Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tony La Russa backs McGwire's HOF candidacy

My apologies for the light posting this offseason in the past few weeks. I've been busy with papers and such and I imagine it will be light until after December 13th when my finals end.

Here's what La Russa had to say with regards to former Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire:
Tony La Russa will defend Mark McGwire until the end: To him, Big Mac is a Hall of Famer.

"I've believed in him from day one. I still believe in him," the St. Louis Cardinals manager said Tuesday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
McGwire is appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and an AP survey of 125 baseball writers who are eligible to vote - about 20 percent of the total - showed that only one in four who gave an opinion planned to vote for McGwire.

"It would be two in five then. I'd make it two in five," La Russa said. "I can't answer for anybody else, what priorities they give and how they weigh stuff. I know what my personal opinion is, and that's the way it stays."

McGwire, a 12-time All-Star, is seventh on the career home run list with 583, but his status plummeted in the minds of many after former Oakland teammate Jose Canseco accused him last year of using steroids. McGwire evaded questions during a March 2005 congressional hearing, saying repeatedly: "I'm not here to talk about the past."
An AP poll shows Big Mac will likely fall short in the first year on the ballot. Keep in mind that a lot of people consider the first ballot to be sacred. Peter Gammons has said he will voted for McGwire on the first ballot. If I was a writer in the BBWAA, I would vote for McGwire, too.
The AP contacted, via e-mails and telephone, about 150 of the approximately 575 present or former members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who are eligible to cast ballots. Of that number, 125 responded, including 25 AP sports writers. Most of the voters' names were obtained in the Major League Baseball media directory.

And the breakdown was:

- 74 will not vote for McGwire.

- 23 will vote for him.

- 16 are undecided.

- 5 refused to say.

- 5 aren't allowed to vote by their employers.

- 2 will abstain from voting.

That means if all the undecideds and those refusing to say voted for McGwire, and everyone else voted, McGwire would need 84 percent of the rest to get into the Hall.

Chaz Scoggins of The Sun in Lowell, Mass., was among McGwire's supporters.

"He wasn't breaking any baseball rules during his career,'' he said. "As for using performance-enhancing substances, the fact that so many pitchers have been detected using them kind of evens the playing field.''

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig wouldn't address McGwire specifically, saying it was unclear how this generation of home run hitters will be judged.

"Time will tell. We'll have to work our way through all of it,'' he said Monday night. "All we can do realistically is take care of the present and the future.''

McGwire played in the majors from 1986-2001, the first 12 seasons with the Oakland Athletics and the rest with the Cardinals.

When he hit 70 homers in 1998 - breaking the mark of 61 Roger Maris had set 37 years earlier - McGwire became a national hero for his Paul Bunyan-like physique and feats. A year later, part of an interstate highway in St. Louis was named after McGwire. Large signs at both the current and previous Busch Stadium called attention to "Big Mac Land,'' ads for McDonald's referencing McGwire.

But his reputation plummeted following allegations by former teammate Jose Canseco, who claimed in a 2005 book and subsequent interviews that the Bash Brothers used steroids together while playing on the A's.

And then came McGwire's testimony to a congressional committee on March 17, 2005, when he repeatedly avoided questions, saying time after time: "I'm not here to talk about the past.''

That appearance and those allegations are still fresh in the minds of many voters.

"He won't get my vote this year, next year or any year,'' said the Chicago Tribune's Paul Sullivan.

When the AP conducted a survey of Hall voters during the week following McGwire's testimony, 56 percent of the 117 voters who gave an opinion said they would support his induction.

Ballots will be mailed to voters this week and must be postmarked by Dec. 31. Results will be announced Jan. 9, and inductions will take place July 29.

Players who have appeared in 10 seasons and have been retired for five years are eligible for consideration by a six-member BBWAA screening committee, and a player goes on the ballot if he is supported by at least two screening committee members.

A player remains on the ballot for up to 15 elections as long as he gets 5 percent of the votes every year. McGwire appears to be in no danger of missing that mark.

Gwynn and Ripken are considered virtual locks for election. Canseco also is on the ballot for the first time but is not expected to come close to election.

Gwynn isn't sure whether McGwire used steroids.

"I think he's a Hall of Famer, myself,'' Gwynn said. "He hit 500 or so homers, almost 600. I think we have no proof whether he did or not. Canseco said he did. He didn't perform well at the congressional hearing, and I think that will stick with people more than anything else. He's on the ballot, too. I have no control over that.''

Hall voters will face additional questions when other players accused of steroid use go on the ballot. Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro become eligible for 2011 and Barry Bonds, who plans to play next season, sometime after that.

Others view it as a matter of baseball rules. Baseball did not have an agreement with its players' union to ban steroids until after the 2002 season.[...]

"I don't plan to vote for him on the first ballot, but I do plan to vote for him,'' said former Chicago Tribune writer Jerome Holtzman, baseball's official historian.

Some players have seen their support increase over time. Jimmie Foxx got 10 votes when he first appeared on the ballot in 1947, then was elected with 179 votes four years later.
The Cardinals will be honored at the writer's dinner on January 15th.

Prospect Colby Rasmus is going to give it his best next year.

Utility man Scott Spiezio was re-signed to a two year deal for $4.5 million.

Here's an article on the future of Rick Ankiel.

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