Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Overwhelming Rejection Of McGwire Stunning

There is no such thing, really, as "qualifying" for a Hall of Fame, in any sport. It's a misnomer, so don't let anyone use that word -- "qualifying" -- without challenge.

You can get elected into a Hall. You can be admitted. You can be enshrined. You can even be allowed.

But you cannot qualify.

There is no qualification, because there is no threshold -- no minimum accomplishments to achieve that mean automatic inclusion.

This has never been more true than today, when voters who cast the ballots for Baseball's Hall of Fame so overwhelmingly rejected the, ahem, "qualifications" of a man with 583 career homeruns, its effect should reverberate for years.

Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer today. Not even close. Only 23.5% of 545 ballots tabulated had his name on it. Seventy-five percent is needed to be elected, so he came over 50% shy of what was necessary to order his bronzed plaque in Cooperstown.

Normally, a ballplayer with almost 600 homeruns would cruise to election. He would be in the same percentile range as Cal Ripken, Jr. (98.5), and Tony Gwynn (97.6), both of whom were elected today. We would be talking about the dodos who left him off their ballots, rather than what we ARE talking about, which is how much this rejection is directly tied to the cloud of suspicion of steroid use that hovers around McGwire like that ball of dirt Pigpen from Peanuts comic strip fame walks among.

Cheater! Fraud! Lab experiment!

All those, and more, will be used to justify the dismissal of McGwire's Hall eligibility like so much lint off a coat. He got what he deserved, it will be said, written, and otherwise argued. We don't let cheaters into the Hall of Fame!

Yet Gaylord Perry is enshrined. And so overt was Perry's admission of doctoring baseballs, done with a wink and a smile, that doubtless some voters chuckled in recollection of his exploits as they filled in his name.

There are others, too, whose likeness resides in the Hall, who engaged in various other shenanigans, like sign-stealing, more baseball doctoring, and magic with the insides of their baseball bats.

Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.

But McGwire's transgressions -- unproven, mind you -- are considered to be so heinous that not even one-quarter of the voters felt obligated to grant him induction, despite his 583 homeruns.

No liars. No cheaters.

Not this time, anyway.

Mark McGwire is not a Hall of Famer, not today. Not even close.

Barry Bonds, beware.

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