark.  His first six seasons he averaged 36 HRs per year.  His last six he averaged 51 HRs per year.  Usually you don’t have your best production in the last six years of your career.  Even if he averaged the same production as he did during his first six years, you’d have to shave 90 HRs (six years at 15 HRs per year) off his total.  That would put in him at 493 HRs and on the outside looking in.  McGwire never had 30 Doubles in a year.   He didn’t score 100 Runs in a year until 1996, a decade into his career.  People credit him and Sammy Sosa with saving baseball in 1998, but come on.  It’s baseball.  We would have come back.  All they did was speed up the process.  Sorry, Big Mac.  You’d never get my vote.

Rotoprofessor’s Take
I know the perception around Mark McGwire; a steroid user, a cheater. We all saw his appearance in front of Congress, which left little doubt. The truth of the matter is, however, at that time it was not illegal in baseball to do what he did. If you are going to hold what he did against him, you are going to have to hold it against an entire generation, because no one knows for a fact who was clean and who wasn’t. Steroids were running rampant throughout the sport, and while I’d agree that the standards for being considered a Hall of Fame player have to be adjusted, you can’t disqualify him solely on that reason. Steroids or not, he still had to hit the ball. There are some players who I feel like you have to look beyond the numbers, especially during this era, not only the “Steroids Era”, but the era of the compiler. I know you can look at the number of hits he had or the number of runs he drove in and say that outside of his HR’s he just doesn’t stack up with the other players already enshrined. Maybe that’s true, but McGwire’s presence transcends the numbers. He was the dominant force in the game from 1996-1999, putting together a stretch like no other, hitting 245 HR and driving in 530 RBI. The rest of the league was so scared to face him that he walked 512 times. He completely dominated the game. No matter what the numbers were for his entire career, which were very good anyways, for those four years he was the elite. The one player opposing pitchers feared. Since McGwire, there have been other players who put up over 500 HR, take Jim Thome for instance. As of right now he has 541 career HR, but he was never truly the dominant force at the plate. To me, he’s not a Hall of Famer, but that’s a discussion for another time. Just because you reach 500 HR doesn’t make you a Hall of Fame player anymore. Dominating the game like McGwire did, that earns you my vote. He deserves to be there, along with the other greats, and he’d get my vote every year his name appeared on the ballot.

There you have it folks.  Feel free to weigh in and take a side.

David Funk, a good friend of mine from the Sporting News community, has been posting some of the best blog entries that Sporting News members have written over the years on his World Blogging Entertainment site.  I’ve decided to dig in my archives and bring you the first entry that was printed in the Sporting News Magazine’s “Your Turn” section.  Without further ado, I present you my piece on the steroids scandal.

Apr 02, 2006

…I won’t take as much as Barry Bonds (or any of the other juicers), Selig, MLBPA, Conte, or the numerous trainers, managers, owners, teammates or competitors should, but I’ll still take some nonetheless. How many fans have said to themselves or others, “look at Bonds and Sosa when they came into the league, and look at them now”? A lot of us. I’ve heard it on talk radio, at sportsbars, on message boards. We suspected it, but nobody really raised a stink until now…when some of the most hallowed record are already shattered or are on their way to being shattered. Baseball needed something after the strike in 1994. Baseball fans needed something to. Along came 1998. McGwire and Sosa. Homers galore. Baseball is back. I must admit that I was among those who started to care more about baseball again during that year. So for that I take some of the blame.

However, there is more blame to be given to fans…I’m just not one who needs to accept it. The fan that demands to see a bunch of homers. Not just homers….moon shots. That’s all they seem to care about. I’ll take a pitcher’s duel and some slick fielding and timely hits. Throw in a homer or two and I’ll be happy, but it’s not necessary. Highlights also have some of the blame. Not sure if it’s the TV’s fault or the viewers, but every homer seems to be showcased in the highlight reels. Heck, Baseball Tonight shows a recap of the homers.

Bottom line is that there is lots of blame to go around. I’ll take some.

 | Posted by | Categories: MLB | Tagged: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, MLB, Sammy Sosa, steroids |

Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties