Chris Ruddick, MLB Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
First off let's start this column by congratulating Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn on their induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, though, for those two the ceremony at Cooperstown this summer is going to remembered more for who is not there, rather than who is.
Specifically, Mark McGwire will not be in attendance on that July 29 afternoon. To nobody's surprise, McGwire received just 23.5 percent of the vote, 51.5 percent short of the 75 percent needed. Funny how things have changed in the five years since he has left the game.
McGwire, even though he has never tested positive, nor has he ever admitted to taking any performance-enhancing drugs, was left off most writers' ballots simply because they believed he was taking steroids - a drug that was not illegal in baseball at the time he was supposedly using.
But, by not saying anything to Congress in 2005, McGwire said a lot. So, instead of being remembered as the guy who helped save baseball in the Summer of 1998, he has now become the poster boy for everything that was wrong in that era.
Did any of these people who left McGwire off the ballot not think he was taking steroids in 1998? As a famous person once said "ya gotta be kidding"!
Why was it OK then and not now? I mean is there anyone who did not think that McGwire was on steroids? Come on. A home run record that had stood for nearly 40 years was not just going to be broken, but it was going to be shattered. And by two people no less. Of course something was going on.
I have no problem with McGwire not getting elected his first time in, but it is not strictly because of steroids. I think he was a close call anyway. McGwire was a one-trick pony. All he did was hit home runs. Sure he did it better than anyone else, but Dave Kingman hit a lot of home runs too. Inject him with the amount of steroids McGwire ALLEGEDLY took and he too would have been closing in on 600 homers. Is he a Hall of Famer? No.
It is going to be interesting to see where McGwire finishes in the voting in the coming years. Look, he is going to get in at some point. He was the modern-day Babe Ruth and his 10.6-to-1 at bats-to-home run ratio is the best the game has ever seen.
The way I see it all these steroid players, or suspected steroid users will get in one day. Barry Bonds will be the first, then the dominoes will fall from there. McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and whomever else might be on that list. Just like the relievers will start to trickle in, the steroid-era bashers will get in at some point as well. Palmeiro might be the only one hurt since he was actually caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
However, next year's crop of first-time eligibles maybe the worst I have ever seen, so McGwire's wait may not be that long. Tim Raines headlines a list that will also include Dave Martinez, Mike Morgan, David Justice and Randy Velarde.
It is a shame that Ripken and Gwynn will have to deal with all this steroid stuff. Two of the classiest players to ever play and they are going to have answer questions ad nauseam about the story that just will not go away.
Let's take a look at Ripken and Gwynn's careers:
Cal Ripken was a 19-time All-Star and played in a record 16 straight All-Star Games.
RIPKEN - Ripken, who appeared on a record 537 ballots and earned the third highest percentage in the history of BBWA balloting with 98.5 percent, won MVP awards in 1983 and 1991 during a 21-year career as a shortstop and third baseman with the Baltimore Orioles. He will, of course, best be remembered for breaking one of the most cherished records in baseball when he played in 2,632 consecutive games to top Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 straight games.
In addition to his streak and MVP awards, Ripken was a 19-time All-Star and played in a record 16 straight All-Star Games. He was twice the MVP of the Mid-Summer Classic, won the AL Rookie of the Year in 1982 and helped the Orioles to their last World Series title the following year during his first MVP season.
Ripken, a two-time Gold Glove winner, played in 3,001 career games and is 14th on the all-time hits list with 3,184. He batted .276 with 431 home runs, 603 doubles and 1,695 runs batted in. His home run total ranks 35th on the all- time list, while he is also 13th in doubles and 20th in RBI.
Tony Gwynn helped the Padres to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.
GWYNN - Gwynn, who was named on 97.6 percent of the ballots, played 20 seasons with the San Diego Padres and his .338 career batting average ranks 20th in baseball history. He hit over .300 in every season except his rookie year of 1982 when he batted .289.
A 15-time All-Star, Gwynn nearly became the first man to bat .400 since Ted Williams in 1941 when he finished the strike-shortened 1994 campaign at .394. He led the league in hits seven times and had five 200-hit seasons.
Gwynn, a five-time Gold Glove winner for his play in right field, ranks 18th all-time with 3,141 hits and ninth with 2,378 singles. He helped the Padres to the World Series in 1984 and 1998.
JIM RICE - I cannot believe he is still not in the Hall of Fame. When I was growing up, just really starting to get into baseball, Jim Rice was THE guy. As a fan of the Yankees in that time he was the last guy I wanted to see at the plate.
Seventeen players with 300+ HR and a career average as high as his have been on the HOF ballot. However, all but Rice are in Cooperstown. And we are not talking about your run of the mill players here we are talking Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, George Brett, Ted Williams, Jimmy Foxx, Mel Ott and Stan Musial just to name a few.
Next year is his last year on the ballot. Perhaps with it being such a weak class he will finally get his due. I think he has served his penance for not talking to the media, don't you think.
GOOSE GOSSAGE - I really thought once Sutter got in that Gossage would follow. The thing he has got going for him is that he seems to get more and more votes as the years go on. I would be shocked if he is not elected next year.
Gossage received 71.2 percent of the vote to finish third in the balloting and could finally make it soon as no player who has received at least 70 percent of the vote has failed to eventually make the cut.
JACK MORRIS - Every pitcher that has led a decade in wins is in the Hall of Fame. Greg Maddux led the 90's and is a lock first-ballot guy. Morris led the 80's and he has two world series titles to his credit, but yet he is still not in and he seems to be losing more votes every year.