Results tagged ‘ Mark McGwire ’
PHOENIX — When Braves Minor League manager Luis Salazar was recently struck in the face by a line drive and lost his left eye, it was another strange hit to the 1984 Padres, the first team in club history to win the National League pennant and ascend to the World Series. They lost in five games to the Tigers.
Salazar was a back up infielder, displaced at third base by an aging Craig Nettles, who was obtained in a trade with the Yankees just prior to the start of that regular season. This year, Salazar was standing in the dugout during a Spring Training game in Florida and didn’t know what hit him.
There is a dark cloud hovering over the ’84 Padres team and this was just the latest incident.
Starting pitcher Eric Show and second baseman Alan Wiggins died young, Show, at 37 of a drug overdose, Wiggins at 32, from AIDs linked to the injection of drugs.
Then there is the cancer cluster. Dave Dravecky lost his left (throwing) arm to cancer. Coach Jack Krol died of cancer related to his constant use of chewing tobacco. And Tony Gwynn, the NL batting champion that season and an eight-time winner in his 20-year career, is battling cancer for the same reason.
Phil Collier, the beat writer for the San Diego Union who covered that team, was diagnosed that year with prostate cancer and eventually died from it. Wayne Lockwood and Barry Lorge, both columnists for the Union back then, are also gone. Wayne had Parkinson’s and Barry died of cancer. Bob Chandler, a now retired Padres play-by-play announcer, is a prostate cancer survivor. I was the beat writer for the San Diego Tribune that season and I’ve survived colon cancer — not once, but twice. In another ironic twist, I’ve been blind in my left eye since a childhood accident.
Ray Kroc, the McDonald’s founder and club owner who saved the team for San Diego, had a major stroke and died before the start of that season. The Padres wore an “RAK” patch on their shoulders all that year to honor him. His wife and successor, Joan, died in 2003 because of a brain tumor.
With apologies to the 1998 Padres team that also went to World Series where they were swept by the Yankees, the postseason in ’84 is still the most exciting week of Major League Baseball ever played in San Diego. It was staged at the old ballpark in Mission Valley before it was expanded and enclosed for football in front of raucous crowds of almost 60,000 for every game.
It included the Padres’ come-from-behind victory over the Cubs in what was the final best-of-five NL Championship Series.
Steve Garvey won Game 4 in Mission Valley with a two-run walk off homer in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5 there was Tim Flannery’s grounder that skidded through the legs of Leon Durham, the first baseman whose glove had been accidentally doused in Gatorade by Ryne Sandberg, the NL’s MVP that season. The Padres even split the first two World Series games, winning Game 2 at home over a Tigers team that won 111 games — including the postseason — and was clearly one for the ages. Unfortunately they lost the next three at old Tiger Stadium.
To those among the survivors — Dick Williams and Jack McKeon, Tim Lollar and Andy Hawkins, Steve Garvey and Puff Nettles, Goose Gossage and Garry Templeton, Kevin McReynolds and Carmelo Martinez, Craig Lefferts and the first Greg Harris, Ballard Smith and Dick Freeman, and of course, Bruce Bochy, Terry Kennedy and Tim Flannery — stay well and healthy.
And to Louie a speedy recovery. May the wind always be at your backs.
I voted for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire, Jack Morris, Rafael Palmeiro, Tim Raines, Lee Smith and Alan Trammell.
With the steroid era now beginning to fully infect the election process for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, this was one of the toughest ballots I’ve had to deal with since my first vote in 1992.
I’ve often thought that you have to take the players from that era on a case-by-case basis, but I’ve changed my opinion. The Mitchell Report revealed that great pitchers (Roger Clemens and Eric Gagne) were perhaps as guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs as great hitters (McGwire and Barry Bonds). It named utility players, bit players, lower level players and the top players. Thus, the playing field must be considered level. Otherwise, except for rare cases, no one really knows who did what.
Under those circumstances I believe as a voter that everyone should be painted with the same brush. Either you vote all the qualified candidates in or you don’t vote for anyone who is remotely suspected.
As a lifetime member of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America I take this vote very seriously. I have no desire to be judge, juror or soothsayer. So I’ve decided to judge those players within the context of the era during which they played, and if they’re deserving, vote them in.
Thus, my ballot includes a player who failed a drug test (Palmeiro), a player who recently admitted that he used steroids (McGwire), and another who was tainted by the cocaine era of the 1980s (Raines). I believe all of them statistically belong in a Hall of Fame that already includes the likes of Gaylord Perry, who brashly admitted to throwing the spitter when he was active from 1962-83. That pitch was outlawed by Major League Baseball in 1920.
Palmeiro — on the ballot for the first time — may be statistically on the bubble to some, but not to me. His 569 homers and 3, 020 hits places him in rarified company as only the fourth player in Major League history to amass more than 500 homers and 3,000 base hits. The other three? Their names are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray.
I’ve been among the 25 percent to vote for McGwire every year he’s been on the ballot. His 583 homers — 70 of them in 1998 and 65 in ’99 — are good enough. The home run race between McGwire and Sammy Sosa in ’98 put baseball back on the map after the strike that devastated the sport only a few years earlier. Since the steroid precusor Andro was found in McGwire’s locker — like many — I’ve long suspected him of using PEDs. His public apology doesn’t change anything.
I’ve never voted for Raines, but listening to Andre Dawson talk about him during his induction speech in Cooperstown this year made me take another look at Tim’s record. Certainly, he was the National League’s version of Rickey Henderson before his personal problems affected his career. He played 24 seasons, had 808 stolen bases, 2,605 hits and batted .294. Tony Perez was elected to the Hall with 2,732 hits and a .279 batting average.
Raines was an easy decision. Rafi and Big Mac weren’t. A voter can select as many as 10 players on the ballot. I checked off the first eight and left two spots open.
Alomar and Blyleven were slam dunks. I always vote for Smith and Trammell and won’t give Barry Larkin a nod until the former Detroit shortstop receives his due. Their career stats are too similar. McGriff, like Dawson and Jim Rice before him, deserves a strong look. He should not be held accountable because he finished seven short of 500 homers. Neither Rice nor Dawson even came close to 500. Both are in the Hall. Edgar deserves strong consideration even though he spent most of his career as a designated hitter. And like Rice who had a great decade as a hitter, Morris should be elected because no one touched him for 10 years as a pitcher, either.
After that, I went out and spoke to a number of writers and editors I respect about using the blank spots for McGwire and Palmeiro. With that input in mind, and in the end, I determined that voting for them was the right thing to do.
Note on Jeff Bagwell: His numbers are very similar to Steve Garvey — Bags .297 batting average to
.294 for the Garv, 2,314 hits to 2,599, 449 homers to 272, 1,529 RBIs to 1,308 . But
Garvey had two NL Championship Series MVPs, an NL MVP, an All-Star MVP, the longest
consecutive game playing streak in NL history (1,207), one of the
highest fielding percentages as a first baseman (.996) and an errorless
season (1984). Garvey also played on five NL pennant winners and a World
Series winner in ’81 with the Dodgers. Bagwell did almost none of this with
the Astros. And Garvey didn’t get a sniff from the writers for the HOF.
That’s why I didn’t vote for Bagwell.
I first met Roberto Alomar on a visit to the family household in Salinas, Puerto Rico, in 1987. He was 19 years old. He and his older brother Sandy Jr., then 21, were out in the street in front of the house playing with remote control cars. They were still in the Padres’ Minor League system and as big kids had their lives in front of them.
Sandy Jr., was always more verbose than Robbie. He was a take control kind of kid and took my wife and I on a tour of the southern coast of the island not far from Ponce, where Benito Santiago grew up. My wife, Alicia, loves to sip the milk of coconuts and Sandy took us to a road-side hut along the Atlantic Ocean shore where the owner sliced open a coconut with a machete for her. A fine catcher in his own right, he’s always been that type of guy.
Robbie was playing second base that winter for his dad, who managed Santorce in the Puerto Rican Winter League. That’s the first time I ever saw him on the field. Even at that age, playing in a dusty old stadium, it was easy to see that the kid could play. He was more than a prospect. He was the real thing.
It’s now 23 years later and Roberto has had what I call a Hall of Fame career, coming up with the Padres in 1988, winning two World Series with the Blue Jays in 1992-93, batting .300 with 2,724 hits and .984 fielding percentage. I’ve known Roberto and his family for so long that I discount the spitting incident as an aberration in a great career. After all, he spit in the face of an umpire, John Hirschbeck, who Robbie said called him a derogatory name that takes on even more significance in the Latin culture. Hirschbeck, who had lost his son at the time, wasn’t in the greatest state of mind. The two made peace. Let’s move on.
This year I filled out my ballot, using all 10 slots. Of the newcomers I voted for Robbie, Fred McGriff and Edgar Martinez. Of the returnees, I checked off Bert Blyleven, Andre Dawson, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Lee Smith and Mark McGwire. I added Robin Ventura to the bunch just because he was a personal favorite. I doubt Ventura will even get the 5 percent requisite vote to carry him over. If he doesn’t at least he knows he got one vote. Mine.
Usually, I vote for three or four guys, but this year I decided to spread it out. I’ve never voted for Blyleven, Morris or Dawson, but under closer scrutiny all deserve a place in Cooperstown. Morris was the best pitcher in the American League for a decade and turned teams into World Champions, winning in Detroit, Minnesota and Toronto. Blyleven is fifth all-time in strikeouts (3,701). Of his 287 wins, 60 were shutouts. Dawson played on bad knees and with sheer guts. His numbers certainly stand up to Jim Rice, who was elected last year.
I’ve voted for McGwire every year he’s been on the ballot and will continue to do so. I’m not sure what to do with players whose careers spanned the steroid era, particularly when the use of those drugs are implied. Next year we’ll have Rafael Palmeiro on the ballot. He’s only one of four players to amass 500 homers and 3,000 hits — Eddie Murray, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron are the others. He also failed a drug test at the end of his career. What will I do about Rafi? It will all go into the mix. I have no hard and fast rules.
I vote for Smith and Trammell every year. It baffles me why Smith (478 saves for third on the all-time list) and the great shortstop Trammell are not in the Hall. I couldn’t vote for Barry Larkin this year because Trammell is not a member. Larkin: a .295 lifetime average, 2,340 hits, 198 homers and 960 RBIs in 2,180 games, all with the Reds. Trammell: .285 with 2,365 hits, 185 homers and 1,003 RBIs in 2,293 games, all with the Tigers. What am I missing here?
McGriff and Martinez are also worthy. Fred was a great guy and a great player who’s career arch ended with him seven short of 500 homers. He was such an impact player everywhere he went, I’m not going to hold that against him. Neither should Edgar’s accomplishments be shrouded by the fact that he was a true designated hitter throughout most of his career. He played in Seattle and the American League utilizes that rule. That’s the way his managers chose to use him. He’s a .312 lifetime hitter with 2,247 hits, 309 homers, 1,261 RBIs, a .418 on-base percentage and a.515 slugging percentage. Let’s look at the numbers, not his position. That’s what I went by.
So that’s the way I did it this year, the 17th time I’ve voted for the Hall of Fame dating back to 1993. I’ll be looking forward to the announcement on Wednesday to see how my writing colleagues judged it as well.