Great point about Mark McGwire and the “one-dimensional” argument

Ted Robinson of At Bat thinks that Mark McGwire is getting a raw deal from MLB Hall of Fame voters and brings up a great point about the argument that Big Mac was a one-dimensional player.

Mark McGwireMore voters are revealing their choices and it’s hard to argue that transparency is bad. I found the comments of a Boston voter puzzling and borderline deceiving. The man in question defended his anti-McGwire stance with the claim that McGwire was “one-dimensional.”

If we accept the premise, then we must ask what exactly is the problem with dominating the most important offensive dimension? McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa were the greatest home run hitters of their era. Bonds won the career battle but McGwire was the pioneer.

McGwire was the first to hit 50 home runs in four consecutive seasons, a mark Bonds reached only once.

One-dimensional? McGwire won a Gold Glove, an award often scoffed at by the Numbers Crowd. Although no one should confuse McGwire with Keith Hernandez, the Gold Glove is voted on by managers and coaches.

Another thought rushes to me when I consider the phrase “one dimensional” when used as an insult, the manner in which the Boston writer intended. (Disclaimer 1: here we will violate, mildly, a personal rule against invoking the comparison argument with any present Hall of Famers. It is never the intent here to denigrate anyone already so honored, however…would that writer call Nolan Ryan “one-dimensional?” Ryan’s resume leads with the career strikeout record, which he smashed and, like McGwire, is a symbol of dominance. (Disclaimer 2: I acknowledge that strikeouts are regarded by many voters as significant, a stance with which I don’t agree).

Strikeouts must be the reason Ryan is in the Hall. It can’t be his 324 wins because his career winning percentage is barely over .500 (.526). Surely, no rational person would conclude that seven regular season no-hitters warrant Hall of Fame inclusion.

It’s hard to argue with that point. Some players (Ryan is one of them) are in the Hall because they excelled at one facet of the game. Ozzie Smith was a career .262-hitter, but he was also one of the greatest defensive shortstops to ever play the game. McGwire was one of the best power hitters to ever play the game.

But the difference between McGwire and those players is that Ryan and Smith never took performance-enhancing substances to excel at their craft. McGwire did and fair or unfair, it’ll likely keep him out of the Hall for a very long time, if not forever. Stats are sacred in baseball and McGwire achieved his stats with help. Hall voters can’t look past that.

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