Bill James, the greatest statistical mind of baseball, had the following to say about Mark McGwire not getting elected to the Hall of Fame last year:
“If you choose to be offended by McGwire and choose to feel cheated by it, I can’t tell you you’re wrong to feel that way. My take on it is there was something very seriously wrong with baseball in that era and baseball now, but McGwire did not create that situation. I wouldn’t hold McGwire accountable for the sins of that generation of players. I would [vote for him].”
Okay, first of all I agree with Bill’s conclusion. I would vote for anyone based on their statistics alone. I also agree with Bill that I don’t believe people should be “punished” as examples.
That being said- that being said:
Bill comes off as an apologist here, and it’s weak. Bill is using the “everyone was doing it” and indirectly is blaming the Commissioner’s Office (Fay Vincent + Bud Selig) and the Player’s Union (Donal Fehr). So he’s giving a Free Pass ™ to the players because of the era, perhaps because the steroid policy was never enforced and that there was no testing for it.
In my opinion, Bill should have used Damian Hospital and Tony Vahl‘s argument- that there is no statistical evidence that proves using HGH or steroids actually improves performance. Someone like Dr. J. Mathews may argue that balls can get hit farther, you can get more MPH on your fastball, you may heal quicker, etc. etc., but the bottom line is that of the 80+ names of the Mitchell Report, only a few had excellent careers. A couple of years ago, I heard Kevin Bass on WFAN confessing his sins of steroid use while he was with the Astros in the 1980′s. That’s right Kevin Freakin’ Bass. He never hit 500+ homeruns. In fact, he only has a couple of decent years. So Bill James should have attacked the assumption that the MEDIA has that HGH and steroids improve statistics.
Besides, if the Baseball Writers Association of America want to make McGwire squirm for 15 years, that’s their choice. If they refuse to vote him in, then he will be judged by his peers via the Veteran’s Committee in 20 years or less, the same as Pete Rose will be.
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