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Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Not so fast on that McGwire statueYesterday I wrote that the Cardinals should put that Mark McGwire statue they had made out with all of the other statues of Cardinal greats.
A couple of hours later, the post was linked by the Birdsonthebat forum, and a discussion ensued. Granted we're dealing with a small, self-selecting sample size here, but I have to admit that I was surprised at just how forcefully the participants in that conversation came out against having McGwire's statue join the others. A couple of sentiments that, by in large, were representative of the group:
What McGwire did for baseball was exemplary. He and Sammy Sosa brought baseball back. Everybody was on roids so who cares. With that said, he should NOT have a statue out there.
Well, maybe the Molina sentiment isn't representative, but that's the overall tenor of things.
Maybe this is yet another instance of the passage of time messin' with my mind, but I seem to remember there being a far greater amount of admiration for McGwire back in the day, and that would hold even if you controlled for the steroids business. Is it possible that this is one of those rare instances in which a guy got a considerably greater amount of love from the national press than the locals? Steroids disclaimers aside, is it a matter of the steroids thing looming larger in Cardinals' fans mind than they care to admit? Have I simply underestimated just how high an honor Cardinals fans consider their ring of statues to be? Because I'll admit, I just assumed it was a nice little honor as opposed to the Great Big Important honor these posters are implying it is.
Maybe all of those things are at work. I don't really know. I just find it pretty interesting.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 2:47pm
I’d bet it was a selection bias more than anything else. I’m sure all of those opinions are felt to some degree by the general Cardinal fan base, but I suspect only the ones who feel really strong about it (and who happened to read that particular forum) are voicing their opinions.
Currently, there are statues of Robin Yount and Hank Aaron outside of Miller Park. I suspect that, if the Brewers were merely proposing a statue of Aaron, there would be a few people on blogs and message boards saying why they don’t think it’s a good idea (“he played for the Milwaukee *Braves*, not the Brewers!” and so on). I’m not putting down blogs/message boards, of course. It’s just that people with negative reactions to certain things tend to non-representatively make themselves heard over things like this.
Plus, it’s probably the steroids…
Posted 04/29 at 03:39 PM
I think what might be throwing you off, Craig, is that there was a ton of national love for Mac during the homerun hitting frenzy, but there was also a lot of local love because that’s what Cardinal fans do. They just love their players - a lot.
If you based statue-erecting on the love given to some Cardinal players (relative to other teams’ players), you would see statues of Jim Edmonds, Chris Carpenter, and yeah, even Yadier Molina some day. A good friend of mine is from St. Louis, and that’s just the way they are with their guys.
Posted 04/29 at 03:49 PM
Ben Humphrey said...
Sorry, I forgot McGwire’s St. Louis stats. 545 games played is fewer, by quite a bit, than John Mabry, Mike Matheny, and J.D. Drew (as well as PITCHER Bob Gibson). It ranks 91st in St. Louis history. McGwire does rank 6th in HRs as a Cardinal with 220, a total that trails Ray Lankford who sits at 5th and Jimmy Edmonds at 4th. McGwire’s 469 hits trail such notables as Tom Pagnozzi, Mike Matheny, Yadier Molina, Fernando Tatis, and Ron Gant, placing him 100th in franchise history. His 473 RBI 32nd in franchise history, behind Julian Javier, Keith Hernandez, and Joe Torre.
His OPS is absurd, reflecting the level of his performance as a power hitter over a short period of time, but he just doesn’t stack up.
Sorry for forgetting Big Mac’s stats.
Posted 04/29 at 03:54 PM
I think this is not an uncommon sentiment among the Cardinal blogosphere/internet fandom, but I can’t say for certain about casual fans. Cardinals fans are still somewhat in love with Larry Walker and Will Clark, but they’re not in statue territory for obvious reasons.
Posted 04/29 at 04:04 PM
I’m a frequenter at that forum and despite the sometimes interesting discourse, most of the posters there are quite negative. The most vocal of them detest Tony La Russa, partied the day Walt Jocketty left the organization, and are critical of more things than they seem to enjoy—an interesting situation when one’s team has won twice as many as they’ve lost.
The most vocal posters think that McGwire was the worst thing to happen to Cardinal baseball, as it dumbed down the fan base (fans didn’t care how the team fared, as long as Big Mac hit a bomb) and convinced ownership the way to profitability was through a sideshow rather than a building a winning team.
I’d say that forum is NOT representative of local St. Louis opinion.
However, I agree with them on this one: even though McGwire put enough fannies in the seats to allow Cardinal ownership to increase the Cardinal payroll (despite it’s relatively small metro area), Big Mac’s short (but memorable) time in St. Louis did not earn him a statue next to Stan Musial’s.
Posted 04/29 at 04:05 PM
While Mac might have been a great and important figure for baseball at the time, that doesn’t necessarily make him an all-time great Cardinal. That was just the team he happened to be on while helping to resurrecting the sport. His popularity at the time was not as a Cardinal, it was in spite of him being a Cardinal. As far as his importance to the history of the sport, he might as well have not been playing for any team at all.
This is one place where he might be more deserving of accolades from baseball, the sport, without being deserving of them from any particular team. His popularity and importance and performance transcended any particular team.
Posted 04/29 at 04:30 PM
Ben Lea said...
Not to derail the thread or anything, but ... true story:
I was living in Rolla, Missouri (100 miles SW of STL) in 1998, and on the last Friday night in September I was driving back home from St. Louis. It was about 9:00 pm, and I was doing about 38 in a school zone (less than a mile from my house). But, of course, school wasn’t in session, so I wasn’t concerned. And, of course, I got pulled over.
The nice policewoman got out, came around to my car, and asked the traditional “I suppose you know why I pulled you over” question.
“Yeah, I was probably going a little fast, but you know how it is; late, tired, ready to get home, listening to the game.”
“Oh yeah? Any home runs been hit?”
“Yeah, McGwire and Sosa have both hit their 66th tonight.”
“Wow! This is really exciting!”
“And intense, too!”
“What did McGwire do in his last at-bat?”
[Ben paused, and lifted his Hand to God]
“I don’t exactly know, ma’am. That’s kinda when you pulled me over.”
“Oh, I’m sorry! Listen, you just slow down and get home, so you can watch the game.”
Now, I know she just wanted to make sure I was sober and all that. But, in late September, 1998, a nice policewoman *apologized* for pulling me over. *That*, friends, is how nuts Missouri was over Mark McGwire at the time.
Posted 04/29 at 05:51 PM
Hahahaha… GREAT story, Ben. I love it.
Posted 04/29 at 11:38 PM
McGuire’s image may be tarnished by steroids (depending on your point of view), but I don’t think that has anything to do with the sentiment that he should not have a statue with other Cardinal greats. Even with the indelible images of the home run chase, his tenure in St. Louis was too short to warrant a statue. Although you can debate the greatness of his career, the fact remains that, if you think he was an all-time great, much of that greatness occurred in another uniform.
Even if there were people who thought he deserved a statue during or shortly after the chase, that’s mostly media driven hype which has long worn off, as it does after most records are broken or major sporting events are completed. That “tarnish” has nothing to do with steroids and everything to do with the passage of time. It seems that at least twice a year in the wake of a sporting event or achievement, people debate whether it was the best of its kind, ever. With a little time for the media to hype the next big thing and for perspective to set in, the push to crown the person or event as “the best ever” slowly dies down.
In short, I think that any change in sentiment as to whether McGuire deserves a Cardinal statue has more to do with his short tenure in St. Louis and the passage of time, than the steroid controversy.
Posted 04/30 at 08:42 AM