Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro

1/2/14 in MLB   |   Pat   |   5234 respect

Blog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael PalmeiroVia Eric: We continue our grouping of the “PED candidates” with Mark McGwire (Baseball reference link), Sammy Sosa(BR), and Rafael Palmeiro(BR). We’re grouping them because all three are in the same boat, with their past history keeping them far, far away from election, even further than Bonds and Clemens.

With McGwire, all I really want to do is clear up one thing: He is not Dave Kingman like. Yes, McGwire hit a lot of home runs and struck out a lot. The difference is McGwire could take a walk, something the Dave Kingmans and Rob Deers of the world never could. Thus, McGwire finished with a career .394 OBP. That plus McGwire’s power allowed him to finish with a .982 OPS, 10th all-time, and a 163 OPS+, 13th all-time.  Injuries and the quick end to his career depressed his non-power counting stats, but otherwise, Big Mac was a fantastic hitter for his era, even if we can’t be sure exactly how much of that was aided by PEDs.

One other thing, remember when McGwire apologized for his drug use? Well, do you also remember how he was *still* excoriated for it, and how it wasn’t considered “good enough.” Remember that when no one discusses drug use unless forced. McGwire showed there is no benefit to it.

Turning to Sosa, who unlike McGwire didn’t always hit home runs. He didn’t slug above .500 until his 6th season, in 1994. For the next ten years though, Sosa exploded to the tune of .286/.366/.588 with an average of 48 homers a year, including three separate years hitting 60+. Of course, most consider that solely to be the result of drug use. There was also a swing and approach change in those years, and the normal mid-to-late 20s, early 30s peak of a baseball player. How much of Sosa’s run was due to drugs, and how much due to other factors is, again, unknown. Overall, his career line is .273/.344/.534 with 2408 hits and 609 homers.

If it weren’t for a finger wag and a positive test, Palmeiro would be a fascinating case of whether traditional round numbers, 3000 hits and 500 homers, should guarantee election. Palmeiro was obviously very good for a long time, but rarely led the league in anything. He was among the best those a lot: top 10 in batting five times, on-base twice, slugging and OPS seven times, and homers 11 times. He has a lot of “Grey Ink” to make up for lack of “Black Ink.” None of this matters after the positive test, but it would’ve been interesting. Oh well.

If there were no limit, I would probably vote for some combination of these guys, if not all three. For this ballot and its 10 vote limit, I’m a NO on all three, because they are so far down the list that it would feel like a wasted vote.

WILL THEY GET IN: Not a chance. In fact, I’ll call it now. Palmeiro is going to fall off the ballot. He fell to just 8.8% of the vote last year, and with the crowded ballot, he doesn’t have much more to fall. Sosa debuts last year at just 12.5%, so there’s an outside chance he falls off too. McGwire is also slowly dropping, down to 16.9%. He’ll probably stay on the ballot, but look for the fall to continue.

Blog Photo - Looking at the Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael PalmeiroPat's take: In my mind, McGwire is a clear cut above the other two in this discussion. Quite frankly, Palmeiro wouldn't receive a vote from me regardless of anything involving PEDs. Yes, his final numbers are some that would have been considered HOF-worthy in the past. 3000 hits, 500 HR, those have been considered tickets to the Hall of Fame in the past. Aside from this current batch that we've been discussing lately, everyone with 500 HR has eventually been inducted into the Hall. Also, anyone with 3000 or more hits has also been inducted, except of course for Pete Rose.

So why would Palmeiro be the exception? It's quite simple, really. He was never really an elite player. He never won an MVP, and was never really even a legit candidate. He won a few Gold Gloves, but he wasn't a great defender. In fact his 1999 season in which he won he Gold Glove after playing only 28 games at 1B  has made him the poster boy for fraudulent hardware. Was Palmeiro good? Sure. But never great.

Sosa was a different case. He was an ok player for a while, then altered his workout regimen (with a little chemical assistance) and became one of the most prolific HR hitters we've ever seen. He led the league in HR twice, and also hit 60+ HR twice. Ironically, those WEREN'T the years he led the league in home runs. He was the 1998 MVP, and from 1995-2003 he was one of the best hitters alive.

Completely disregarding PED use, which I would tend to do, I think he has a strong case for the Hall. I don't know if I'd be able to vote for him this year, based on the plethora of qualified candidates, but Sosa would get my vote if I had enough space on the ballot.

McGwire, as Eric pointed out, was the only one who actually apologized. Look where that got him. Right in the middle of this post with guys like Sosa, who still hasn't admitted to using anything. In the end, it doesn't really matter.

McGwire's numbers are undeniably HOF worthy. He had 9 seasons with an OPS over 1.000, and his career OPS+ was an insane 163. McGwire was the best hitter on the planet in the mid to late 1990s, and it wasn't only his power numbers. His batting eye at the plate was outstanding, and he could work the count with the best of them, especially since pitchers were terrified of him.

WILL THEY GET IN: Nope. Not now, not ever, unless the HOF establishes more concrete guidelines regarding PED users. As Eric said, Palmeiro might be on his way off the ballot. Sosa and McGwire likely have more chances, but with the ballot seemingly getting more and more crowded every year, you never know. I believed McGwire would eventually get in, but it's looking like that's not going to happen unless drastic changes are made.
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1/2/14   |   ML31   |   3675 respect

100% Agree with Pat regarding Palmeiro.  Was good.  Perhaps even very good.  But then, so was Bagwell.  And he doesn't qualify in my book either.  I'd not name Palmeiro even if there was irrefutable proof he never even took vitamin C. 

McGwire and Sosa are huge Yeses and with the over sized 10 player limit easily make the list with room to spare.