Thursday, December 31, 2009
Big Mac came with two dimensions
Viva El Birdos on the notion that Mark McGwire doesn't belong in the Hall of Fame because he was a one-dimentional slugger.
A real one-dimensional slugger, like our erstwhile Juan Gone -- he is truly a sight to behold. Mark McGwire walked as much as any three one-dimensional sluggers put together. (For instance: Steve Balboni (273), Richie Sexson (588), and Gonzalez (457), who collectively walked exactly one time more than McGwire.)
He walked 728 times more than Andre Dawson ... in 3109 fewer plate appearances, which is extraordinary. If you add 3000 plate appearances in which he did not get on base to Mark McGwire's career total, one big oh-fer-3000, you get an on-base percentage of .276, which is 24 points closer to Andre Dawson's OBP (.323) than Mark McGwire's real on-base percentage is.
Mark McGwire did not do anything as well as he hit home runs. That's okay; he was the best home run hitter, by volume, of all time. Lou Brock and Nolan Ryan didn't do anything very well, except for run the bases and strike batters out. That's why they're not inner-circle Hall of Famers, not why they're not Hall of Famers. Mark McGwire had one skill, but he utilized it in two ways. I think that makes him a two-dimensional player. I think those two dimensions were extraordinarily useful to his teams. If you need more than that to have a good time, it must have been a long wait for Avatar.
I have expressed my support for McGwire, but it's far from unqualified. Given his limitations as a fielder and baserunner, I'm more than willing to listen to counter-arguments.
But if you tell me that McGwire was one-dimensional, you'll lose me.
As David Pinto cannily notes, there are only three dimensions of offense:
1. Getting on base
2. Hitting for power
3. Running the bases
Mark McGwire excelled at two of those. And the most important two, at that.