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.

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 coals are white hot as Major League Baseball is prepared to get roasted once again.  We’ve already consumed the Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, A-Rod, and Manny Ramirez.  It’s time for the next helping of the game’s biggest stars. 

First, you can go back for seconds with Manny Ramirez as the New York Times reported that ManRam was one of the 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003.  As you know Manny was suspended earlier this season for 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance.  This new development should not come as a shock.

His partner in crime though, David Ortiz aka Big Papi, is a different story.  Though his performance since arriving in Boston merit some suspicion, he had not been linked to PEDs, perhaps because of his jovial personality.  His numbers can somewhat be contributed to getting a chance to play every day (which he didn’t do for the Twins) and getting protection from Manny Ramirez, one of the most feared hitters in the game.  However, it appears there was more to the story than just opportunity and protection. 

It’s a sad day for me.  I have suspected Big Papi, but quietly.  He is my son’s favorite player.  At five years old he won’t understand that Papi did something wrong.  I will wait until he’s older and then let him know.  I can tell him that it wasn’t just Papi.  It was a league-wide problem.  The players took shortcuts for fame and fortune.  Now they have to pay for it.  Hopefully I can spin this nightmare into a positive. 

I ask the players who tested positive to step up and declare that they were on the list.  Instead of slowing peeling away this Band-Aid in such a painful manner, let’s expose them now in one quick motion.  Give the players a week to come out on their own, then go public with it.  It’s pretty clear that the big names are going to come out eventually.  Let’s just get it over with so we can move on.

Manny’s Baby Shower

10 July 2009

The Global Sports Fraternity creates funny videos pertaining to sports and fantasy sports.  You may have noticed their video player on my sidebar.  It gets updated from time to time, but if you want a look of their full selection, swing on by their site.

All of their videos are funny, but this one on Manny Ramirez is hilarious.  Check it out:

There is a rumor going around the net that the 2003 MLB steroid list has been revealed.  I will not perpetuate the rumor by sharing the names.  If you want to know who’s on the supposed list, it can easily be googled.  I will admit that there were some names on there that surprised me.  I suspect there will be denials, but unless they are accompanied with a lawsuit, they don’t have a lot of bite in my mind.  I hope this rumor is quickly dismissed.  None of the names, including Sammy or A-Rod should have been released.  Not when the test subjects were taking them anonymously.  That goes against everything our country stands for.  Just so we’re clear, I am not pro-steroid use.  I don’t condone it or endorse it.  I think they cheated the game, and it’s something the players will have to live with.  Releasing these names though, cheats the legal sytem.

Sammy Sosa White Sox Sosa Cubs
Images courtesy of Icon SMI

The New York Times is reporting that Sammy Sosa failed a drug test in 2003.  The New York Times cites “lawyers with knowledge of the drug-testing results from that year” as their source.  This is the latest black eye for baseball as yet another star is linked to performance-enhancing drugs.  Unlike Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, Sosa’s failed test does not come as a shock to most baseball fans.  He has been presumed guilty for years, and this “new” knowledge won’t have the ripple effect among baseball fans.  Instead of outrage, I imagine most people’s reactions will be in the neighborhood of “I thought so”.  Although you may be disgusted when looking at the top ten HR list.

1.  Barry Bonds, 762 – steroids
2.  Hank Aaron, 755
3.  Babe Ruth, 714
4.  Willie Mays, 660
5.  Ken Griffey, Jr., 617 – PLEASE BE CLEAN
6.  Sammy Sosa, 609 – steroids
7.  Frank Robinson, 586
8.  Mark McGwire, 583 – steroids
9.  Harmon Killebrew, 573
10.  Rafael Palmeiro, 569 – steroids

With four of the top ten (A-Rod at 12, ManRam at 17) being steroid users does a lot to damage the history of the game.  Sosa can kiss the HOF goodbye.  He was already on thin ice because of the corked bat and the speculation.  It gives a whole new meaning to his nickmame “Say it Ain’t Sosa”.  I wish I could.  I wish I could.

The LA Times has dropped one of the biggest bombshells since, well, since A-Rod was outed for his steroid use.  Manny Ramirez has reportedly tested positive for a Performance Enhancing Drug.

This would be another black eye to a sport that has come under attack because of the tainted reputations of their best players in recent years.  Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and now Manny Ramirez. 

Stay tuned as this story develops.  For the full report read teh LA Times article.

a-rod
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Alex Rodriguez’s rehab assignment rolls on despite the beating he has taken in the media of late.  Like it or not, he’s going to be playing baseball soon.  It doesn’t appear that Selena Roberts’ book A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez will do anything to effect his playing status.  The court of public opinion is a different story, but the show must go on, both for the Yankees and for fantasy baseball teams with the man everyone is learning to hate.

A-Rod hit leadoff every inning for seven innings.  He was 1 for 6 with a HR and a walk.  The HR came off the Phillies’ J.C. Romero who ironically has been banished from the Bigs for fifty days as he serves a PED suspension.  He got popped taking Andro, which was Mark McGwire’s drug of choice.  At least that’s what he wanted to lead everyone to believe.

A-Rod remains on schedule to return to the Yankees by May 15th or sooner.

A decade or two ago Gary Sheffield’s accomplishment on Friday night would have meant something.  Joining the 500 HR not only placed you in very elite company, but it basically punched your ticket in the Cooperstown. 

Flash forward to 2009 and Sheffield’s 500th HR gets a little more than a yawn out of me.  The timing couldn’t have been worse for Sheff because so many of us were reminded of the late Harry Kalas’ call of Michael Jack Schmidt’s 500th HR.  Now that was an accomplishment.  It is still an elite group with merely 25 members.  It just doesn’t take on the same meaning.  Not with the steroids, the HGH, the cream, and the clear.  To me, there is no chance Sheffield gets into the Hall of Fame.  Some other steroid era players could have a hard time as well.  Obviously the Mt. Shamemore of the steroit era (Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro) will struggle to get in.  Same with Jim Thome, although he hasn’t been linked to steroids.  Despite meeting the milestone, I would actually put Sheffield’s Uncle (Dwight Gooden) in the Hall before I considered him.

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

Numbers
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

Awards
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.


Partner of USA TODAY Sports Digital Properties